Katrina Fox is a passionate vegan with ninja business skills.
We first discovered Katrina through her podcast, Vegan Business Talk, where she interviews successful vegan entrepreneurs. Katrina also provides a range of services for vegan business owners through katrinafox.com and veganbusinessmedia.com.
In this conversation, we learn about Katrina’s upbringing in the UK, how she got into animal activism and business skills.
If somebody asks you what you do for a living, how do you typically respond?
I help vegan business owners and entrepreneurs to raise their profile particularly through PR and getting in the media.
That’s my little elevator pitch, which I think is important for entrepreneurs to have. It needs to be something snappy that they can pull out, rather than ramble on and on.
But to give you a background: I’ve worked as a journalist on staff and as a freelancer for over 18 years. I’ve worked with a wide range of publications both in the UK and in Australia, including human resources, social housing, building and construction, advertising and marketing, and gay and lesbian media.
I’ve written features and opinion pieces for Sydney Morning Herald, ABC and other mainstream media, including several pieces on social justice including animal advocacy.
A couple of years ago I wanted something new in my career as the journalism industry was changing a lot.
I started hanging out with entrepreneurs, and I found that a lot of them didn’t know how to do their own PR. They thought that unless you hire a publicist, which can be quite a large investment every single month, you couldn’t get into the media.
So initially, I would help these entrepreneurs. At the time I was helping any business owner from any industry.
Eventually, I drilled down and thought about who I really wanted to work with. Who am I most passionate about?
I realised it would be vegan business owners and entrepreneurs. I have a vested interest in having them succeed because I’m their consumer and I’m passionate about veganism from an ethical perspective. I want the whole world to be vegan. And I think vegan businesses help drive that change.
So I wrote a book called Vegan Ventures. I wrote it because I wanted to read a book where I could learn about how to start a vegan business. Nobody had written it, so I saw that as a sign from the universe.
I got on board 60 vegan business owners from around the globe, predominantly the US, some in Canada, some in Australia and some in the UK.
So that’s what I’ve been doing over the past couple of years. I help vegan business owners get more publicity through one on one consulting and through my new online course called Vegans in the Limelight.
We understand that you’ve been vegan for 21 years. What made you decided to make the switch over two decades ago?
I went vegetarian at the age of 11 but didn’t have the words for it back then. I come from a working-class family in the UK. My mum would serve us things like beef burgers and chips. I asked her one day, where the beef burger came from.
Once I realised that the beef was once a living cow, I was absolutely horrified and was not going to eat it anymore. Then I made the connection that the chicken we ate on Sundays was an actual living hen. I made the same realisation with fish fingers and so on.
I always had an affinity with animals. I had a powerful bond with my cat Kitty, who I grew up with. So from that point on, I stopped eating meat.
However, it wasn’t until 1996, that I actually became vegan.
I did some animal rights activism in the late 80s and somehow missed the vegan memo.
I would eat vegetarian cheese but would still wear leather. I thought I was pretty cool. Then I went to a demonstration in Oxford, UK. They would bring activists from all across the country on coaches to protest against this farm that was breeding kittens for vivisection.
It got a lot of media coverage, and I wanted to get involved. So I got on a bus to go to the demonstration. On the coach, I sat next to this lovely woman by the name of Kay Holder who was a school teacher at the time.
With events like this, people can sometimes get a bit abusive or aggressive when you hand out leaflets. Kay would always remain calm in these situations.
On the journey, I pulled out my Marmite (like Vegemite in Australia) and a cheese sandwich and offered it to her.
She said, “No, thanks, I’m vegan”. I was very proud and said that the cheese was vegetarian and didn’t contain animal rennet. And again she said, “No, thanks, I’m vegan”. She advised me of how cruel the dairy industry is and explained why.
My jaw dropped. Because like everyone, I was sucked in by ads where “happy” cows were raised in fields, and we milk them for our purpose like they are there just for us to consume.
I felt guilty for a while, frustrated that I didn’t already know what went on in the dairy industry.
From an eating perspective, I became vegan then and there.
Over time I got rid of my leather shoes and our leather-trim dining table and chairs.
But once that penny dropped, I was one of those people that instantly become vegan, no questions asked.
Being an entrepreneur yourself as well as a vegan, you have values which are considered unique. How have you dealt with the social challenges of doing and believing in things that are different from what is considered “normal”?
I was adopted and found out at a very young age that my birth father was Persian. And in the area that I grew up in, I was made to believe that having a non-white, Persian biological father was terrible. So I immediately experienced being different as I wasn’t like any of the other kids.
I didn’t like that feeling at the time. I tried to fit in, but it never felt like I did.
Then when I got into my early to mid-teens, I realised that I was gay and again, I tried to fit in but didn’t.
By the time I became vegan, that was just another thing to add to the list! So it was nothing new.
Also, by the time I became vegan I had met quite a few gay people and had met people from other cultures. And when I went vegan, I met other vegans.
I never felt that I belonged to a particular group 100 per cent. I became comfortable in who I was and was happily dipping my toes into different communities.
Having said that, from a vegan perspective, there have been some challenging moments. Like when I was working on staff for media publications and they would invite us all out for lunch. Everyone around me would be eating animal bodies, and that would be quite distressing.
I try whenever I can to use these moments as an opportunity to promote veganism positively. When they would ask me why I was vegan, I’d try not to get them on the defensive. Because sometimes it feels that by the very fact that you are vegan, that by default you are judging other people.
When you hear the phrase “less is more”, what comes to mind?
When think of less is more, I go into business mode. As I writer, it means saying something as simply and effectively as possible, without necessarily dumbing it down.
Eliminate abstract language. Eliminate using bigger words when a smaller word would suffice.
This mentality comes from years of being a journalist writing on deadline and as an editor. Making decisions about what is absolutely essential in a piece and taking out the rest has been a big part of my career.
On a more personal level, I think it’s important to avoid mindless consumerism. At the end of the day, we live in a capitalist society and money needs to move around to ensure the economy works.
But wouldn’t it be amazing if we started buying products that 1) We really need and 2) Are good for people, animals and the planet? As well as occasional treats involving glitter and bling of course!
So when I hear less is more, I also think about making more considered purchasing decisions.