In our latest success story, we discuss the success of Stem + Glory, a vegan restaurant, with the owner Louise Palmer-Masterton. Louise, a yoga instructor turned entrepreneur gives us an insight into her business journey, from discussing future plans to the rise of veganism.
What inspired you to start Stem + Glory?
I have been rolling the idea of a vegan restaurant round in my head for literally years. I just had to do it.
Did your personal lifestyle influence your business idea, and how?
Yes absolutely. I gave up eating meat when I was a teenager and have had a 35-year history experimenting with plant based cuisine. Starting Stem + Glory was something I became increasingly compelled to do.
Veganism is getting increasingly popular and you’ve started a business to benefit from that. What makes you so sure that veganism isn’t just a trend that will fade?
The rise of the plant based movement has come from multiple angles. Animal welfare, better health and the increasingly compelling environmental messages. Regardless of whether more people become full time vegan, more and more people are eating plant based foods more regularly and that is amongst the mainstream, not fringe, population. This is not going away now. I didn’t start a business to benefit from veganism becoming more popular, I started the business because I was absolutely driven to help more people eat more plant based food.
How did you know that there was an enough of a demand for vegan food?
I have spent 35 years trying to find a decent vegan restaurant all over the world. There have been very few notable exceptions in all that time. I absolutely know first-hand that this is a massively underpenetrated market.
What was your experience using crowdfunding to raise funds for your business?
Crowdfunding is amazing, powerful, exciting, exhausting, and nerve wracking in equal measure! I cannot think of anything better than having our community on board with this project, inputting and also benefiting from its success. It’s just a massive win on all levels.
How do you market yourself to your target customers?
Our target market is basically everyone. Vegans will always find us as they are looking, but we run campaigns across the board to everyone. Many people are looking to make healthier more compassionate eating choices, and also many people are looking for a different kind of gourmet experience. These are our customers.
What were some of the challenges you faced that taught you lessons on your business journey?
I don’t ever see challenges or speak about them. I am an intensely curious person. I always say if you encounter ‘problems’ put them in a metaphorical ‘box’ and look at them intensely from all sides with curiosity. That way you’ll see both problem and solution simultaneously.
How did you transition from your role as a yoga instructor to a business owner? What were some of the biggest changes?
I have been self-employed my entire working life. Before running a yoga business, I ran an arts funded digital arts company for many years, so I cut my teeth in business before teaching yoga. As soon as I started teaching yoga I started a yoga business, so there wasn’t really a transformation. Teaching yoga was almost the side-line. I do love to teach though, I don’t teach yoga anymore, but I do teach business and find this immensely rewarding.
What skills did you have that helped you set up and run a successful business?
I am a complete geek! Marketing fascinates me and I am completely at home on a computer. I also love to write and love graphic and web design. Being able to do all this for myself has saved me a ton of money, and also made my businesses very authentic in its messaging.
You have two locations of Stem + Glory. How did you know that it was time to expand?
When we opened Stem + Glory 1 it was a massive success. As it is an unlikely location for a success (first floor above a cycle shop), I knew immediately – just from talking to our customers – that a café in a high footfall location would be a huge success. And it was.
What are your plans for the future?
My vision in the next five years is to set to do something amazing (10 restaurants by year 5) and then pass it on to someone that can make it huge.
What advice would you give to any aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice is to be persistent. Listen to your instinct. And above all, be kind.