One of the greatest things about starting this site is discovering not only the inspirational and talented people behind some of our favourite places, products and things but also the stories and lifestyle choices each of them make to try live a more conscious life. For Kate, the business started purely out of the lack of sweet vegan goodness - but it also gave her freedom from her corporate grind. Besides eating delicious treats from The Vegan Teahouse we also were inspired by Kate fearlessly choosing freedom.
Tell how you started the vegan teahouse from your corporate job to where you are today?
I was still working in corporate Telco when I decided to become vegan about three and a half years ago. It became clear that there wasn't much on the market that I wanted to eat. Food that didn't cost the earth, my body and my wallet! I was at a local market and got pretty frustrated because I couldn't find a sweet treat, so I decided to make my own. A market stall that sold vegan treats and cups of tea called The Vegan Teahouse! I did a little research and quickly decided that I didn't have the time or money to do it so put it away into the recesses of my brain and promptly forgot about it. About a year later in May 2012 I was made redundant at work; I was doing cartwheels in the office! I'd been there for 8 years so they paid me a whack of cash & I found some freedom. I was sitting at a cafe with some mates talking about what I should do with the money when the idea for The Vegan Teahouse came back to me. Two weeks later I had a stall at the Newtown Community Markets. I had two or three products in the line & sold out of everything!
I did the markets for about 6 months and during that time I learnt heaps, had wonderful conversations with people about ingredients, nutrition, Veganism & tea, built a strong customer base and got my brand out there.
I changed the business model in Jan 2013 to become a wholesaler. I identified that I was doing stacks of work for one day worth of sales and realised that if I supply in shops and cafes that are open 5-7 days a week it would be much more worth my while, light bulb moment!
Since then the business has been steadily growing which has been super exciting and in March this year I moved into a kitchen within a neighbourhood centre called The Settlement in Darlington which was an amazing experience & I learnt heaps! The biggest lesson was getting passed the fear of moving the business out of my home and proving to myself that it could grow and flourish.
The next exciting adventure is moving into my very own space! I’m literally relocating as we speak so it’s all go go go.
Was the career change also a lifestyle change – what are your beliefs in work/life balance?
Absolutely! I knew that I definitely didn't want to work in corporate anymore and saw this opportunity as a way of doing my own thing, showing my kids & myself that I could do something different and big and spend time with my family on our terms.
The work/life balance is super important to me and I make sure that my business works around me and not the other way round, I mean sometimes I don't get the balance right and gee can I feel it! Yoga, tea, making dinner for my family and getting enough sleep help lots :)
Tell us about the delicious ingredients you use in your creations?
I'm moving towards all of my products being 100% organic which I am thrilled about!
I use organic coconut oil in almost everything because I'm completely obsessed and can’t get enough of it. Organic coconut sugar & raw cacao make lots of appearances too.
I harvest the lemon myrtle that is used in the Camille tea blend from my brother’s front yard and I get organic spices & flours from a fabulous Indian grocery store called Vinayak in Newtown, go & see Youday. He rocks!
How do you come up with all the lovely girls’ names for the treats?
That part of the business has been lots of fun and there is always method to my madness.
One of our first products was a banana brownie that was called Alex after my eldest daughter, she found the recipe in The Post Punk Kitchen - Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook and was the first to make it.
The Grace brownie is named after my youngest babe! She doesn't like baked things with banana so asked me to make a brownie that didn't have it. Britney is so named after that other Britney who is a little bit nuts and bananas and who we love so much & Hazel, our chocolate and hazelnut spread for obvious reasons.
Amrita (our chai) is the female name for Nectar of The Gods in Hindi and Penny (fennel, aniseed & organic peppermint) was christened after a social media comp I ran.
Alice (nut butter) also got her name after a competition and it’s one of my favourites! A few folks decided that as she is full of nuts, much like The Mad Hatter and is a wonderland of nuts she simply must be called Alice and I agreed.
One of the items you said was a mistake, but it’s actually delicious – how do you come up with your creations generally?
Haha yup that's Serendipity! I was making the Grace brownie and forgot to add the flour, to TWO batches. Luckily it was delicious!
I've mostly come up with products based on what I can see is missing from the market i.e. what I want to eat and can't find. Lots of people suggest new things to me all the time and I'm always open to that too. I enjoy experimenting with new recipes & as my knowledge grows around veganism and nutrition, my desire to create better tasting, organic treats grows too.
Do you have a favourite? If so which one and why?
My favourite is Gloria, the raw, GF & SF cheesecake. It's so much fun to think up new flavours and decorate them! Plus it's so yum!
Where are your favourite vegan places to eat?
I adore Yullis in Surry Hills for a special treat.
We mostly hang in Newtown & we go to Green Gourmet, Blossoming Lotus & Tacomatose for their 100% vegan goodness & to non-vegan places like The Italian Bowl, Petty Cash & Satellite because they veganise lots of their stuff for us. In fact Petty Cash have a vegan menu which is delish!
We went to the Gold Coast recently and ate at The Greenhouse Factory... Amazing! I had my first cashew milk flat white!