Our mission is to help 2 million non-vegans, eat 2 more plant-based meals per week. This will improve health, reduce climate change, and save 1,712,454 animals each year.
I had the pleasure to interview Mark Perlmutter. After years in the corporate sector in business and finance, Mark Perlmutter, founder and CEO of VegReady, decided to enter the world of vegan activism. For 47 years he had tried to get his family & friends to adopt a vegan lifestyle without any success. He even financed a documentary titled “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes In 30 Days,” seen by over 2 million viewers, showing a doctor reversing chronic diseases with vegan foods hoping viewers would change their diets. Over the years, he found that despite this compelling information, few people make the change without a crisis. He heard explanations like: “I don’t know what to eat”. “It takes too much time to shop & cook.” “It’s not convenient, etc.” “Nobody I know eats this way.” So after years observing the plant-based trend among early adopters, he created VegReady, a convenient ready-meal for mainstream to easily replace two fast food meals a week.
Thank you so much for joining us Mark. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up with suburban privilege, but recognized the cognitive dissidence in our nation struggling to live up to our democratic ideals and create an inclusive society, while significant wealth and opportunity disparity existed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I came to Peru to complete R&D and oversee our first VegReady production run. Delays continued week by week for six months — but this changed my life, as I was intrigued by this ancient culture and charmed by the politeness of the people in Lima, its largest city. In fact I met my life-partner here and grew deeply in love. That was pretty wonderful and interesting.
During that time I brought part of my startup team to Peru to experiment working remotely in anticipation of expanding the company to global markets.
So I came for food and stayed for love.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The original name of my company was “HealingMeals”. Wonderful alternative medical experts over 45 years have influenced and taught me that food is healing when chosen wisely. So I named the company for what we were going to provide — super healing food. But months into websites, social media, business cards and suppliers, I learned that the general public’s response to our name was that if they are not sick then our food is not for them.
After a good laugh, my team and I began searching for a new name. Soon we invented a word to effectively describe what we offer, and that became our name: “VegReady”
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
1) We realize improving food habits can be difficult. We have compassion for how hard it can be to begin eating healthy — but how important it might be if there’s a health crisis. That’s exactly why we created a really convenient solution. Because when it’s easy, people can succeed with a new habit. We help people succeed at eating better, if that’s what they want to do.
2) — At the same time we want to have a positive global effect. So we came up with a goal that millions can easily succeed at: eating just 2 more plant meals per week.
3) — Our company’s mission is to help 2 million non-vegans, eat 2 more plant-based meals per week. This will improve health, reduce climate change, and save 1,712,454 animals each year.
4) — If VegReady reaches this global goal we will become a $1 billion dollar company, but obviously it’s not just the money and success. It’s the impact on the human body, the animal kingdom and on the planet.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
I’ve always been inspired by stories of historic leaders and heroes. In one lucky instance, I was thrilled to meet a living legend named Alex Hershaft. He is a survivor of the Nazi death camps and when he saw that farm animals were treated the same horrible way as in those camps, he made a choice to live a life treating all creatures with compassion.
He came to this country and founded F.A.R.M., the nation’s oldest animal rights organization dedicated to reducing the suffering of farm animals. This was long before it became trendy or popular to be vegetarian, and nearly 6 decades later, he still works tirelessly to save animals and inspire others to do so as well. So when he asked if he could be an early investor in VegReady, I was delighted. He explained the reason he did this is because vegan businesses are needed to work along side non-profits to bring about a world of compassion for all beings.
When I started Veg Ready I approached FARM for an opinion, and Alex generously endorsed our early prototypes. FARM became one of our supporters and a natural marketing partner. Their vegan members can enjoy our meals, and new vegan converts certainly can use them.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Consumers are waking up and asking for meat alternatives. The UN said beef production is the largest contributor to climate change, more than all other industrial sectors.
In 2019 we have the choice to get balanced nutrition by eating plants, or continue feeding those plants to animals, then killing and consuming the animals. Today a 100% plant-based diet is not only possible, it is now known to be healthier and more ecological.
Gandhi once famously said, “Be the change you wish to see.”
And Einstein declared: “Nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Yes, leadership is telling the truth even when it’s inconvenient but you know it’s right thing to do. One example is when I was 15 years old, at a military school. In 1965, a decorated war veteran who taught history to young cadets explained to naive students under his tutelage, that the war in Vietnam was wrong and the US could never win.
For expressing what was unpopular (but later shown to be 100% true), he suffered professionally and personally. His car tires were slashed. One time the basketball team, which he coached, refused to come onto the court. His career was affected. But he demonstrated true leadership by telling the inconvenient truth. He was a leader among leaders and a true American hero. He changed the course of my life by opening by eyes to such inconvenient truths. I began considering the effects that my choices would have on our world.
Soon after, I decided to peacefully protest the Vietnam war by abstaining from eating animals. Another great leader of non-violent activism, Gandhi, taught that if you wish to end violence among men, you must remove the bodies of murdered animals from their plates. That was 48 years ago.
In this spirit, VegReady offers vegan activists two meals for free — one for them; and one to give to a non-vegan. We call this kind activism “Get 2; Give1,” or our Vegan Angels Project. It’s a gentle way to influence our loved ones with kindness.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It will take 50% longer. Our initial production run of 18,000 meals was expected to arrive on June 1, 2018. Instead it arrived five months later, causing us to miss the 2018 Christmas season. We altered our plans and began market tests to determine the cost of customer acquisition and retention rates so we could plan for 2020. Our 500 beta customers provided valuable market intel and we ready now.
- It will cost 100% more. Because of the unexpected inventory delay we used more cash than expected. So now we’re now preparing for cash requirements that exceed what we budget for by 100%. Tests with beta customers showed us our cost of customer acquisition in three different marketing channels. This informs our projections for scale up.
- It will be 3 times harder. We’ve had three failed launches and each time I learned something to avoid repeating. The most important lesson was choosing the right team with skills needed and individuals who share my vision. Now our team is tight and re-launched successfully in the US. After market penetration, we’ll launch in Canada, Europe, Israel, Australia. In future years our fast-healthy meals will be in demand in China & India.
- There will be 4 times as many setbacks. Since launching, we needed to switch tech solutions including our e-commerce platform, site hosting service, plugin for subscriptions, webmaster and credit card clearance. We learned a lot about e-commerce solutions and are ready to put them to work.
- And you’ll need 5 times more fans than you expected to achieve success. Our conversion and retention rates are good, but we need 5 times more traffic to achieve break even.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Our Vegan Angel Project channels the energy of the activist community to use kindness to influence loved ones. Kind acts are often the most effective way to reach someone.
So we will give away thousands of free meals to people pledging to be a Vegan Angel and give a meal to a non-vegan friend — this is a gentle way to help them start eating more plants. To those who take the pledge we give 2 free meals: one for them, and one for their friend. We call this “Get2;Give1”.
Vegan Angels have more opportunities to use kindness to influence others and while doing that they earn rewards.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Pick your battles to win the war.” “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” “This too shall pass.”
As I aged and matured, I became more patient. This enhanced my personal as well as professional relationships. But even more, it helped me recover the ability to delay gratification. Delaying gratification has had wonderful impacts my health and on my relationship.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
Paul McCartney — He is still such a huge influence for how we think and choices we make. For more than half a century he’s been writing and speaking out to correct wrongs. He and his wife inspired millions to eat and live more compassionately.
I’d love to show him our super convenient meals designed to make it easy for non-vegans to eat two more plant-meals per week.
I’d also explain our Vegan Angel Project that aims to harness the energy of the activist community to use kindness to influence millions of non-vegans to eat more plants.
Then I’d blow his mind with our Algorithm that matches meals to consumer DNA and Microbiome. And by maintaining affordable prices, we insure mass adoption by many millions of mainstream. This will be a game changer and raise the bar for the Ready-Meal sector, which passed $65 Billion last year. NIH said 90% of Americans eat Ready-Meals. So our plant-based Ready-Meals have the potential to be enjoyed by 90% of Americans.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Vegan Angels: https://www.VegReady.com/VeganAngels