The Vegan Leaders network was born a year ago (Oct 8, 2014) – based on an idea that there had to be many untapped influential vegans in large corporations, and that it would be great to make them more visible and united.
Speaking from experience, I knew many successful business people and also many vegans – but almost nobody who was both! I felt like I always juggled between the two identities. I wondered how many vegans were out there working in conservative professional environments who also felt isolated or closeted. I thought how powerfully a visible mass of esteemed vegan leaders could change the perception of vegans as “hippies”. Lastly, I imagined how tapping into even 10% of this skill pool could be a quantum leap for the movement’s success.
Here are some highlights, achievements and lessons learned from our smashing first year.
– We brought together 510 vegan leaders in 36 countries and across 90 Fortune companies. Our roster includes many JDs, MBAs, CPAs, engineers, scientists and folks working in highest leadership positions.
– We were the fastest-growing LinkedIn vegan group in 2015.
– We identified 100+ high-profile Fortune 500 vegans on LinkedIn not yet in our network. (Plus there must be thousands outside of LinkedIn.) As part of our growth strategy, we’ll explore ways to engage these potential elite additions.
– More and more LinkedIn users newly mention a vegan interest every week (whom we contact to join if they fit our target audience.)
– I think most importantly, our group activated many untapped vegan influencers not previously connected with other vegans or keeping their lifestyle in the ‘closet’. Many members have found colleagues within their company or location. At least six meetups were organized through our group.
– Held over 100 discussions in our LinkedIn forum, two of which resulted in popular Featured Stories.
– Were featured in Latest Vegan News.
– Best way to start a project like this is to – start. I owe this to Simon Knutsson, a vegan leading Swedish intellectual, then Chairman of Animal Charity Evaluators and now researcher with Foundational Research Institute. I mentioned the idea to Simon (after months of pondering over it), admitting I did not know where to begin. He suggested that I “simply create a group on LinkedIn, and invite him and 1 other acquaintance”. This matter-of-fact advice gave me the needed “kick”, and the group was in place a week later.
– While the start is easier than it seems, a network like this requires lots of ongoing work behind the scenes to keep it active. I see many LinkedIn groups that die, because the creator doesn’t nurture the group. The reality is, corporate professionals have other social networks and very busy lives, and their interest in Vegan Leaders can’t be taken for granted! I am happy to report that we have an official executive team to run the group together – the team page will be added on the website soon.
Let’s celebrate all who came forward as vegan champions in the corporate world, making the movement stronger. Super big props to those who joined the Vegan Leaders network when it was really small, and to star contributors who regularly post and comment in the forum! Our second year will bring lots of exciting additions to make the network even more valuable. Thanks!