Episode #41: Jodi Monelle – Live Kindly
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“Basically, we’re trying to make veganism look as sexy as it is.”
First thing hear you’ll hear in this interview is my surprise by the fact that Live Kindly, the brand that Jodi started, has only launched in April. I’d been seeing their posts frequently on Facebook, and from the massive engagement and the sheer amount of content they seem to be producing, I figured they must have somehow flown under my radar for the past year or two.
Live Kindly has actually only been operating for 6 months when we recorded this. So how come they look and feel like an established brand with a professional team of writers and video editors behind it? I was really happy to get the opportunity to talk with its founder about this.
Like many vegans, Jodi wanted to share her passion and ideas for making the world a better place… and like many vegans she started a blog. And like many bloggers (not just vegan ones – this one holds all across the board), she soon found out that blogging is tougher than it looks. First, you need to write. A lot, and consistently, even when your motivation is taking a break. And then you have to get your content in front of other people. (While at the same time learning to master whatever content management system you chose.)
That’s where most people give up. And that’s where Jodi did just the opposite.
As with most smart business ideas, she started thinking how she could solve her own problem – which, as she quickly realized, was shared by many aspiring vegan bloggers. Then she realized that a part of that problem was everyone trying to go at it alone, and Live Kindly, a platform for sharing compassionate ideas, started taking form.
In this interview, you’ll learn how Jodi pulled together her core team of content creators (even though she couldn’t promise them any sort of compensation), got Live Kindly funded (and began turning her non-vegan investor onto the growing potential of the plant-based industry), and turned it into the fastest growing vegan brand of this year.
With her team spread across the globe, you’ll also hear how they use this to their advantage, how they stay in touch, what works for organic growth, and why they always strive to be inclusive with their messages.
When you’re thinking of the bottom line of making the most impact, that last bit, making sure you include people who may not (yet) see things the way you do, is super important – and unfortunately, vegan brands sometimes forget about it. Tune in for a lesson on how to keep it a priority while still rocking social media like Live Kindly does.
Jodi Monelle - Live Kindly
Jodi Monelle [02:52] Hi Jerry, thank you and thanks for having me on!
Jerry Sever [02:55] Thank you for joining me. You’re based in Canada right now, am I right?
Jodi Monelle [03:02] Yes that’s right I live in Vancouver. I’m obviously not from here.
Jerry Sever [03:06] Yes, I can hear that – originally you’re from the UK?
Jodi Monelle [03:10] Yes, originally from the UK and a small city called Bath, but I’ve been travelling for the last, I think, just over three years now. Prior to this I was living in New Zealand and now I’m settling here in Vancouver.
Jerry Sever [03:26] I’ve got to ask now, where in New Zealand did you live?
Jodi Monelle [03:27] All over, but mostly Wellington.
Jerry Sever [03:30] Cool, because I don’t know I mentioned when we spoke last week, but we lived in Wanaka until last year, so relatively close. It got a bit too cold for us! I don’t know how Wellington was during the winter, but that place was just too cold for my taste!
Jodi Monelle [03:48] Well, I’m in Canada now, so …. it’s all good.
Jerry Sever [03:53] Ok, three years travelling around. What were you doing before all that? What were you doing in those three years and what did you do before you started Live Kindly?
Jodi Monelle [04:06] I guess I’ve had quite a varied career history, it’s never been that straightforward. I haven’t really been that consistent with my jobs because I haven’t really been career focused. I’ve been mostly focused on travel and that was my thing. I was always told that you can’t have it both – you can have either a career or travel. Recently I’ve found out that that’s definitely not true. In the UK I was working mostly in media sales. Most of my roles there, for example, were with Immediate Media, which publish a lot of BBC magazines, like The Radio Times. I was working in media sales, so I’ve had experience closely aligned with marketing, but mostly sales and advertising and that was all in print. Following on from there I’ve been Executive Assistant at the Ministry of Education in New Zealand, which was quite a change. More recently in Vancouver I worked for Hootsuite, which are a social media management dashboard. Just prior to Live Kindly I was an Executive Assistant and delved into the marketing side of things for a small venture capital company here in Vancouver.
Jerry Sever [05:38] Ok, that’s definitely quite a colorful professional background! What about on the personal side, especially how does vegan tie into all of that?
Jodi Monelle [05:51] My journey’s been an interesting one – well to me at least anyway! I went vegan around about two years and a bit years ago now, so I guess compared to most people I’m relatively new to veganism. It was following on from watching Cowspiracy. Before that I was vegetarian. I’ve dabbled in veganism/vegetarianism since I can remember. I think I had a year of being vegetarian when I was growing up living with my parents.
To take you right back to the beginning, I remember being asked by, I think it was a photographer for a newspaper, what I wanted to be when I grew up. This scenario was I’d won a children’s modelling competition – which was nothing really modelling, it was the most colorful kid in Somerset, the area that I was from. I think the photo was me wearing yellow flowers, or something like that. But the photographer, the journalist, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and my answer wasn’t to be a model, or to be a celebrity, or anything like that, it was to travel the world and save the animals! Which was I guess maybe where you could say things started. I’ve always had a love for animals and always toyed with the idea of vegetarianism but didn’t really understand it. I guess as a child I didn’t really have the ability to be able to do that for myself, or at least I didn’t have the knowledge to. So that’s where I started it in my childhood.
Then, later as I grew and travelled I think that just gradually making the connections as most people do. You just start thinking about things when you are buying meat when you’re travelling in different countries and you see, in Asia, for example, these insects on sticks and quite grotesque looking shop windows with ducks hanging out for sale and things like that.
It was a gradual process for me. In terms of my career they didn’t really closely align. I didn’t ever anticipate that I would have feelings so strong that I wanted to have a career in veganism. As I mentioned, I wasn’t really a career-focused person and this was never my plan, but once I had realized how important this is and how veganism isn’t just about your daily meal choices it transpires into almost every aspect of your life. I felt like I couldn’t not do something about it.
I initially started my own blog, and as with most blogs I would have a really good week of writing something and feeling really passionate about it and maybe put out two or three posts or more. Then I would lose motivation and not write anything for a good few months. I think there were many reasons for that and I think the main reason that a lot of bloggers to, I guess, not last long and don’t really have the impact that they necessarily deserve is because it’s a lot of upkeep for one person to do. It’s difficult and it almost feels like the energy that you’re putting in is not really rewarded and it’s a drop in the ocean really in terms of impact and when it comes to veganism most people feel really strongly and really passionately about getting their voices heard.
So that’s where I started, and on from there I realized that there needs to be a bigger platform for all these voices. There’s so much information out there that is just not being heard at the moment. I guess that, in a roundabout way, is how things started.
Jerry Sever [09:57] I think that anyone who’s creating any sort of content for online publication can relate to that. On the one hand you need to be consistent if you wish to achieve anything, but on the other hand, if you’re not seeing results it can get harder and harder to really do that consistency that is required.
Jodi Monelle [10:23] Yes, it’s tough to keep up the motivation – what is the point if no one is listening to me? When it comes to a topic such as veganism, it can be really easy to get disheartened because it’s such a worthy cause, yes, but at the same time it can take a lot of your energy to put something that is so going against mainstream – it’s a tough thing to do.
Jerry Sever [10:50] So, you already started speaking about this, what actually gave you the idea for creating Live Kindly? What was the main idea behind this?
Jodi Monelle [11:00] I guess there’s a number of problems that I was trying to solve with it. Firstly, it was my initial problem of seeing that there’s so many bloggers out there not being heard, and trying to offer a platform for them. There’s so many experts talking about really, really interesting and important topics, so giving them a platform to reach out to the people and to share their knowledge, that was the initial idea. On from that, I think I felt like I wasn’t doing enough in terms of just being vegan. I noticed that because I’m quite active in talking about it, particularly on social media, I’m probably that annoying friend that posts way too much about veganism and all of my non-vegan friends are not interested!
I got to this point where whilst I was seeing some really positive feedback, so for example, many of my friends had now gone vegan or enquired about veganism with me because I guess that I’m just one of the most outspoken people that they know about it. I’ve done a lot of research so I feel like I can answer almost any question. I was getting all of these messages – can you help me, I really want to know how to go vegan, how do I give up meat, and all of this kind of stuff. I spent a lot of my energy writing out emails and guides and tips and helping a lot of people to make the change. Not only on social media, but talking to people face to face, and it was exciting, it was great, and so lovely to see that people were coming to me for such advice when I was so new to it myself as well. What I really wanted to do, or what I noticed, was that there are not really any mainstream media outlets out there giving this kind of information. There’s no one home that you can go to for veganism where it talks about the nutrition, and it talks about the environmental impacts and the ethics.
I remember when I initially went vegan I spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos, Googling stuff, buying books, watching documentaries and yes, all of that is amazing and I still encourage everyone to do that, but what I felt was missing was just one hub for everything and at least it’s a starting point. Whereas, finding out something about nutrition you would come across 10 different articles all saying different things about soy, and it’s just like whom do I trust and how can I actually practically implement this information into my daily life? I really wanted to create something that would essentially be this huge complete guide to veganism and to update people on news and new products coming out, but also offer healthy recipes, or where to buy vegan junk food, and what to do if you have fly in your house – do you kill it? All of this kind of stuff. It transpires into so many different things in our daily life and people have so many questions about it, but I couldn’t see anything out there that was doing that.
I’m aware that this is a really long answer to your question, but there’s another reason for that as well. There are some vegan media publishers and they do a fantastic job at talking to vegans and sharing information and you can keep people up to date with new products and things like that, but most of these media outlets are focused on talking to a vegan community. It’s all to do with the language and the way that the content is packaged. What we wanted to do is focus on a very similar business idea, but at the same time, we’re positioning ourselves very differently in the market. Our aim is to really talk to non-vegans. We’re not writing for vegans, we’re writing for people who are curious about it. People who are still eating meat on the other end of the spectrum who may have an interest in how do I improve my physical fitness – and they come across this article about protein and all of this kind of stuff. It’s not designed for vegans, although we have a huge vegan following, our target audience is people who are curious and people who want to know more. Basically we’re trying to make veganism look as sexy as it is!
Jerry Sever [15:30] Right. I want to get into this whole audience thing a bit later. I think that that’s definitely one thing that sets you apart. It’s probably, I would assume, a bit of a challenge sometimes to create messages that would present veganism favorably to a meat eating audience.
First of all, the idea that you just described, how did you go about realizing it? How did you go from the idea to the actual launch to where you are right now with Live Kindly?
Jodi Monelle [16:10] In practical terms, I was working a fulltime job at this small venture capital company and I had this idea. It’s evolved a lot since the initial conception, but my initial idea was to build the home for veganism and I was going to work with bloggers and other passionate contributors. I think I just posted on my Facebook page something about getting help with building a website, and my partner’s friend who I’ve actually only met once or twice, is a web developer in the UK. He offered to do it for free, which was amazing, and I’m so grateful that he did! He’s mostly skilled in building shop websites and the idea of building a content website, which was completely different to anything else he’d done before, just appealed to him. So he didn’t ask me for any money and we worked together for, it must have been over a month. I can’t remember now, it’s such a blur – but I never want to build a website again! I didn’t even do the hard part, but it was really tough because a content website is so complex. I had such a clear idea in my mind of how I wanted it to look. For me, I wouldn’t say that I’m that technically skilled – I’m not terrible, but working with Luke, the web developer, I really realized how much I didn’t know about any of this stuff! Within these last few months I’ve had to learn how to use WordPress – nothing technical like coding or anything, but it goes into such detail that we really dedicated a lot of time to that. I’m based in Canada in Vancouver and we’re eight hours behind the UK where Luke is based, so we’re all working together at really funny hours.
Also, I had to juggle this with my fulltime job, which I have to admit I did a bit of sneaky work on this as I was in the office, but it seems like it was worth it. So we spent a good amount of time building this website, going back and forth, and we basically just did everything from scratch and everything without any money at all. I didn’t pay a designer for logos or anything like that, I’m not skilled or professional in Photoshop, but I created that myself and tried to learn everything as much as possible. I already had a few blog posts, which I’d written before which I transferred over to the website, and then I wrote a few newer posts.
I guess to build momentum from there I started reaching out to people who could potentially be interested in contributing for free. I know that the vegan community is very passionate, and a lot of people want to be involved in activism, but not necessarily wanting to standout slaughterhouses and things like that, so I posted in a few vegan Facebook groups to see who was interested in writing. We got a really good response. We got a few negative responses with people accusing me of, I don’t know what you’d call it, just asking people to work for free, which I can understand, but I wouldn’t ever put anyone in a position to do that if they didn’t want to. It was really aimed at those people who are really passionate about doing this as much as I was, because for me it’s obviously not about the money, it’s something way bigger than that.
What then happened, as I said I was working for a venture capital company and they were really focused on investing in tech start-ups, but prior to actually starting the website I’d sent my boss a link to, I think it was Bill Gates investing in Beyond Meat, and maybe that planted the seed. He’d gone away on a business trip for a couple of months and when he came back I think we may have been running like a month, or maybe a bit less, and we had 20,000 followers on Facebook and some good web traffic. We were working with a bunch of writers by this point as well and we were getting regular content out there, but not quite as much as we are now. He was just so impressed with what we’d done. I think at that point we had some crazy week on week growth, it was reaching up to around about 50% or something like that, which I’ve never seen or heard of before, in terms of Facebook pages growing that quickly. I know that it’s all relative, but it was a really exciting time. Within a few days of him being back from the business trip he said I think it’s amazing what you’ve done and what you’ve created without any money at all, how have you done this? He’s not vegan by the way. I’ve spoken to him about it, and he gets what veganism is, but I don’t think he understands the value of it, and the value of the community and how strong the community is – I guess he is seeing it now because he decided to invest a small chunk of money to help me continue doing this. Initially I was going to be working part-time at the venture capital company, and part-time on my venture which was really just amazing news, a dream come true and things just ramped up again and again, and we just grew like crazy. It got to the point where I was working maybe from 6am to 3am – I still kind of do that sometimes now.
It just got to the point where I couldn’t juggle the other job, so we’ve confirmed the investment and it’s allowed me to work on this fulltime and pay some very, very, small, but pay some fulltime wages which is what is helping us to grow the most. We have a writer in the UK, we have myself, and we have one in Australia and one in New Zealand. We’re thinly spread across the world but it really helps us to keep our international content growing, because we don’t want to focus on local specific really. That’s kind of where we are today I guess. We’re just focusing on growth more than anything else, so we’re just going to keep on going.
Jerry Sever [22:42] I was just thinking as you were telling me that, having this person as an investor who’s not vegan at all might actually tie in really well with your idea of targeting an audience that’s not vegan, that’s one thing. But, just from the standpoint of a vegan company, what’s it like for you personally having someone board who believes in you but isn’t necessarily aligned with your values?
Jodi Monelle [23:15] I would say that because he was my boss we have a good relationship anyway. My whole ethos with this entire thing is that I feel the same way about this as I would with any other person who is not vegan. I don’t think that basically it makes a difference to me. I am compassionate towards everyone and I don’t feel like I have a right to be frustrated with that. If anything, I can learn from him because he has run some very successful businesses. The thing is, I think it’s just amazing that someone can see the value in something that I’m doing even though they don’t understand veganism and necessarily the business model, but he’s learning with me and he listens to me.
I think that if you have an understanding and a good relationship, then that can only turn into good things. I think that it definitely is strange when you’re talking about the details of the business sometimes, it be really difficult to convey what the value is of what you’re doing because they don’t necessarily understand the vegan community and all of the benefits. It’s not just that, it’s also that he has a different understanding to it than I do in terms of he will maybe think it’s a bit more about food and recipes and things like that. Whereas my whole mission is really to bring about education, and information and give something of value, it’s not about the food, even though we do have recipes. There is a slight misalignment there, but as vegans we deal with that in daily lives anyway. Most people aren’t vegan and really genuinely doesn’t make too much of a difference to me. If anything, I just encourage him to read more of my articles and anything business related I share with him and he listens, which is the best thing. It’s not an unusual thing either, I think from an that I article I covered there’s the ‘vegan mafia’ in the Bay area who are like a team of investors who, I believe, most of them are vegan, but they’re investing in green businesses, environmental startups and vegan businesses. But we’re also seeing a trend in investors who aren’t vegan who are doing that and seeing the value of it, because how can you deny the consumer changes these days?
It’s really clear to see that this shift is happening, whether or not you believe it yourself. Most people want to capitalize on that change, so I think it’s important that if anyone is in that situation and they have a non-vegan investor approach them, don’t write it off. You could even turn them vegan one day!
Jerry Sever [26:10] I don’t think Bill Gates is vegan – at least if he is, he hasn’t come out publically yet. There’s no doubt that he is doing great stuff for the movement with his investments. I think that what you just described, the way you’re being inclusive, even on that side is probably a pretty good business lesson for anyone considering this.
If we just take it a little further – of course I don’t want to go into any financial details, because I know you’re probably not at liberty to discuss that. But, as a growing media company, I think I remember from a Facebook post that you mentioned you’re not generating any revenues just yet – what sort of milestones are you aiming for?
Jodi Monelle [27:08] That’s completely true, we’re not generating any money at all, and it’s really not our focus at the moment. Like I said, I’m really grateful for our investors to be trusting us and to really recognize the growth and value of building the community. They are not in a rush to get any money back. I think that they are really in this for the long haul, which is a really positive thing to have because as I said, for me, it’s not about the money, this is something much bigger than that, but yes, in order to make it sustainable we will need to monetize at some point. We’ve toyed with the idea of monetizing it that whatever we do, whenever we do decide to monetize, it will be in a way that is valuable to our followers. We don’t want to be pushing anything out which is going to lose our integrity or that we don’t believe in. There are so many different avenues that we can explore for creating a revenue stream and we’re still figuring out which is the best way at the moment. I think that the way that a lot of content of sites tend to go will be with advertising or sponsored article routes.
This is just me, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with having adverts on websites, but I think the brand Live Kindly and the website – it’s my baby and it’s kind of like this beautiful thing that I’ve created that I don’t want to damage or taint. I really don’t want to be adding adverts on there, I don’t want any banners. I think as a content site it already has so much stuff going on anyway and that was the whole theme with my branding, keeping everything clean and white and minimalist because all of the articles should be what is standing out. So we won’t be taking any banner ads or anything like that. We actually did try, I think it was Google ads for like a day, and this KFC ad came up! I just decided to take it off straight away. I think you can change them, but it just solidified my idea of not going into the advertising route.
I think that potentially we will look into doing sponsored articles at some point. I think we can really help support a lot of new vegan brands this way. It will be of mutual benefit. Obviously we would need to make sure that we’re happy with the brand and the product and that it really aligned with what we’re doing, but I think that will likely be the way that we’ll go for monetization.
There’s also a way to donate money if you’re wanting to support us at the bottom of every article. We have a link where you can just submit a donation. That really helps keep us going because we don’t receive anything else. I’m not really paying myself a wage. I’m paying a few of our team fulltime wages, and when I say fulltime, it doesn’t mean a good wage! It means what I can afford and mostly where in a situation now where everyone on the team is just giving more than they’re getting back because they really understand the value and what we’re doing.
So yes, we’re not focused on money, not for the moment anyway. We’re so new I think that who’s going to want to buy anything from us at this point! We might have a big following on Facebook, but we need to establish ourselves way more and build that trust and that relationship with our followers to begin with.
Jerry Sever [30:47] I think this is perfect route to circle back to your audience, because as I mentioned, you’ve been growing at an amazing rate. Honestly, when we started talking and I started exploring Live Kindly, I was just blown away. I thought that you had been flying under my radar and you had been going for at least a year building this up. When I saw that you actually started this in April, I was like wow!
If we can make this one a bit more practical for anyone who’s wondering about it, what are your top tips for achieving this kind of growth?
Jodi Monelle [31:34] I have to say that I’m not an expert, so I didn’t anticipate this kind of growth! In terms of vegan media publishers we are the fastest growing one at the moment, and it has been that way for a good few months now. As I said, I’m not an expert, but from what I have been noticing what really drives our growth is a number of things. Some of this isn’t going to be transferrable because it’s very much what we are doing and what makes us unique.
Some practical tips, I would say, unique content and regular content. I think that having something unique is really what is going to drive people to you because they can’t find anything else anywhere else. I think regular content is always, and you’ll hear this whenever you’re looking into how to build a social media following whether it’s Instagram or Twitter or whatever, you need to be consistent because that’s how you build your brand recognition.
I think that specifically to us what we’ve done differently is being really aware and selective about honing in our brand voice basically. We’re selective about our language and we want to keep things positive. The difference between us and a number of other different publishers is that we are aiming to be, as a vegan business, really inclusive – which is what I haven’t seen anyone else do. I recognize the value of so many other vegan businesses but I feel like the stigma is true when it comes to the vegan community looking exclusive. It can be something as simple as the language you use. For example, if you’re referring to non-vegans as omnis, or something different to you, or almost a language that is negative and shaming them for their decisions, no one responds to being made to feel bad about their actions. I think we need to remember that we’re all on a spectrum, on a journey, I used to meat and many vegans used to eat meat and we tend to forget that. I think the best way to encourage people is through positivity and that is also a way to draw people in. People respond to positive content. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about difficult topics. We are not shy about the ethics of the treatment of animals and environmental damage in all of this. We touch on some really, really hard-hitting topics – we don’t shy away from them, but the way we package it is completely different. We position ourselves in a way that we are empowering others to make a positive change. We are saying that it’s not your fault, you are not doing this, we are part of this, but we can fix it. You can offer practical valuable advice to people without making them feel like they are the worst person in the world. I wish that someone had encouraged me that way because I would have taken on veganism a lot sooner, I believe.
I terms of reiterating practical tips, it’s consistency and I would also say that sharing videos is a really good way to draw in traffic. You can find some unique videos. Again, people just seem to respond to them very quickly on Facebook and they can share like wildfire. You never really know who is going to share them and how many followers they have and that can really help join a lot more people. So consistency, videos, unique content, and keeping things positive – being very careful with your choice of language – would be my top tips.
Jerry Sever [35:22] Since you mentioned video, I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons it’s so successful for you and for a lot of other brands, is also that Facebook likes it. I think at the moment their algorithms are definitely pushing video content to the top of the newsfeeds.
On that topic, the way I understand it, your audience is based primarily on Facebook and I understand that most of your website traffic probably comes from there as well. Am I correct in that?
Jodi Monelle [35:58] Yes, that’s correct. We are ramping up in Google, which is great. We are getting a lot more organic searches come through. The majority at the moment is still Facebook, but they are starting to trickle through on other media platforms, which we are having a push on now.
And yes, you’re completely right about the algorithms of Facebook, which is something that I think any business needs to be aware of, because they change. You may not always be aware of those changes so it’s really good to stay up to date.
Jerry Sever [36:34] That was going to be my main question here, how do you feel about the potential downsides of relying Facebook for traffic like that? Because sometimes it’s the algorithms that change and sometimes it can be a completely arbitrary decision on their side that can all of a sudden they can limit access to advertising, or worst-case scenario, they can even temporarily block your account, and not the least of it can also be losing access to your page if someone hacks you. The reason I’m asking this is that Facebook, and probably to a similar extent Instagram, are really becoming the primary or even sole communication marketing channels for up and coming brands. I think that it’s really important to be aware of things that can happen and the ways that you can protect yourself. So, I’d just like know what you think about all this?
Jodi Monelle [37:38] Sure. I haven’t had experience with any of the negative sides of Facebook yet, but I’m completely aware that could be the case. I think that, as you said, relying solely on Facebook is never going to be a good way to go. You need to, yes, use that as a way to drive traffic to your website, but also be focused on building your brand in other areas as well because, as you said, it can be quite risky with Facebook. Depending on your business, I think that there’s a whole other market of people out there in different areas of the web where you can be reaching a huge audience still. You can be on any other social media platform and focus on creating unique content there as well. So do something different on Instagram to your Twitter and Snapchat and whatever else you’re choosing to use I think that, in a way, to protect yourself.
I couldn’t say that I’m too knowledgeable about that because I haven’t experienced anything negative happen just yet. Maybe I’ll learn from my mistakes at some point soon, hopefully not. I think just being aware and staying up to date with what the rules and regulations are with Facebook. Making sure that you adhere to them as much as possible, as well as keeping in mind that you are running a business. You need to just be completely aware of the terms, so if you do step over the line and you get blocked from Facebook or whatever it can be extremely damaging to a day’s business, or something like that, in your growth. I wouldn’t say that I could offer too many other tips on that unfortunately. Maybe ask me again in six months and we’ll see where we are!
Jerry Sever [39:33] First of all, I really hope that whatever you have to share in six months will not be based on any negative experience!
I’ll just add one here, for anyone listening who has a page, you probably have multiple administrators, I think it’s really crucial that everyone has their accounts well protected with things, for instance, like a password manager app. We’ve been using one called LastPass for the past three years, and it allows you to create passwords that are pretty much unbreakable. If you have more people managing a single page, if one of them gets their account hacked and someone gets in they can then pretty much lock out everyone else. And then either completely destroy your site, or what’s happened to some influential people on Facebook and Instagram before, hold you hostage for all the content and the audience that you have up there.
I wanted to ask you, when you were starting, or now, are you boosting any of your posts or using any Facebook ads, or are you just growing organically?
Jodi Monelle [40:47] No, it’s all organic. I think we paid like $30 for one back when we first started. I know it’s a really stupid thing to say, but I was like I’m not really getting much from this I’m never going to do it again, and I know it was $30 so it’s not going generate much at all. At the moment I don’t feel like we need to. Perhaps in the future, although I don’t really feel like I’m ever really inclined to doing it. From what I’ve heard from other people, and my own $30 experience, it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. I’m sure that it can be effective, perhaps just not for what I’m doing. I don’t know why I feel this way, because it’s not really true, but I feel like they’re almost not genuine and I feel ‘paid for’ doesn’t feel like you’ve earned it as much. I know it’s pretty much just getting your content in front of more people and they can’t force likes, but I guess I feel a lot more satisfaction just knowing that people have come across it and liked it organically. So, I try to stay away from that and probably will continue to.
Jerry Sever [42:01] There are also theories about this kind of approach, that just boosting your posts in advertising for more likes and more reach, that once Facebook catches onto the fact that you are paying money to reach more people it’s actually going to make it harder for you to reach people organically. I wouldn’t know about that from my experience, but I wouldn’t put it past Facebook to operate like that. Ultimately I think that advertising on Facebook can be really effective when you have some sort of a funnel, or some sort of a product on your site and you can actually measure the impact in terms of returns on investment, or dollars in versus dollars out. But if you’re just growing your reach, then yes, you’re probably right with just staying organic.
Jodi Monelle [42:58] Yes, definitely. I completely agree.
Jerry Sever [43:02] One last question about that, do you happen to know the demographics of your Facebook traffic audience? One very interesting thing that I recently noticed when we were advertising Plant Based Business Week on Facebook, and this is where the distinction comes in between advertising for reach or advertising for sign ups like we were doing, but the thing I noticed was that 80% or more clicks came from women. Do you notice, or do you track that for Live Kindly too?
Jodi Monelle [43:39] I do and it’s really interesting actually. Across all three social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – pretty much to the T are exactly the same. It’s 75% women. In terms of location they are mostly North America, the UK, New Zealand and Australia, but yes, mostly women. Off the top of my head, I could be slightly off, but they seem to be ranging from ages of about 18-34, so as to be expected. It does make me wonder whether that’s just because of the vegan demographic or other things? For example, the writers, who are myself and people who are also on the Live Kindly team, also fit that demographic. It’s interesting. I definitely want to explore more into that, but ultimately, no, I wasn’t surprised.
Jerry Sever [44:42] On that topic, I know that your company is obviously female founded, female lead and your contributors are mostly women, so I totally understand that you can only give me a biased answer here, but what are some of the upsides that you see in that? Just to explain, the reason I ask you this is actually twofold. One is that, it’s my impression that vegan business overall has a higher, and probably more representative, percentage of women founders who are leaders. The other is that there are simply proven benefits to having women in leadership positions, and that extends to far more than just business. If we stay with that, what benefits do you personally see?
Jodi Monelle [45:34] It wasn’t really my intention. I didn’t really have an idea of building it just with other women or with any type of person really. It just seemed to happen naturally and I’m really thankful for the way it did happen.
To give you a bit of background on me personally, I have never actually had a good experience working with other women. I’ve always had awful, awful female bosses that just were just awful to work for. I won’t go into too many details, but basically it did leave a bad taste in my mouth.
It’s really U-turned on me now because we have this amazing team of really intelligent, really empowering, passionate women – they keep me on my toes and they keep me in check. I love how it’s happened and how the team has molded into its own thing. Everyone is so collaborative and supportive and everyone is really aligned and on the same page. We’re not an entire female team, we do obviously have Luke, our web developer, and we have a couple of other contributors here and there who are male. But, yes, for the most part we are just a bunch of women working together.
I can definitely see that the influences come from the very fact that most vegans are female. I also think that most vegans, in general, feel really, really strongly about the cause – especially if they’re ethical vegans. In terms of why that’s maybe transpired into so many female founded vegan companies, it just seems to make a lot of sense. I hope that we see more of it as well, because I think that there’s nothing more empowering than to see more empowering women doing this! It’s amazing and it makes me so happy to work with a group of people who are as passionate as I am. We’re female founded and we’re female run, but we wouldn’t say no to men on our team either. It’s all about equality, isn’t that what we’re doing?!
Jerry Sever [47:50] I personally know at least one vegan investor who absolutely prefers investing in female lead startups, but, and I really hope this doesn’t come across in the wrong way, I hope that there will more guys getting into this space in the future. Because obviously the diet, the lifestyle, has benefits that have been proven, so at the moment I think men are actually at a loss here. If there are more women who are vegans, then collectively we’re going to be reaping all of the negative aspects of staying with our meat eating diets and bad habits.
Jodi Monelle [48:44] I totally agree and I think there is such a huge space out there for exactly that. We need a vegan men’s health magazine or something, because there isn’t really anything tailored directly to men. We can write about the benefits of veganism for men and their health and other things and try to package it that way, but at the end of the day most of our writers are female and it’s probably not going to change. I’m on the same page with you there, and I think that it will happen.
What I’ve noticed is, and I don’t know whether you feel the same, but I see men in veganism being a lot more prominent in the public activism front. I don’t think men are necessarily losing out, but they’re going about it a different ways. I guess in some ways the public talking and the really passionate way these public activists are making their voices heard can probably quite good for the testosterone level, or the ego, but I don’t know! I’m really not sure, but maybe that’s the way that most men are drawn to their activism, rather than writing, and I know that’s not going to be same across the board. It’s going to be different for different people. There are amazing public speakers who are female and there are amazing writers who are male, but that’s what I’ve noticed so far. Perhaps not so much in business, but being really out there on the front line is where I’ve noticed a lot of men moving towards.
Jerry Sever [50:19] Ok, that’s going to be interesting to watch. Just one more question about your team, and the way you work, before we start going a bit broader and wrapping things up.
What tools do you use for communicating with the team, and the managing of the content that you put out? I’m going to take a wild guess here, and you probably use Hootsuite, or not, because you used to work for them? Or do you use something else for your social media?
Jodi Monelle [50:52] Actually, no, I don’t use Hootsuite! We did try, but it didn’t really work. We don’t schedule any Facebook posts because we have someone working all the time. Whilst there’s someone asleep there’s always someone awake and posting stuff, so we don’t need to schedule anything on Facebook. I think if we did start scheduling we would become quite spammy, which is not what we want to do.
In terms of other things though, because we’re so new and we’ve grown so rapidly, we’re still really honing in on our strategy and our processes for things like this. At the moment, what we’re using is TweetDeck for Twitter because you can basically schedule something to come out every two hours on Twitter and that’s fine because it’s always this moving feed of content and Twitter is basically spam! So it’s fine, we just immerse ourselves in that. With Instagram, we share the account, so we will post as and when. We repost for when we don’t have any content ourselves that we want to share and we find something really interesting that we want to share we’ll just repost it with that app.
Other ways we use to communicate are we use Slack, which is a really good tool for a team that have never met before! Everyone works remotely and we have different channels – so we have individual one on one chats, and we also have a news stream so we can post any breaking news that we want to cover in there and whoever’s on line will pick that up as quickly as possible. We have other different channels for different memes and different content and other behind the scenes stuff that we’re doing, planning and such, so the team are on there. Anyone who’s a bit more of an ad hoc contributor won’t be involved in that, they will just generally submit their articles via email or log-in to their contributor profile via WordPress.
The other thing that we use to manage our content, which no one would ever want to see, because it’s just horrifically big, there’s just so much going on all the time – but we have project management boards on the program Trello. We have a number of different columns where we can see which content we’ve got coming up, and the content ideas that we have. We can assign different names and move it along to see which part of the process it is at – so whether something has been submitted, or something is in the process of being done and written, or being currently edited. That way everyone is aware of who is taking what, what’s available, and if news is dry that day then we have a whole selection of content that we can chose from and different topics. It’s worked out really well for us. We also have like a way to categorize everything so we know which items are time sensitive and things like that.
Our main aim really is to build a really collaborative team, and a really collaborative community. Whilst I mentioned before that we’re working across so many different time zones, as there’s always someone awake our Slack conversations are just never ending. There’s always some kind of flow of conversation going and you’ll wake up and have to trace back through a whole stream of chat, but it’s good. It’s working out quite well so far.
Jerry Sever [54:26] Where are you taking all of this? I said we’d would be going a bit broader now, so what are the future plans for Live Kindly? Where do you see this headed?
Jodi Monelle [54:36] Seeing as I didn’t know where I was going four months ago, and I didn’t expect this to happen, it’s still really a vague idea. I was chatting with my investor recently, and we’re both quite aligned in the fact that we want to hold off on monetizing, so we really want to be focusing on growth as much as possible and creating more and more unique content. If we can get the budget for it, we’ll be creating more unique videos and more interviews.
I guess our main focus at the moment is meeting people within the community who are really influential and working together to support their initiatives, and also seeing whether they are willing to support us as well. Basically we want to just get out there, get our face out there and meet as many people as possible doing amazing work and just build this community into something much more stronger. I guess for someone who is looking to start a business that isn’t particularly helpful, but I don’t have a clear idea of what I’m doing. All I know is that this has the potential to grow into something really big and the way to do that is to work with other people. I think the worst thing we could do for ourselves is to remain faceless and not be supporting other businesses and other initiatives. I think that aside from the fact you can leverage off of their following and things like that, which is great, to propel the movement forward we need to be working together. For me it’s about teamwork and it’s about establishing some really strong long-term relationships and just seeing where that transpires.
So at the moment, for me, it’s all about focusing on growth and then as soon as we get to a certain level I think that it would take me at least a year to even decide on how I want to monetize things, but that will be the next step in moving forward. It has the potential to go so many different directions. We want to be building something that is a lot more physical and have events and talks and things like that. We are really led by our followers really, and what they want. We don’t want to be doing anything that’s not valuable to them. I guess for now as we grow our following, it’s mainly market research, and we’ll see where that leads us.
Jerry Sever [57:08] Yes, and even though you said that this might not be that useful to anyone who’s looking to grow a business, I think you dropped two things that are super important. One is what you just said about market research and listening to your followers, which should pretty much be the main guiding principle for anyone building any kind of business. The other one is the collaboration, which is a topic that is just coming up constantly in all of these interviews that we’re doing, because more than in any other industry when we are looking at the entire vegan plant based space, we are working towards a common goal. So, like I said, even though you started this off as saying that this might not be that helpful, I think those two things are super important to anyone who’s looking to grow a business.
Jodi Monelle [58:12] Sure. Yes, I completely agree. Take from me as someone who is not an expert in business, if I can do it, anyone can do it! Most of it is common sense. You’ve just got to think strategically about it and it will happen.
Jerry Sever [58:27] A much, much broader question to wrap things up, and one that I really love asking – when we have it collectively as a race, as a planet, so if you think of the best case scenario for the next 10, 20, 30 years, what do you envision?
Jodi Monelle [58:46] That’s a difficult question because you can answer it in so many ways. What realistically is going happen? What do you hope’s going to happen?
Jerry Sever [58:55] What’s the best-case scenario that you see? We don’t need to be super realistic about it – but in terms of things that are achievable.
Jodi Monelle [59:03] Ok, still a really tough question. I like to think that we are moving in a positive direction. I can see that there is some horrific stuff still going on, and that’s never going to be, unfortunately, eradicated. We’ve been fighting racism for how long now, and it’s still a very big issue. The same with climate change with all of that, and in fact it’s gotten worse, but then at the same time there are positive things happening. Sometimes it takes something really bad for people to realize that something needs to change. I kind of feel that we’re teetering on the edge of that now with negative things that are happening. People are waking up and people are starting to question things and starting to realize that, and why am I listening to this, why am I not making my own decisions and living in alignment with my morals and being a compassionate person and trying to make the earth a better place. It’s so easy to get disheartened when all of this negative stuff is going on. What I would say, in the future, if it continues to go this way in terms of people waking up, we’re going to see a huge flood of amazing initiatives coming out from people who are starting grassroots initiatives.
I don’t remember the statistic, but I know that so many people now, millennials, are not working 9-5 jobs anymore. Instead they’re becoming entrepreneurs and they’re starting their own businesses and we’re seeing that transpire into so many amazing start-ups trying to revolutionize the food supply. I think what I hope to see in the future is questioning more things. What I think is going to happen is that we’ll move into a phase of lab grown meat way before veganism, but I hope that this at least spurs something on then people are starting to question their choices. I just want to be part of a really positive movement and I think that something bad is going to happen before something really good happens – kind of like the phoenix coming back from the flame. That’s what I think, and I just hope that it doesn’t get much worse than it is now. It’s weird, I can see lots of positive and lots of negative, and I just think if we can all live a bit more kindly then we’re onto a good thing.
Jerry Sever [1:01:45] Yes, thank you for that Jodi. Just to end this, what are the best ways for people to connect with you and Live Kindly, and learn how to live a bit more kindly?
Jodi Monelle [1:01:58] Well, I would love for people to spend more time on the website directly rather than just finding us through Facebook. The benefits of finding us on Facebook though are we obviously share a lot of video content, so definitely check that out. If you want to connect with us then you can always drop us an email, explore the website, and see what you like about it. Feel free to get in touch with me and give me any feedback, because we’re at such an early stage we’re just trying to improve all the time and we really appreciate hearing from anyone, whether it’s about collaborating, suggestions, and anything really, definitely get in touch. You can also find us on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and we’re really trying to have a push on our YouTube channel. Most of the time you can find us with the username @LiveKindlyco.
We are across the board, and there’s always going to be someone available to chat to you, so definitely get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Jerry Sever [1:03:02] Alright, well thank you very much Jodi for joining us today and for sharing all the information and everything that you’ve learned with Live Kindly so far. I think you are definitely positioning yourself to be a part of the positive movement that’s going to be happening in the future, so thank you for that as well.
Jodi Monelle [1:03:26] I hope so, and thank you so much for inviting me on. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Jerry Sever [1:03:31] Likewise – have an awesome day.
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