If you’re in Zimbabwe and thinking of giving the mindful lifestyle a shot, you’re in luck. This week’s #SmallBusinessFriday features Bconscious, a small vegan startup founded by Lisa Vani. In this piece, she shares the inspiration behind her business and her decision to make the switch towards a plant-based health lifestyle.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am 31 years old, born in Tripoli, Libya to a South Sudanese father and a Russian mother. We moved to Zimbabwe in 1993 and it has been my home ever since. I was not formally trained in the hospitality business but I worked in the service industry for numerous years. I worked as a concierge on Cruise Ships and as a Stewardess on Luxury Yachts. Because of my love for travel, I studied travel & tourism and completed my IATA/UFTAA courses, received my diplomas and worked for a travel agency for 3 years before I embarked on my long and amazing career working at sea.
What is your business model?
My business would fall under health foods as I make vegan cashew based soft ‘cheeses’, spreads and crackers. I do not use any animal products, soy or preservatives in any of my products but stick to simple, clean and most of all, healthy ingredients.
How did you come up with the name Bconscious?
I came up with the name Bconscious because I noticed that after turning vegan, I became more aware and conscious about a lot of things I was doing in my day-to-day life. Things like the foods I was eating, where they came from, what effects they were having on my body? The clothes I was wearing, what materials they were made of? The products I was buying and using, were they ethically derived? Just in general, what effect my life choices were having on the environment, the animals we co-exist with and overall, the planet. So Bconcious I thought was a good name for the brand I wanted to build to encourage people to be more conscious in their day-to-day lives, starting with food.
What inspired you to start a health and lifestyle based business?
My inspiration came after returning to Zimbabwe last year having been away for a few years, to realize that unlike the rest of the world that had embraced the vegan / plant-based lifestyle for its many benefits, no one was catering to that lifestyle here in Harare. So, like the famous quote says, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’, I decided to change that and start something here in Harare, however small or at least with the intention to bring awareness to this way of living.
What are your business values?
My business values are committing to produce Healthy, Clean, Ethical and Environmentally- Friendly Quality products to my customers. My motto also being ‘Eat Green, Live Green.’
What are some of the challenges you face running a health food business in Zimbabwe?
Where do I start! I would say the main one would be the unstable economic situation. This is a big factor that I have to deal with on a daily basis. From price increases and the actual availability of certain key ingredients I use and need to be able to make the cheeses and spreads.
Where can people who are interested in your products find you?
People can find me at the amazing farmers’ markets we have here in Harare – the Maasdorp Market in Belgravia every Wednesday and Saturday from 8.30am – 12.30pm and the Amanzi Food Market on Enterprise Rd, every Friday from 8.30am – 12.30pm.
Do you work in a team or on your own?
At the moment, this is a solo venture. I do have the help and support of my amazing mother, whom I credit for the idea of making my own cashew cheese, based on her love for cheese 🙂
What keeps you going?
What keeps me going is the support of my customers and the amazing community of people I have met along the way. From my usual customers who are always happy to see me with my product at the markets every week, to the new customers I get on a weekly basis who are surprised and so grateful that someone is making vegan products.
“I also keep going because for me it’s not only a business but a way for me to do some activism, talk to people and promote the vegan lifestyle as I am very passionate about it and strongly believe that the future and key to our survival is vegan / plant-based.”