In a freewheeling interview with Vinita Contractor, Founder, Down 2 Hearth and a Holistic Nutritionist & Lifestyle Coach, she shared insights about her passion, her journey as one of India’s leading vegan entrepreneurs and her vision for year 2020.
What inspired you to become vegan?
For me, veganism was about making a compassionate choice towards the environment, and the animals. Personal health benefits came as a by-product. I had always known that we didn’t need dairy to thrive and to be healthy, but I wasn’t aware of the ecological impact of it as well as lived in the false belief that cows in India would never be ill-treated as they are considered holy.
Once I become aware of the ecological impact of our food choices as well as the reality of the dairy industry I decided to turn vegan.
Do share a brief summary about how you founded Down 2 Hearth? Why D2H?
Living a conscious, healthy and sustainable life was something I was always committed to. Though I had worn various hats as a banker, then as a teacher and a mother, I always found myself drawn to educating myself in the health and wellness space and implementing what I learnt in my life.
After turning vegan, my primary concern was to ensure my children could meet their nutrition needs on a plant-based diet. Also I realized many people who are in a similar situation like me who want to transition or turn vegan but don’t know how to and need hand-holding and support. That’s when I decided to founded Down 2 Hearth. I took on a course on Plant-based Nutrition ECornell, US. I also studied Raw Vegan Nutrition and a Wellness culinary course, Rouxbe, US. I began taking Whole Food Plant- Based workshops where I taught people how to cook oil-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, organic food. After a while I further trained myself to undertake personal health consultations for people who need help to transition, lose weight in a sustainable or reverse lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension etc.
I chose the name ‘Down 2 Hearth’ because:
Heart: This endeavour is close to my heart and something I am extremely passionate about.
Earth: Sustainable living is important to us and I believe in being sensitive to the earth and environment.
Hearth: A hearth represents a fireplace, warmth and home. Every change begins at home! Down 2 Hearth is the culmination of a love for the passion to create a healthy self and the environment and more importantly, the belief that the two can coexist!
What were the major challenges you faced initially (a) Personally as a vegan (b) while setting your business?
Handling concerns and questions from family and friends was challenging. Also how to manage being in social settings. There was a lack of ready options for substitutes. Today it is much easier. I look as my venture as a passion which I have translated into a systematic self- sustainable format, not a business. The challenges I faced were what any person would experience with setting up a new venture. I was very majorly technologically challenged! And had no clue about marketing.
What are the ROIs with respect to the time you have invested in your start-up and the investment?
I have invested in my education and training as well as equipment for cooking workshops and my consulting space. I don’t really view it as a business but I have been very fortunate to get many amazing opportunities to learn and grow. I have collaborated with many lovely people. As long as I am doing with I believe in, in an honest and effective manner and people are benefiting from it, I see it as a great Return on Investment!
What were the risks you faced?
I didn’t see anything as a risk. I was very prudent in what I invested in and didn’t take on unnecessary risks such as going too big right at the start or taking on a commercial space on rent or employing full-time staff. I used the resources I had available to me without biting more than I can chew. Also I didn’t go about it in the regular way which is to make a business plan or take on investors etc.
Vegan is trending right now and it’s definitely a great time for new vegan business to start off. The future looks promising.
According to you, is setting up a vegan business sustainable in India?
I think veganism is on the rise in India especially in the metros and where the awareness and information is reaching. It has a huge impact when mainstream sports persons in India choose to go vegan. Vegan is trending right now and it’s definitely a great time for new vegan business to start off. Even if the trend doesn’t remain strong, it will stay and thrive. The future looks promising. The future is Vegan!
What are the risks a start-up faces in the vegan market today?
I think the risks of a start up as a vegan business are just like any other new business which comes with its own share of risks and uncertainties.
What keeps you focused this year, and what is the strategy for Year 2020?
Some exciting new collaborations and a project are in the pipeline. I plan to reach out and support more people on their health journeys. I am so excited!