Welcome to our first installation of our new local entrepreneurs series! This blog series will put a spotlight on a few of our local entrepreneurs who have truly excelled in their area of expertise. We are going to shift the focus from the business they have created back onto them, in order to get an insight into everything it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in 2022 Northern Ireland. With Veganuary now upon us, there’s no other entrepreneur more appropriate than Kenny Rea – One of the two brains behind Plant Based Plans. Having recognised that many view vegan or plant-based eating as a luxury, time consuming, and restrictive. David and Kenny are now on a mission to demystify plant-based diets. The concept is simple: a wide variety of healthy, jargon-free meals delivered anywhere in Northern Ireland. We sat down with Kenny to discover more about his challenges and successes behind Plant Based Plans.
How Did You Come Up With The Idea To Start Plant Based Plans?
Originally, Plant Based Plans started out from simply noticing a gap in the market when I first became a Vegan. Back then, there wasn’t a massive amount of choice or support there. So I began to do some meal prep for myself and posted a few pictures of this on my social media. From this, a friend of mine who had also just turned vegan, asked me to do some meal prep for them as well. After doing some research, I found out there really wasn’t another company in Northern Ireland who provided this kind of service. And that’s really where it all started. Because ultimately I wanted to help other people in my situation get access to hassle free, healthy, vegan options.
What Sets You Apart From Other Meal Plan Subscriptions?
I think what sets us apart is that it’s not just about selling meal plans to people. It’s really about helping individuals become more healthy. It’s about saving animals. And it’s about enabling people to make a positive change to their lifestyle that benefits the environment.
“It’s not just about selling meal plans to people”
We try to be as environmentally conscious as we can. It’s not just about the food for us. It’s about everything else that comes with it. Hopefully we’re helping to make a small but positive impact against the climate crisis, for the benefit of my children and everyone’s children’s future. I think those strong, core values are ultimately what sets us apart as well as being a vegan-owned and operated company. Everyone that works with me are all vegan.
Did You Always Know You Wanted To Work For Yourself?
I did always want to work for myself but I never thought it would be possible. But then the older I got, and the more people I worked with – the more skills I developed. After that, I felt I could take that challenge on myself. But it was definitely nerve wracking. Going from that scenario where you get a regular paycheque and everything’s nice and structured to all that, just literally gone. And to be honest with you, I was definitely winging it for a long time.
“It’s very freeing”
But It’s very freeing. I don’t have to answer to anyone and I’m able to make decisions that I think are right, and push those forward – there’s a great sense of freedom around that.
How has the pandemic impacted your business?
We’d been trading for just over a year when COVID hit. But it actually worked out okay for us being a meal prep company and not dealing directly face to face with customers meant that we could keep operating. We were very fortunate that we actually got busier because people were homeschooling, working from home, then having to try and make a healthy, nutritious, dinner for themselves. So the option to have a meal plan, freshly delivered to your door twice a week that you can just pop in the microwave for three minutes was definitely appealing to a lot of people. And it was great to feel like we were helping to support people through a challenging time.
What has been your biggest success so far?
I think our biggest success so far was opening our bespoke, commercial kitchen. It’s given us the flexibility to be able to develop more product lines and also look at development into different areas.
What is your favourite thing about being an entrepreneur?
So it’s a double edged sword because there’s no one to tell you what to do, but there’s also no one to motivate you. So you’ve got to be motivated to do it. You have to want it, you have to really be passionate about it. And you have to enjoy what you do because it’s not 9 to 5, you know, it’s 24/7.
“You’ve got to be motivated to do it. You have to want it, you have to really be passionate about it.”
You’re constantly thinking about it. You’re constantly thinking of ways to improve. You’re constantly thinking about your customers and about the offer you’ve got on. You’re constantly worrying about the guys that work with you. So yeah, there’s the freedom that you get from working for yourself but as I say, it’s a double edged sword because you’ve got all that worry and all that responsibility on your own shoulders. So you have to be really conscious of the pressure that can be put on you, but, you know, I really enjoy it too.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs or people looking to get into the industry?
Yeah, you’ve got to be prepared to be patient. I’m not a very patient person. But I’ve definitely had to force myself to become more patient because all my grand plans and my big ideas don’t just come together in a few weeks or a few months, you know, it does take years and it takes years of hard work.
“You’ve got to be prepared to be patient”
Especially when you’re building something from the ground up, you know, we don’t have investors or things like that to throw a lot of money into it. If you have an idea or if you have something that you’re passionate about, you’ll only regret it, if you don’t try it out at least. There’s no harm in trying and you know, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work. Great. You can move on to the next thing, but yeah, you don’t want to end up regretting not giving it a go.