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Cattle contribute 40 percent of the annual methane budget. As the population grows, the demand for meat will only increase, leading to a snowball effect on an existing problem. Meanwhile, COVID-19 led many people into poverty, making healthy food unaffordable. It’s predicted that by 2021, half of the children born in the UK will experience a diet-related disease by the time they’re 65 years old. 

But how do we retrain the minds of a world where the vast majority consume diets which include meat? Well, that’s where Plant Based News steps in, a UK-based media organisation dedicated to raising awareness about ethical purchasing, conscious living, sustainability, and the vegan lifestyle, is coming to the rescue.

Founders Klaus Mitchell and Robbie Lockie, became vegan in 2013 and founded the company in 2017, with the goal of eliminating animal agriculture. We sat down with Klaus to find out more about how they’ve grown the world’s leading plant-based media company.

What were your initial motivations for starting Plant Based News?

Shortly after graduating from UCL with a MSc in Genetics of Human Disease, I started Plant Based News as a social media channel in 2015. It was predominantly a YouTube channel featuring videos of me talking about all things plant-based from inside my parents’ greenhouse. Each video would start with, “Hi, this is Klaus from the greenhouse!” 

I noticed that there wasn’t a portal out there collating plant-based content, so my motivation at the time was to share useful information about plant-based health and nutrition, while also finding a community of like-minded people. As I realised the power of social media to reach wider audiences, I started setting up social pages on Facebook and Instagram (and registered plantbasednews.org which was inactive but taking email addresses). 

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be invited to a plant-based health conference in California, hosted by Vegsource, where I was able to interview leading plant-based health professionals in the field for PBN’s social media. I had no idea at that stage where it could lead to and in fact, in those early days, I didn’t even tell my parents for a long time about my secret project. It was only once I had a sizable number of subscribers that I started sharing the content with family and friends. 

Through the platform, I was able to meet some incredible people, most notably Robbie Lockie, who came on as a co-founder and levelled up the game in so many ways (see below). Together we founded the company Plant Based News Limited. In many ways, PBN has always been a grassroots movement, which has grown steadily and organically alongside the wider movement.

What effect did Robbie have on PBN?

Robbie’s digital media experience was instrumental in so many aspects of PBN’s growth since inception, including establishing partnerships with mission-aligned organisations, developing the technical infrastructure of PBN, launching plantbasednews.org as a credible news/media platform (before it was just a URL capturing email addresses without any news), facilitating the scale-up of the business, and channelling his interest (sometimes bordering on addiction) of social media into making the world a better place! 

He was also the brains behind PBN Food and World Plant Milk Day, which he founded. Robbie is an all-round digital creative and his business / technical experience, coupled with his passion for the vegan movement, was geared up for a project as ambitious as PBN. He is a world class digital campaigner and his propensity to help the cause is felt by anyone who works with him, week on week.

What are the main challenges you face as a business?

The main challenge has been that we have the creative agency side of what we do and the publishing side. When one is going well, sometimes the other isn’t. The challenge has been making the news platform work well alongside the creative firepower that underpins it. So that we can make money from doing creative services for brands – as well as the news platform running really well. Getting both at the same time – both working financially – has been a challenge.

Plant based and vegan diets, as well as lifestyles, have undoubtedly been significantly rising in the last few years. How does Plant Based News want to play a part in the increasing interest and adoption of those?

Knowledge is power and we want to educate so people can make their own decisions. Once people know the deleterious effects of animal agriculture and how simple (and tasty!) it is to consume a plant-based diet, they can make more informed decisions.

What does your competitive landscape look like?

There are a number of platforms with either a sizable social media presence or a large website. We’ve got both as well as an internal creative agency. This positions us in a unique way compared to other brands. 

How have you designed your business model to be scalable?

We have the creative firepower and with this, know that we’re always able to adapt to the changing social media landscape. The media world is changing, you need leaders and a team who are passionate about not just being the best, but being ahead of the curve. Because of our expertise and in-house talent, we can always offer brands the most innovative marketing solutions. It keeps us relevant and keeps our brands and partners happy.

What has growth looked like to date for the business? 

What started off as solely a YouTube channel now reaches over 70 million impressions per month. It has taken us years to get here and it has been aided by the wide variety of platforms we are now on. Instagram is growing the quickest, with an engaged audience of over 1 million followers, and we have recently launched on TikTok.

When you’re not working, what are you doing? 

Sports! Tennis or swimming are my favourites.

What are the easiest swaps people can make when wanting to move towards a plant based lifestyle?

Oat milk! When I first went vegan, I just had soy milk. Now there are so many milks, including cashew milk, almond milk, rice milk, and hazelnut milk. But oat milk is my favourite and I would recommend it to anyone transitioning.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?

Don’t think of the money when you’re getting into it. Discover an area before carving out your niche. Once you’ve done that, stamp your individuality on it with passion! The rest will take care of itself.

To find out more about Plant Based News, and for the chance to invest, visit the pitch now.