Leading a conscious business

In today’s commercial world, it’s no longer enough to just sell a product, just make a dish, or just offer good service. Today, millennials hold the most buying power and are more aware of where their dollar is going. It’s simply not enough for that dollar to be going back to the business. Sure, generally speaking, millennials are looking for that next great Instagram photo, but they are also looking for companies that are socially and environmentally conscious; they are looking for companies that care about our planet and our people. So, as business owners, how do we reach them? Here are a couple ideas:

Engage with the city. For a healthy business, you must try and keep up with relevant issues in our city and get involved. Whether your business raises money or raises awareness, every bit counts! As a restaurant, we sponsor school gardens where kids plant the seeds, take care of them, harvest them and finally see them used to cook delicious food.

Go local. Partner with other local businesses, putting revenue back into the city by supporting each other. Use artisan and local vendors when you can, find those that share the same passion as you.

Find a cause. Once you remove yourself as No. 1 and focus on unselfish endeavors, business booms. We are focused on doing something good for the environment and animals. Not only do we not serve meat and seafood, but we educate our guests about the impact we’re having by not serving or selling those products. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win for the environment and animals, and our guests feel good about their purchasing power.

• Align yourself with a movement, but make sure it’s a genuine connection. We took the lead and embraced the vegan community. “Eating healthy” may be a trend, but we truly believe in taking care of oneself. It’s a lifestyle change and our goal will always be to help others make those changes easily and deliciously, if they wish.

• Take care of your employees. Though you want your customers to buy into your mission, your employees are the strongest advocates for your brand. By taking care of them, you take care of your business. If you want to be a special part of the community, treat people right, pay well and work as a family.

• Make your mission accessible. Be open to the masses by considering your price point, your messaging and your reputation for good service! Veganism can be off-putting to some people, we get that, but we approach it in a way that is positive, welcoming and delicious to vegans and non-vegans alike.

With more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, Chef Donald Lemperle opened VegeNation in 2015. Raised in his family-owned restaurant on Staten Island, New York, he has cooked in some of New York City’s finest restaurant kitchens including Le Bernardin, The Quilted Giraffe and The Sign of The Dove, shaping a valuable culinary foundation for his career. In 2005, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer. With this diagnosis, he decided to change his lifestyle completely, beginning with a plant-based diet. Healthier eating, exercise and a positive mindset have Lemperle feel fantastic and in remission. His transformation opened his eyes to the problems in our current food system and how it is harming our health and planet. Lemperle made it his mission to make a difference in his local community by serving fresh, healthy, plant-based foods that are delicious, fun, and easy to get.

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