Diana Edelman: “I believe that in order to be successful, you need to create an excited community”
Create community — I believe that in order to be successful, you need community support. People get excited learning about vegan options, attending vegan events, which in turn helps my business be more successful. It also inspires them to take action and be leaders for change in an impactful, compassionate way.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Edelman. Diana is the founder of Vegans, Baby, a multi-faceted endeavor to make being vegan in Las Vegas easier through an online guide; community events and a vegan dining month uniting restaurants with vegan/vegan-curious/foodies in Las Vegas; vegan food tours and the Las Vegas Vegan Food Guide. She’s helped spearhead the vegan movement in Las Vegas and frequently travels around the world to speak on the vegan lifestyle and how to be a positive leader for change.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s such a long journey I’ve been on to get where I am. I never thought I’d be where I am today. I guess this specific portion of my life started when I relocated to Thailand in July 2012 to work for an elephant rescue organization. While I was there, I saw first-hand the cruelty that these incredible animals endure to make us happy. I decided that I never wanted to be the cause of pain and suffering in another living being, so I stopped eating meat. At the end of 2015, I decided to take that final step and go vegan and relocate back to the States from Europe (I moved there after almost three years working in animal rights in Thailand). I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in terms of work, and I wasn’t sure that I could actually go vegan, so a dear friend of mine suggested I merge the two together and go vegan and write about it. VegansBaby.com was born, and the rest is history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I learned how to believe in myself and trust that I can set out and accomplish whatever I put my mind to. It wasn’t always an easy thing, and Vegans, Baby has taught me that I can make my dreams come true. I started the site less than three years ago with no real clue where I was going to take it … and things just started happening. An idea would pop into my head, like creating a guide book, or someone would run something by me like suggesting I do a food tour, and it would just click in my mind and with my brand. The natural evolution of my company and the projects I’m working on has been the most interesting. It’s truly an example of trusting the universe, putting things out there and seeing them take shape. I never realized that my work would have the impact it has had in the vegan world in Las Vegas and that one person’s efforts really can make such a difference. Of course, it takes a village and the community has been incredibly supportive as my company has grown and changed.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know about funny, but it is a mistake I think a lot of people make when they first start a business — thinking they can do everything. I know my strong points; I know my weak points, and I know the things which are better outsourced. Learning to delegate and give up control has taken time, but I know now that focusing on my strengths and the company’s overall strategy is the best use of my time. Another learning lesson I’ve experienced is taking the time to come up with a list of my goals, mission, etc. before I launched the business. I learned the hard way that you need all of these things to have a successful brand. Everything matters down to the logo, brand colors, style guide, etc.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes Vegans, Baby stand out is that the company launched before the vegan movement really hit Las Vegas. So, in the past three or so years, it has grown along with the vegan dining scene and become a recognizable brand in the city. I work hard to help anyone who has questions about vegan dining in Vegas and around the world, and also work to help restaurants understand and see the value of offering vegan options.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I just relaunched my site and expanded it to offer more of a global bent. I have amazing and passionate people all over the world who have generously curated mini dining guides to their cities to help make it easier for people to find vegan dining around the world. I also have partnered with Mindful Wanderlust’s Giselle Correia to offer a vegan tour of Thailand in October and showcase the amazing vegan culinary scene there and introduce participants to some of our favorite spots around the country. And, perhaps the most exciting is that I have just partnered with the James Beard Foundation. This July, I am curating a vegan Las Vegas dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. All of these activations and expansions are designed to help make vegan life more approachable and fun; it’s designed to remove the stigma I feel many place on being vegan.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be passionate, lift each other up, make meaningful connections and foster relationships in your community and beyond. I wouldn’t be where I am without some of the women in my life who have helped me, supported me and empowered me to get where I am today.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I am a company of one at the moment with some amazing people who help out part-time. So, I’m learning as I go. I’ve always worked pretty independently, so I’m learning to let go of some things, trust and delegate. I definitely think that finding the right people are important and being able to communicate in a kind and compassionate way is a must.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve had a few. My first one would be Lek Chailert at Save Elephant Foundation. She brought me over to Thailand in 2012 to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism and to make change in the way tourists spend their dollars in SE Asia. That was my first glimpse of animal activism, and she taught me that the best way to make change is through kindness, compassion and showing businesses there is a “better” way to do things (like turning their elephant camps into sanctuaries).
Brandy Bell, writer and strategist, was the catalyst for Vegans, Baby. She’s the one who gave me the encouragement and then, as the site grew, helped me flesh it out more and come up with a vision to make it a bigger brand.
Kelly Bennett, the creative director and co-owner of VegeNation taught me how to focus on the good. Being an activist is hard and can be truly exhausting. Pair that with it being what you live and breathe as your passion, and at times it can beat you down. She helped me rein everything in, learn how to take time for self-care and also how to focus more on what matters to me in business … and to never lose sight that even with people who come after what I do, I’m making change and helping not only the animals (which is why I went vegan), but also the environment and humans.
Jodi Monelle, the founder of LIVEKINDLY. She has been so incredibly supportive of my business and has helped me learn the ins and outs of growing a brand and taking it to the next level. Her support has not only helped Vegans, Baby, but also the entire city. Her platform has shined a light on Las Vegas and all of the progress the city is making. She’s also taught me how to gracefully deal with those who may disagree with my form of activism or dislike what I say.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
People come up to me often and tell me that Vegans, Baby has helped them to go — and stay — vegan. I think simply educating people on how to make more conscious decisions about what they put into their bodies and what businesses they support makes an impact. One person choosing to try a vegan lifestyle makes a difference in the lives of animals, the environment and their own health.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Find your niche — My mom said this to me for years — probably my entire life. I was miserable in my last full-time PR job and she would always tell me once I “found my niche,” everything would happen. It’s true. The moment I found my niche (travel blogging), everything changed. Since then, I have refined my niche and now I wake up every day knowing that the work I am doing is making a positive difference in the world.
- Create community — I believe that in order to be successful, you need community support. People get excited learning about vegan options, attending vegan events, which in turn helps my business be more successful. It also inspires them to take action and be leaders for change in an impactful, compassionate way.
- Be kind to yourself — The past few months, I’ve had horrible anxiety so I started to take more time for myself and get back into my wellness rituals like meditation, journaling and making sure that I have time in my day just for me. I think it is a common problem with entrepreneurs — we don’t know how to shut off and just be. I struggled for a long time with feeling guilty if I decided to lay in my bed on a Saturday and watch Netflix instead of work, but you have to take a break or you burn out.
- Align yourself with likeminded people who inspire you — I am the most creative, the most inspired, when I am around other people. The people I keep in my life are incredible examples of entrepreneurs who are working so hard to create magic and I thrive when I’m around them and appreciate that we can all get together to work, to create, to partner and to have a support system.
- Be brave — I wouldn’t be where I am without taking chances. Lots of them. I’ve quit careers, twice. I’ve grabbed a backpack and traveled solo across Europe for seven months. I’ve left the country to live abroad for years. And, I’ve come back home with nothing. You’ve got to trust in yourself that you will land on your feet and things will work out. If you’re passionate, if you’re motivated, if you’ve got an idea you can see taking off, things happen.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’ve been working hard to inspire a vegan movement in Las Vegas and encourage restaurants here to offer more vegan options. Through the vegan dining month, vegan events, and my site, it’s been my goal to increase vegan options in Las Vegas. Right now, I’m working on expanding to other cities with only a few vegan options to make change. It’s my goal to show that vegan life is accessible and approachable no matter where you are in the world, and the best way for me to do that is to celebrate and highlight vegan food around the globe.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everywhere you go, there you are.” My mom used to hammer that in my head and I never listened. I have worked hard to overcome depression, done a lot of work on myself and in retrospect, I can see where I ran away looking for happy, looking for love, looking for change, when none of that would happen and stick without loving myself first. I’ve literally traveled around the world trying to find myself, when the only thing holding me back from being happy was me.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? (he or she might just see this if we tag them)
Lady Gaga — Can you imagine if she tried going vegan and talked about it? As one of the most influential entertainers on the planet, she has such power to make change and influence people. I’d love to eat a vegan meal with her and show her how delicious it can be and encourage her to use her platform for social good (which I know she already does, but this would be an incredible extension).
Kristen Bell — She’s so amazing. I love that she launched a plant-based line at Wal-Mart and think she’s another one of those people who is such a good influence. Also, she just seems like she is the sweetest person in real life, and I’d love to grab food and wine with her!