How to build your network and increase your contacts

It’s far easier to build a business when you surround yourself with people who are on the same mission that you are. But these kinds of connections don’t just happen by accident. You need to have a strategy in place to increase the number of connections you are making.

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Listen to a successful entrepreneur tell their story and they will likely talk about a ‘chance meeting’ or being introduced to someone who then went on to play a big part in their business journey. It might have been someone who introduced them to an investor, it might have been someone who brought an opportunity or even someone who became a mentor.

And in any other industry, linking up with people can be really hard work. Beneficial new connections are hard-won and other people will view suggestions of collaborating with suspicion, trying to work out what’s in it for them first. In some sectors, companies are very protective of the opportunities they come across because they want to maintain an advantage over everyone else and stop other companies from taking the same path they have.

Benefitting from your vegan connection

However, you are not in these other industries. You are in the vegan sector, even if your company doesn’t overtly shout about its veganism. If you are vegan yourself and you are trying to bring about a vegan world, then other vegan companies will likely want you to succeed even if you could be considered a direct competitor. Because they want the same thing that you want. They probably started their vegan business to bring about the same change in the world that you are trying to bring about with yours.

Every new person you meet comes with their own network of hundreds of other people that they are already connected with, and your dream contact may be amongst those people that they know. So the more people you know who align with your mission, and the more people you build meaningful relationships with in your sector, then the more exponentially your access to potential opportunities and contacts grows too.


But these connections are never going to just come and knock on your door whilst you’re sat at your desk – you need to give fate a helping hand. Networking and relationship-building is a key part of growing your business and you should have a strategy in place to actively increase the number of people you know in your sector. There are whole industries that have grown to connect business people together. Vegan Business Tribe is a network of lots of vegan businesses and should be the first place you go if you are wanting to meet other vegan business owners. But other networks like Beyond Animal and Vevolution also offer different kinds of networking events and meet-ups where you can meet other people who are on the same mission that you are.

Think beyond your own back-yard


The Covid pandemic made the world smaller, it brought us together online in ways that only early adopters were using before. Meeting on Zoom has become natural for most of us now and means that you can link up with people across the globe. We are fortunate here in the UK that the vegan sector is further along than a lot of places in the world – mainly because we’ve got amazing organisations like The Vegan Society who have been campaigning and active for so many years to make that happen. So if you’re outside of the UK then start connecting with vegan businesses and organisations in the UK to start benefitting from their extra experience. 

And if you are based in the UK yourself, then open your eyes to the opportunities around the world. Australia has real legal and political momentum at the moment with the Animal Justice Party getting their first MPs into parliament. Many African countries are starting to explore veganism with companies like Veganic Food in Zambia not just providing food to their domestic markets but also campaigning to educate more Africans on veganism. China is one of the biggest consumers of plant-based leather. And in the United States, the vegan entertainment industry is starting to gain a foothold with the biggest vegan TV shows, documentaries and podcasts all coming out of the US right now. And you can be part of all this. Remember that in veganism it’s our ethics, not our geography, that brings us together.

Using LinkedIn to connect

So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can actively work to increase your network and the number of people you are connected to. First, if you are not an active member of Vegan Business Tribe yet then come and get involved with us. Our networking meet-ups and community hub will give you access to some amazing vegan businesses who are on the same mission that you are. The next great place to meet other people who are moving the vegan cause forwards is actually LinkedIn. And you might roll your eyes and say you don’t do LinkedIn, but if you’re building a vegan business you really should be on there. There are groups for vegan professionals, full of people who are trying to bring about the same change in the world that you are. And the great thing is: they are already all linked to each other. Just spend some time connecting and engaging with other vegan business people on LinkedIn and before you know it you will only be a step away from pretty much anyone in the sector. Go take a look at the CEO of your favourite vegan brand and you’ll likely already have a dozen or more shared connections. 

And don’t just spam connect with a hundred or so new people, actually start a conversation with them. Send a short message to every new connection you get to find out more about them and to see if you have any synergy. Put a day or an afternoon aside each week and have a Calendly link set up where people can book Zoom calls with you on that day. Send that link to anyone you get into a conversation with on LinkedIn that you think you have some synergy with. Don’t try and sell to these people, that’s not our focus here, but also don’t offer appointments to people who are obviously trying to sell to you either! Use this to build up connections with people who are working towards the same goal that you are.

When you belong to a local business networking group, what brings this group of businesses together is their geography, not their ethics. They won't have the same motivation to help you succeed because they don't share your vegan mission.

Real-world networking opportunities

Networking doesn’t have to just be virtual. Before the pandemic, the biggest way to meet other businesses was by joining your local business networking group. And if you are not specifically selling to vegan businesses then these might still be useful to you. Your local Chamber Of Commerce may have its own group, or most towns and cities have someone running a paid business networking group that you can join. Just Google the name of where you live followed by ‘networking group’ to see what’s in your area. Most will let you attend a couple of meetings to try them out and you should do just that. Different networking groups have a completely different feel to them and you should try out a few different ones to see which are a fit for you. Some networking groups are ultra-structured and require you to be there each and every week, others are more flexible and relaxed or offer pay-as-you-go networking.

You can also use websites like Eventbrite to search for business events in your area where you will be able to meet other local companies. In fact, you might be surprised at the number of events you can attend that are within travelling distance. But remember that when you belong to a business networking group based on location, the whole reason that group of businesses have come together is because of the geographical area that they operate in. The businesses won’t share the same ethics as you, they won’t be as motivated to help you succeed either because they don’t share your mission. But if you are not just selling to vegans, then you can still make some very good connections and discover exciting collaborating opportunities by getting to know the other businesses in your local area. And if you don’t have any local networking groups, then set up your own event and invite them. Even if you operate in a sleepy rural location, you may be surprised at what other businesses there are in the area but, at the moment, they might not have any easy way to connect with each other.


Events and conferences

If you belong to an industry body or organisation then keep an eye on what events and conferences they run. You might think that it’s a waste of time hanging out with other people in the same industry, after all they are your competitors. But you’re not just expanding your network to find more customers. You might find people who can share advice on how they grew a similar business or even who are happy to act as a mentor. There are even now vegan conferences you can go to too. Come join us at Vegan Business Tribe Live in November if you’re in the UK, or Plant Based World Expo is now in both New York and London. You can go visit Vegan Fest which is one of the world’s biggest vegan festivals in Tel Aviv with speakers and industry experts from around the world. Vegan Life Live, VegfestUK in London – go to these events, listen to the speakers and link up with them afterwards. Someone is far more likely to accept a LinkedIn request from you if it comes with a note saying how much you enjoyed their presentation!


Events like VegfestUK where you can also book a stand are crucial places to get visibility. It’s not just the general public who visit these events, buyers from supermarkets and retailers do too. It’s where people like Nākd Bars first got their big breaks, and getting to know the people at other vegan companies who have already got deals with wholesalers and retailers will put you in very good company to do the same.

Non-business networks

You might also look for non-business events and groups to get involved with to expand your contact base. Some people have an active community around their religion or culture where they can develop relationships with people who have similar backgrounds and life experiences. And a percentage of those people will either be in business themselves, or have friends and family who might be good contacts for you who already share a natural affinity.

If your vegan company leads with a vegan message, then also consider getting involved with your local activism groups. Just like our members at Vegan Business Tribe, those in the activist community will appreciate that you run a vegan business and may become your champions. Your local vegan cafe is always a good hub for what’s going on in your area, get to know the owners and find out what groups they know so you can get involved in your local vegan community.

And then finally, if you are really struggling to find somewhere to meet the kind of people you really need to meet, if you just can’t find a group that has the right kind of people in, then create your own! If your niche is so niched that no one else has thought to make a group for it, then make one yourself. A vegan bakers support group, a vegan personal trainers group or a vegan finance group. Or plan an online summit like we saw with Vegan Interior Design Week to attract people from all over the world who you have synergy with.

Events like VegfestUK where you can also book a stand are crucial places to get visibility. It's not just the general public who visit these events, buyers from supermarkets and retailers do too.

Don't expect a quick win!

The last thing to remember is that building up your contacts and network isn’t instant. It takes time. People don’t just become your best friends and open up their contacts book the second you get introduced to them, even if you are both vegan. These people need to get to know you and you need to get to know them. You will probably need to have a number of meaningful conversations with them and maybe even work together a couple of times to work out what synergy you have. It might be that you get to know someone and they come across an opportunity that makes them think of you several months later. Or it might be that they respond in kind after you’ve been able to help them – remember that you can get everything you want in the world if you help others get what they want. But the most important thing is that you actually have to decide to do this – your contacts book won’t just fill up on its own.

Successful vegan entrepreneurs will tell you about the months and years they spent constantly setting up calls, meetings and Zoom sessions with people that often seemed like a waste of time, but slowly and surely, some of those conversations turned into opportunities – often several months after the event. They put themselves in a position where those opportunities happen and those connections could be made.

Don’t think you are doing all this on your own, there are lots of people out there who want your vegan business to succeed. Whether you are a local vegan cafe or a global campaigning organisation, increasing the people in your network who you know, have synergy with and who align with your mission will help you achieve that mission quicker.


A bullet point recap of what we’ve just covered in this article:

  1. It’s far easier to build a business when you surround yourself with people who are on the same mission that you are. In almost every successful entrepreneur’s story, there’s a point where they talk about a chance encounter or being introduced to someone who then went on to play a big part in their business journey. You need to go out and make these encounters happen.

  2. In most industries, people view suggestions of collaborating with suspicion, trying to work out what’s in it for them. But in the vegan sector, even if someone could be considered a direct competitor they will probably be happy to link up.

  3. The pandemic made the world smaller, it brought us together online. Use Zoom or Teams to link up with people across the globe and explore the opportunities for vegan companies around the world.

  4. Regardless of your views on LinkedIn, you need to be on it. There are so many vegan business people on LinkedIn right now and everyone is connected with each other. It won’t take long to find you’re only a few connections away from some of the biggest vegan entrepreneurs and business people. But don’t just connect and forget, start conversations with these people and set up calls and Zoom meetings with those that you have synergy with.

  5. Networking doesn’t have to be virtual. Every local town or city has a local business networking group, or you can use sites like Eventbrite to find business events in your local area. Also see what conferences and events your industry body runs in the real world too.

  6. Go to the big events like VegFestUK and Plant Powered World Expo in New York, or VeganFest in Tel Aviv, where you will meet the other movers and shakers in the vegan movement. Even consider taking a stand at these events to give your company maximum visibility and attract people who might want to know more about what you do.

  7. Take a look at what non-business networks are open to you (such as groups based around your culture, life experiences or religion) to meet people who you have a natural affinity with. Some of them will have their own businesses or know others who have. You might even want to get involved with your local vegan activism group to find those who share your same ethics.

  8. If you are really struggling to find a group that has the sort of people you are looking to connect with – then create your own! A vegan bakery-owners support group or vegan personal trainers networking group for example might be something that a lot of people would find useful and also extend hour network.

  9. Building contacts isn’t instant – you can’t expect someone to just open up their contacts book and start sharing opportunities the instant you meet them. Explore working together, get to know each other and try helping them out too. It might be several months down the line that making a new contact then results in an opportunity.

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