As a vegan entrepreneur you likely spend quite a bit of time thinking about growth. How to grow your product offerings, how to grow your bottom line, how to grow your customer base, et cetera. But when was the last time you put some time and energy into thinking about your plan for personal growth? You put a lot of effort into your business, but to maintain your success and growth pattern, you need to make sure you stay sharp, relevant, and in touch with the latest trends.

When you were preparing to launch your business, you probably read all the latest books, attended a bunch of workshops and made huge efforts to network with other professionals. During this time of market research you were like a sponge, soaking up all the information you possibly could. But as your business started to soar, or the challenges increased, you may have found yourself digging in and inadvertently locking yourself away in your own world. If this has happened to you, I want to inspire you to break out of that mold and find your way back to a place where you are discovering new things, expanding your experiences, learning new skills and staying informed.

As a general rule, running a vegan business is going to create natural growth opportunities for you. But it’s a mistake to take a passive approach and think that that will be enough. If you’ve worked hard to prepare yourself to do the best job possible before you started your business, don’t lose that momentum. Just as you do annual planning for your business, do annual planning for yourself so you are personally ready to rise to new challenges. This might mean brushing up on your public speaking skills so you can reach a larger audience, or it might mean enhancing your negotiating skills as you start to develop partnerships that could propel your business to the next level.

One of the biggest challenges you may face as a vegan business owner is dealing with the constant change and shifts that are happening in society because of the vegan movement. It’s not that other industries don’t experience shifts; however, when it comes to veganism most of society is still in discovery mode. While this is fun and exciting, it means you need to keep an ear to the ground to make sure you don’t fall out of touch. As a vegan entrepreneur, you need to reach outside your world to make sure your knowledge about new medical research, movies, products and advancement is in line with what the rest of society is learning about veganism. I know this may sound strange because you are vegan. However, when you made the shift from vegan to vegan business owner, the time you once allocated to your own vegan discoveries became second fiddle to the time needed to run customer campaigns, produce new products, manage employees or maintain a blog. Remember, the vegan world is changing FAST – don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you know everything there is to know about veganism just because you are vegan.

If you need to re-vamp (or create) a personal growth program and aren’t sure where to start here’s an outline to help you get through the next six months:

  • Take at least two online courses to develop a skill you’ve struggled with since you started your business (I find Coursera.com is an amazing resource).
  • Find one thing that helps you defuse stress;  it could be a yoga class or taking a walk in the park (I’ve started to develop an online queue of live concerts that I like to watch. I love singing along and seeing someone else being creative; it motivates me to be creative myself and solve the issues that are stressing me out).
  • Do something new that takes you out of your comfort zone; it’s important to stretch yourself so you never forget what it feels like to grow. (For me this is writing. I want to write a book one day, so this year I’m working on a series of e-books as a way to help get my thoughts and ideas on paper).
  • Attend at least two local festivals that feature progressive products, food and ideas. (Last year, I attended a Coconut Festival in Toronto. I was blown away by all the ways people are using coconut these days, and the experience expanded my awareness of a new and important vegan offering).
  • Find a local group of entrepreneurs who meet at least every other month so you can hear what other entrepreneurs are experiencing and stay fresh. (I live in a small town where there aren’t as many entrepreneur groups, so I use Linkedin to find local business owners and meet them for tea or lunch).
  • Hang out with new vegans wherever you can – maybe it’s in a group at a festival or party. Make sure you continue to understand how society is viewing the vegan movement. (I sous chef for my mother’s local vegan classes, which is a great way for me to see how new people respond to trying vegan food).

After you finish reading this article, make a commitment to come up with your own personal growth plan. First, create a list of your strengths and development opportunities. Then create a list of skills you need and identify which of your weaknesses could make a significant difference in your business if they were strengths. Prioritize them and come up with a final list of two-to-three things to start developing an action plan for yourself, like the one above. Challenging yourself to grow on a personal level will not only make you a more successful business owner, it will make you a happier and more prepared to accomplish great things.

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