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Women leaders: revolutionizing the plant-based market

Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at the ProVeg Incubator! We believe that it’s important to share success stories from all of the startup founders with whom we’ve worked. Today, we’d like to focus on one group in particular –  woman leaders. Read on to hear more about some of the inspiring women who we have supported on their entrepreneurial journeys.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we are able to see the growing number of women who are entering the plant-based market. It’s exciting for us that more and more female entrepreneurs are joining this space –  from all different backgrounds and working in all different positions. From CEOs to food scientists, to founders to product developers.

We are also really proud to be playing a part in supporting more women in entering and succeeding in this space. With every new call for submissions that we put out, we are receiving an increasing number of applications from female leaders. And, in fact,  our most recent startup cohort had women in the majority for the first time. Of the 17 entrepreneurs in the group, 10 were women.

One common goal

The women who we work with share a common goal: they want to do something good for the world. This is a challenge, there’s no doubt about it. Plus, they have decided to embark on this journey knowing that, in this field, it is men who have traditionally occupied these leadership positions. 

The world is changing, though, and we have come a long way. However, even today, men are still twice as likely to become entrepreneurs than women. 

For this reason – and many others – we would love to share the stories of four plant-based startups founded by women. Hopefully, this could even encourage more women to start their own businesses.

Kaline van Halder and Marjolein Pleune – Let’s change the industry together

Kaline van Halder and Marjolein Pleune, from the Netherlands, fell in love with jackfruit during a trip to Asia. The duo already knew each other from college and had always considered starting a business together.

Then came the winning idea: to develop meat-alternative products using jackfruit. Since jackfruit naturally has a uniquely meaty texture, Kaline and Marjolein chose to focus on the creation of alternatives to popular products. Their range includes burger patties, sausages, and, of course, the traditional Dutch bitterballen.

Meet Jack founders, Kaline Van Halder and Marjolein Pleune

Kaline and Marjolein want to have an impact on the global food system and they are doing it with Meet Jack. Kaline says that, in her experience of the food business, many of the stakeholders are male and that female founders are still the exception. However, she takes this as an advantage, since it helps them to stand out, compared to other startups. 

Marjolein’s advice to other female entrepreneurs? “Go ahead and don’t be scared! Let’s make sure that, in 10 years, at least half of the people in this space are female. Let’s change the industry together”.

Clémence Landeau and Céline Bouvier – Transforming the image of dairy alternatives

Clémence Landeau and Céline Bouvier are transforming the image of dairy-alternative products in France and taking them mainstream. Update Foods produces plant-based milk from microalgae and fava-beans.

Clémence Landeau, CEO and founder of Update Foods

Clémence, the CEO and Founder of Update Foods, has been working to make a plant-based living as easy as possible. Meanwhile, Céline brings strategic marketing skills to the startup and is the company’s Chairperson. Could there be a better match?

Their goal is to produce affordable products that mimic the taste, appearance, and texture of animal-based dairy products.

“I will always have a hard time hearing that I can be legitimate in my current position, but I receive external reminders daily that I am. This is extremely powerful and that is what makes the difference today” says Clémence. “The vegan business has to be blind and blinder. Our individual characteristics are the priceless wealth that will lead us to success. We just have to let them live and shine. ”

Astrid Prajogo – Women have the ability to do magic

Haofood, from China, was founded by Astrid Prajogo, Shaowei Liu, Jenny Zhu, and Kasih Chen. The startup develops plant-based chicken that is designed to replicate the culinary experience of the famous Asian fried chicken. 

Haofood’s mission is to always make it possible to eat good food – meaning food that is tasty, ethical, safe, and nutritious. Astrid explains that giving up the consumption of meat was a struggle for her – until she became aware of the many issues that can be caused by eating animal-based products. This encouraged her to move towards a plant-based lifestyle, but of course, there were foods that she missed. Like fried chicken!

Astrid Prajogo, founder of Haofood

Astrid viewed alternative meat products as an opportunity to start a viable business that could also help other people move towards a plant-based lifestyle without losing the foods that they love. For her, “damaging our planet equals damaging our own home”. Originally from Indonesia, Astrid breaks down even more barriers by being an entrepreneur in the Chinese market – despite not speaking the native language fluently! For her, women face the challenge of balancing career and family care.

“I believe, though, that all women have the ability to do this magic – supporting and taking care of a family while being an ambitious and successful career woman”, says Astrid.“By nature, women are very in touch with their emotions. This puts us in a unique position to better understand our consumers’ aspirations. Through balancing these emotions with logic and strategy, women have the potential to change the world”. 

Bárbara Léon and Eyleen Obidic – Learning how to be flexible

POW! Foods is a Chilean startup that produces plant-based meat alternatives. The company’s inaugural product is chorizo sausage, which is a very popular sausage around the world.

Founders Bárbara (Amy) Léon and Eyleen Obidic have known each other for a long time. With their products, they deliver nutritious foods that offer the same experience as eating animal-based meat when it comes to taste and texture. 

Eyleen Obidic, Bárbara (Amy) Léon and Diego-Espinoza, the POW! Foods team

Throughout their journey, Amy and Eyleen say that their biggest challenge when starting out was that “people didn’t take us seriously because of our age” – both Amy and Eyleen are under 30. “So we encouraged and empowered ourselves to close great deals for our company with B2B clients. We had to develop a growth mindset in order to keep improving and learning about our journey and mistakes. This will help us do better in the future”. 

In terms of advice for other entrepreneurs, Amy says, “learning to be flexible is one of the hardest parts but the most useful in difficult times –  such as a pandemic situation”. 

While the challenges are numerous, starting your own business with the potential to change our food system is a hugely rewarding process! We hope that more and more women will be inspired by these stories and be encouraged to enter the business sphere as leaders and founders!