Learn more about Esther Bertram, the founder of IN VEGANS WE TRUST, who discusses her vision for the platform and her love for vegan businesses. She reminisces about her years touring around the world as a vegan musician, starting a vegan publishing company, and perfecting her recipe for the best creamy pasta. 

What’s your vegan story?

I’ve been an animal lover since I was a child in Australia. When I was ten years old, my mum prepared a dinner of chicken and vegetables for me. When I looked at it, I could see the chicken running around the room in my imagination. I connected the dots and I was instantly horrified at the thought of eating my friend. My outlawish father, who I stayed with every school holiday, in his mud mansion made with recycled things, buried deep in the Australian bush, was already vegetarian, so his influence was also a part of my decision. Since that day, I haven’t eaten an animal. Thankfully my amazing Mum was very supportive of my decision and made me lots of yummy veggie dinners. I told my cousin, who is a couple of years older than me, that I had become vegetarian at that point. He said it was just a phase.

I knew so strongly that it wasn’t a phase, so we ended up writing a contract in which he’d give me one thousand dollars. This depended on if I continued to stop eating meat until I was 20, which from my 10-year-old perspective seemed like an eternity away, but I knew I would easily do it. That was a lot of money back in the eighties. I even wrote that if he didn’t pay me, he would be charged ten percent interest per day. So, that must have a cumulative effect to make me extremely rich now! We hid the contract at my Finnish grandparents’, in a little container, and I still have it to this day. I then became vegan when I was twenty-one years old, and it’s been twenty-one years since. Oh wow, I’ve been vegan for exactly half of my life!

What’s your career background?

I studied a Bachelor of Arts at university, majoring in music composition and media. After graduation, I embarked on a journey to Europe and played the festival circuit. It was just meant to be a six-month trip in Germany playing the festival scene through summer. I was playing live electronic music then, which was 3AM and 4AM gigs! That turned into a fifteen-year adventure on the other side of the world because I joined another quite famous band, Dissidenten, as their lead singer. We toured around Europe before I did the same with my own solo and duo projects, performing my original songs.

Esther Bertram, aged 10, when she first decided to stop eating meat.

Esther spent fifteen years touring around the world as a musician and songwriter. (Photo By Eva-Maria Horstick © ArtEve)

On the side…

I set up a little media business, doing media and marketing for select clients, because I loved the visual side as well as the audio side, and moved to England. Because I’m a songwriter, I love creatively expressing feelings, thoughts and emotions, which mirror reality. I decided to do a longform version of composition by writing a book.

I chose to write it about a vegan, because at that time I was already thinking of doing something of impact for the vegan community. So, I made it about a vegan rock star, based on my music career and lucid dreaming, and it’s called November Fox.  She finds a teleporting cube that takes her through different dimensions of consciousness to understand herself. It’s a self-development book for teenagers and adults in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Although my editor says it is visionary fiction, one reader once called it philosophical fiction.

It comes with a music project and augmented reality layers in the print versions. But if anyone is into mind-bending “down the rabbit hole” stories, I highly recommend the audiobook version as the English narrator really did a good job bringing it to life.

That was quite a big endeavor which took about five years, where I lived in my pink dressing gown 24/7, in an old, rickety, freezing village house that was five-hundred years old, covered in vines, in Forest Row, England. When I wasn’t writing, I taught guitar to the local kids and adults and also made an online course for beginner guitarists.

 The 500-Year-old House in Forest Row, East Sussex, UK, where Esther wrote “November Fox.”

After November Fox, I decided to set up a publishing house called Conscious Fiction and I started writing children’s books, many of them about veganism. The Vegan Alphabet Book and The Crown of Gratitude are some of the vegan kids books I’ve written so far.

 “The Vegan Alphabet Book” – One of the books Esther wrote for vegan babies & toddlers.

Eventually, I decided it was time to return to Australia. My mum was happy; I said I was leaving for six months, and finally fifteen years later it was time to come home. So, I came back and I started working for Mini Maestros, which is Australia’s longest-running music lesson provider for babies to five-year-olds, as Head of Marketing. I’ve since decided in the past few years that I needed to do something more impactful for vegans in general and the vegan community.

What inspired you to start IN VEGANS WE TRUST?

I wanted a platform like this when I went vegan twenty-one years ago because I felt like an alien in a world of non-vegans. For ages, I’ve wanted an online place where I could easily access vegan businesses and be introduced to new vegan things, all in one area. I’ve needed it myself for a long time!

Another core reason is that I feel deep empathy for vegan businesses. I love the fact that they’re following their passion and purpose to make a profit: the three P’s. I feel like a lot of the time vegan businesses start because of their love for the animals, but they don’t have too much experience with media and marketing. So, in creating the platform and the big network that is IN VEGANS WE TRUST, we can provide that needed support for these vegan businesses by getting them directly in front of vegans, as well as offering additional marketing support by pairing them with the vegan freelancers who can list their services in our marketplace. Equally, we can help vegans get connected with great businesses and find vegan jobs, vegan house-shares, events, or even make passive income in our school, by sharing their skills and passions. Also, members who want to upskill can do so by doing a course, learning from fellow vegans, and in-turn further driving the vegan economy by completely shopping vegan. With our eZine I wanted to create a publication that can help individuals and vegan businesses save time and get inspired with cool vegan work and life hacks.

It’s kind of a win-win situation, isn’t it? 

It’s actually a win-win-win-win situation because it’s winning for the vegans, winning for the vegan businesses, winning for the team members who are participating, and winning for the animals.

Ultimately by keeping our buying, selling, learning, sharing, and connecting, fully vegan, across all domains of life, work, entertainment, and school, I believe we can be greater than the sum of our parts, actively drive the vegan economy, and consequently save more animals and have more impact, both individually and collectively.

Why did you choose the name IN VEGANS WE TRUST? 

One of the main reasons was to bring more awareness to the commercial side of veganism. I believe we can always become even more vegan. I’d like to bring more attention to knowing where our money goes. If you have a vegan ecosystem where even non-traditional vegan things like accountancy – or maybe you need a masseuse or a child carer – whatever it is, if that person is vegan and you’re paying them for a service, you know that the money they’ve earned is being spent on lentils and beans rather than a meat barbecue. Using the name IN VEGANS WE TRUST is also the first part of creating this safe space where we know that anything we invest in – whether it’s advertising, products, or services – goes to a place that we can trust.

You also see “In God We Trust” written on American currency, so it connects with the money aspect. I see IN VEGANS WE TRUST like a beautiful big urban festival taking place in a castle garden, with a big wall around it. Once we’re inside these walls, our values align and our money is well-spent, and it’s a kind and nurturing place where everyone who joins thrives.

As a long-time vegan, how are things different today than they were a decade ago?

These days I can go into a service station and buy a vegan ice cream. That is phenomenal! Also, if you go to a party where you don’t know anyone, there’s a good chance you’re going to find a few other vegans.

When I was touring in Spain years ago and I asked for a vegan salad, they brought it out with bacon on top. These days there would probably be a few vegan options at that same restaurant. I’m very glad the trajectory has gone that way and not the other.

What are some of your favourite vegan businesses?

Since I’ve been vegan for so long, I’ve wanted a company to come along that is a really good stepping stone for meat eaters. I know there’s a very big disconnect when very heavy meat eaters think about veganism. They think it’s just eating a few pieces of lettuce! They feel like they could never jump that divide. So, for a long time I’ve been saying that if a company comes along and cleverly bridges that gap for meat eaters, I’m going to be behind them. I’ve been watching Beyond Meat for a long time, so the day they came out, I bought shares in the company. I think it’s fantastic what they can do to introduce non-vegans to the vegan world. 

I also love every single vegan business that is run by vegans. It’s risky to start your own business, and it’s often driven by passion. I love when people do it because it is a really effective way to align your values and do great things in the world. I want to support every single vegan business because I love all of them. 

Starting your own vegan business is a great way to support the vegan movement, according to Esther.

What’s the one vegan food that you could never live without?

I’m a huge pasta head, so it’s a recipe I made when I was first vegan that’s evolved over twenty years. It’s become my signature creamy pasta dish, which has a coconut cream base with aubergines and mushrooms. It would have to be my favorite dinner of all time, apart from my naughty tofu satay. I’m a Gemini, so I need to have two answers to this question!

What advice do you have for vegans who want to promote veganism but who aren’t comfortable joining protests or visiting slaughterhouses? 

I fully relate to this situation because I feel exactly the same. I’m a very sensitive person and can’t face those sides of reality. My advice is to find a way that you can start a vegan business, even if it’s on the side. This will allow you to bring more consciousness to veganism in the world. Your friend circle might be involved, and it would align with your passion of wanting to do something to help the vegan movement. Even if you’ve got a regular job, you can set up an store on our marketplace making small niche vegan products. Or you can make a course on any subject you have knowledge of and make passive income in our school. You could also search our jobs board and join a vegan business that already exists, such as a sanctuary or a place where there are other vegans doing something positive. Or of course, you can come and work with us when we have a vacancy!! 

The minute I started writing November Fox, I realised that every vegan has the motivation to be a voice for the animals in some way. When I started being a voice for the animals through songs, writing children’s books, and now by starting IN VEGANS WE TRUST, I’ve felt like I’m at least helping to bring awareness to veganism. I don’t have to come face-to-face with the dark side of animal agriculture, but I can still make a contribution to ending it. 

That being said, I really do admire the powerful vegan activists who organise protests and expose what’s really happening.

Besides living a vegan lifestyle, what are your other hobbies or passions?

Well, I’m too involved and committed to my projects to have time for hobbies, but here is a list of things I love. Some of this list is printed in the back of the children’s books I write, but I’ve added a few more to it here.

I deeply love the people in my life, animals, going on adventures, deep talks with friends (about the nature of reality, consciousness, philosophy, relationships, the world and the universe) Netflix in bed on my amazing Tempur mattress, open fires, thunderstorms, games, playing soccer, nature, writing books and music, tofu satay (my naughty version that I only allow myself twice a year at Birthday and Christmas), watching stars in the night sky, Peep Show, learning new things, deep and earthy vegan red wine, rainbows, Body Combat (martial arts based fitness), freshly made juices, sunshine, creamy vegan pasta, drum & bass, saunas and spas, playing concerts, my flannelette pyjamas, problem-solving, vegan craft beer, unicorns, vegan burgers, green rolling hills with intense purple clouds above with a lone sunbeam shining through, laughter, celebrating, holistic health, personal development, lucid dreaming, ALL yummy vegan food, dress up parties, sunsets and following joy…

Learn more about Esther Bertram at her personal website.

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