Brooke Young, Fauxmage Vegan Cheese Co.
BADASS WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Name: Brooke Young owner at Fauxmage Vegan Cheese Co.
Were you always badass or did you have to learn it? Always
Three habits that have contributed to your success:
1. Attitude of gratitude
2.Listen to my own inner voice above all else
3.Combine being a do-er with being a dreamer. Need both to succeed.
One thing you wish you had known in your early days: The whole process is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm much better at going with the flow now and not trying to force things.
How do you deal with fear: I read through inspirational quotes on IG, lol. Seriously though, when I was first starting I needed to hear a lot of aphorisms and encouragement.
What's the WHY behind what you do: I want my nieces to know that they can be and do anything. I want to end needless animal suffering, and every time someone buys my cheese instead of dairy cheese it is a win for the animals. People need a delicious reason to stop eating animals and that is my mission. I am vegan for the planet, for the animals, and for my own health.
Do you, or did you, suffer imposter syndrome (aka feeling like a fraud)? Not so much in my current business, but in my previous business I did. I owned a Pilates studio for 12 years and it was a lot of pressure to change peoples bodies. I fully realized while in that career that a) exercise is not my main passion and b) food is THE most important component to truly changing ones health. Change begins in the kitchen and cooking healthy food is what I love to do.
Right out of the gate when I sat down with Brooke Young, owner and founder of Fauxmage Vegan Cheese Co., she said she had just had a conversation with a friend who wanted to become an entrepreneur and was reading a book... and Brooke told her that there is no reading books. You just hit the ground running. Find something you are passionate about and then get messy. Dive in and give it your all.
And that's exactly what she and her husband have been doing for the last 15 years when they decided to open a Pilates studio together. Quite a few years ahead of the curve that would turn into one of the hottest “new” fitness crazes. They figured out their working style – hers being the type A face to the company and his being the worker bee... and it worked.
Until she realized how many people came in wanting a quick fix, a magic bullet to the perfect body. And she realized that fitness was a piece of the pie, but it wasn’t the whole enchilada. What it really came down to was nutrition. And that's where Brooke's real passion lies.
She and her husband have both been vegetarian for many years but made the leap to veganism in the last 3 years – quite a jump for a woman who always fantasized about making cheese in the countryside of France... so when in March of 2015 it was time to renegotiate their lease on their Pilates studio, she and her husband were burnt out and tired, so they sold the business and walked away.
Walked away from the business they had built with a healthy savings and no idea what they wanted to do next, but liked the idea of finding “their widget” - their “thing” that they could sell as opposed to the rigors of the service industry.
And Brooke used that time to do what she loved to do, cook. Specifically, cook vegan food. And she became obsessed with finding the perfect vegan cheese recipe.
One day, mere months after closing their studio a friend non-nonchalantly commented “I’d buy this cheese!” and they were in business... by October they were in their first stores and five months after that, exactly one year from when they sold their Pilates business, in all the PCC's in Washington. They are the only vegan cheese maker in the state of Washington and have been lauded with “Best Snack” in Veg Out Seattle 2016, Best of Gourmet Dairy-Free Cheese in Thrive Magazine and made the top 10 Best Artisinal Cheeses in Veg News.
The universe just seems to be lined up to support Fauxmage – and what, and the people needed to make the “what” happen, appear. Some new photos? Done. A website? Uploaded. Brooke credits a lot to the Seattle vegan community who is a compassionate, kind and critical thinking society, who chooses to do what is right and supports one another to help the earth be a better place.
Did she find her “widget”? Yes. Is it easier than the service industry? Ah, that would be a hell to the no. She and her husband are a two person team that distributes, produces and markets their product. And they haven't had a day off since 2015 when they started their business. But they know they are doing this for the greater good. As Brooke responded to the “Why?” above – it's for the planet, the animals and for the greater overall health of people, as well as a much needed alternative to the vegans use of hummus....
The more women in business I speak to, the more I keep hearing the same thread. “There is no money for women run businesses” “It's a boys club which they exclude women and offer us insultingly low funding”, “We can't get in the door, forget about sitting at the table and getting big fat cash infusions...”.
Which is in direct relation to another thing I am seeing... how women who have spent the majority of their careers moving up the ladder, are starting to pull out. Frustrated with their current roles and the culture in the office and want out. Wanting to do something for themselves.
And I'm at war with these words that I type. These are the exact women I work with – getting out of the corporate rat race and working to find joy and passion in their lives again. A fulfilling career. But if all of these successful women, who have put YEARS into their companies – are pulling out we will never make the change that we need. We will never see the collaborative problem solving and working for the greater good... we will never be sitting on the boards with equal representation, making decisions for our country our health our bodies, the education of our children and where we send our children while we go to work. And we will never get equal funding for our women owned businesses. We will never see this if we leave and hope that others will stick it out.
I feel like a digress, because people like Brooke are life long entrepreneurs and add ingenuity and compassion to being a business owner. But we also need women to lean into those boardrooms and support the women below them and the women who are coming to them for expansion of their businesses.
Brooke is a feminist. A womens studies major who found herself frustrated over the past 20 years when no one was willing to talk about it... and has a sense of “FINALLY..... ladies, this is nothing new” of women starting to speak out. She believes this political system needs shaking up but isn't sure how she feels about being the one to do it....
I don't know what the answer is. Maybe it's a mind set, maybe its more support from our fellow women and our fellow men. Maybe it's when I asked Brooke about if she had any political leanings she gave me a long sideways eye and said “well.......”, that others have asked her as well.... Maybe it's about committing.
But for now, it's all about the delicious vegan cheese... that will soon be expanding across the countryside to vegans everywhere. It's about getting that big cash infusion that will allow them to streamline their production and distribution and give them a day off.
And then we will see what else Brooke has up her cute party-dress sleeves...