Monica founded Veestro with her brother Mark in 2012. Growing up as brother and sister in a big family in Costa Rica, the two always loved the social aspect of sharing a great meal together. They looked forward to those special times surrounded by friends and family and home-cooked food where every meal was prepared from scratch. When they came to the United States for college (both UT Austin grads), the brother and sister duo struggled to make healthy food choices. Fast food was quick and easy to eat between classes and studying, but later, as young business people pursuing careers, the on-the-go eating habits didn’t improve much, and began catching up with them. The two were bemoaning the lack of good food choices and decided to do something about it. They searched the supermarket for healthy prepared food options. A trip to the frozen food aisle was a real eye-opener. The backs of the frozen meal boxes were loaded with ingredients that they couldn’t pronounce. They asked themselves, what was in these meals, exactly? The two realized that if they couldn’t find frozen options that fit into their new commitment to whole foods and plant-based nutrition, then they would create them. Veestro was born! JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. It’s a special edition of Green is Good in San Francisco at the Green Festivals. We’ve got a very wonderful guest with us today, Monica Klausner. She’s the co-founder of Veestro, and this is a very special topic to me, Monica. I welcome you to Green is Good today. MONICA KLAUSNER: Thank you, John. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m a vegan and Monica’s company, Veestro Foods, makes vegan food, so we’re going to have a fun discussion. But before we get talking about your great brand, Veestro, I want you to share a little bit of the Monica Klausner journey. How did you get here, owning Veestro, founding Veestro, with your great product line here? What was the journey like? Did you grow up in a green household? Was it something that happened in school? What happened here? Tell us the journey. MONICA KLAUSNER: I’ll tell you, it’s sort of an interesting story. My brother and I, we were born and raised in Costa Rica. We grew up in a house eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, and all the meals were made from scratch. We really enjoyed the family experience of enjoying fresh meals. Then we moved away to college, and all things changed. We were really struggling with eating healthy. We were having a conversation one day where we were both complaining about how hard it is to eat healthy when you’re busy and you’ve got work and kids and all that. We sort of thought, you know what? There’s got to be a good way to do this. So we went to the frozen food aisle and looked at all the frozen packaged products, and we were really disappointed. There’s a lot of sodium and preservatives and so many things we couldn’t pronounce, so we made it a mission to do it ourselves and do it better. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. When did you start Veestro Foods with your brother, Mark? MONICA KLAUSNER: We started it in October of 2012, and we worked very hard to get the logistics all squared away. In May of 2013, we started selling to the public. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And you started selling online and retail, or where did you start selling? MONICA KLAUSNER: We only sell online. Our product is sort of specific because our meals are made and shipped straight to your home anywhere within the U.S. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is great. For our listeners out there and our viewers, Monica’s company and her brother’s company, Mark, it’s www.veestro.com. You launched it in May 2013. You ship anywhere in the continental U.S. Explain the product line that you launched with, and what kind of products you have today. MONICA KLAUSNER: OK. We wanted to be able to prove the concept, so we launched with about 15 meals that you could eat for breakfast or for lunch or for dinner. We had a couple of appetizers, and we started reaching out to the vegan bloggers. We wanted to know if people who are really immersed in this world would go for it, would think it was a good idea. The response we got from them was phenomenal. They loved the food and they loved the concept of making it just so simple to be able to get delicious food. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And it’s all plant-based? MONICA KLAUSNER: 100% plant-based, organic, non-GMO ingredients, and everything is made fresh and packaged and shipped in dry ice, so everything arrives frozen. The idea is that you will put a lot of our Veestro meals in your freezer, so when you get home and you’re tired or you just didn’t get a chance to go to the market, you have healthy, organic meals ready to be popped in the oven. JOHN SHEGERIAN: They choose from a menu of choices and that’s how they order? They just click and basically fill up their shopping cart and order online with their credit card. MONICA KLAUSNER: Yeah. Right now we have over 40 meals on our menu. You can order in three different ways. You can order a la carte, so you just pick and choose whatever you want. You can order one of the preset packs, a high-protein pack or a low-calorie pack. Or you can be part of our subscription service, where we send you food every two weeks, either for three days a week, five days a week, or seven days a week. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Monica, the whole key, as you know being a vegan and as I know being a vegan, is good taste, not trading taste for quality or for our desire to eat plant-based food. I see you’ve brought a couple samples with you today. I think the moment of truth is arriving quickly here. MONICA KLAUSNER: Here’s the moment of truth. This is a red curry. It’s not very spicy, and I apologize that it might not be very hot. It’s brown rice with veggies and tofu in a red curry sauce. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s delicious. Oh my gosh. Is this one of your better sellers? MONICA KLAUSNER: That is definitely one of our better sellers, but I have to tell you, John, we have 40 meals on our menu, but we have about 25 of them that are our bestsellers. Our meals are really all delicious. JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s hard to choose what’s the best. What’s this here? MONICA KLAUSNER: This is an eggplant casserole, all plant-based. Everything that we make is plant-based, and our chef is really, really good about keeping the ingredient list short. He makes the food as clean as possible. You mentioned something that I think is really important. There’s no reason to give up taste. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s right. No giving up taste here. MONICA KLAUSNER: Good. We wanted to make sure that we could make it really easy for people to eat vegan and enjoy it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Amazing food. That’s delicious. So there’s 40 options online. How has it been going? You’re now in business almost 18 months. Explain the journey as an entrepreneur, a family business with your brother, Mark, and how the growth has been and how you’re getting the word out there. MONICA KLAUSNER: It’s been a fascinating journey. We have learned so much along the way, some missteps like every other new business. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m going to have more of this food. It’s just so darn good. Keep going. MONICA KLAUSNER: We recently brought on a CEO because we are really doing amazing. We have grown so much. We grow, on average, 25% month over month. Our subscriptions are really taking off, so it tells us that people are really looking for a way to eat healthy without really having to think about it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Explain that. What do you mean by subscriptions? MONICA KLAUSNER: The subscription works like this. We have three choices, three days a week, five days a week, or seven days a week. We send you three meals and a snack for every day. If you are on the five days a week, you will get, basically, 15 meals per week plus snacks. We ship you two weeks at a time, and we send you the list of what’s for breakfast, what’s for lunch, what’s for dinner. You really don’t have to think about it at all. You just pull out your breakfast, lunch, and dinner for that day. You pop it in the oven. You eat it. You don’t have to think about it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How about if I just want to go online and not subscribe, but just order a bunch of stuff, I can do that too. MONICA KLAUSNER: Absolutely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Where do you market? How did you get the word out? MONICA KLAUSNER: We started with the vegan bloggers, and they were incredible. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How did you go beyond that? MONICA KLAUSNER: Beyond that, we did some Facebook. Facebook has actually worked out really nicely for us. We just recently hired a digital marketing agency that’s going to really help us take it to the next level. We’ve done it all sort of grassroots on our own, and it has been incredible. There really is a big need for conveniently delivered food that is good. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Talk a little bit about the benefits to both people and the environment to plant-based eating. MONICA KLAUSNER: The benefits to the environment are really amazing. For one, you’re not eating any animal products, any animal byproducts. JOHN SHEGERIAN: This food is just so good. MONICA KLAUSNER: Good. We really wanted to make an impact in the world and just make our footprint less. By eating green, you’re really contributing to everything that is good, not just for yourself, but for the environment. In terms of health, a plant-based diet is really the best way to eat. People are always asking me how do you get your protein? If I had a dollar for every time they asked me that, honestly. There is so much protein in the greens and the vegetables and the way that we mix things. It’s really just a no-brainer. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And when you stop eating meat, you’re even contributing to the lessening of the whole climate problem, right? All the different outputs that come of the cows and all the meat that’s produced in this world, it’s just better going plant-based. MONICA KLAUSNER: I have to tell you, when we drove up from Los Angeles, we drove by the cow farms, and my heart was broken. It’s just terrible. First of all, the stench is horrifying. Your heart is broken, so we wanted to do something that’s just so good. You don’t have to be a vegan to eat our food. We market it a little bit mainstream because we want everybody to be able to enjoy delicious, healthy meals, do something good for themselves and good for the environment without feeling pressured. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Monica, what happens if the food comes, but I have to go on a trip or something like that. It’s in the freezer. How long does the food last in the freezer? MONICA KLAUSNER: It will last eight weeks in the freezer. No preservatives. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s a long time, though. MONICA KLAUSNER: It is a long time. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So if you over-order or you have to go out of town for some reason or you end up going out to eat, there’s a lot of life left in the food because it’s fresh good. MONICA KLAUSNER: Absolutely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re coming to the end of today’s segment, Monica. Share a little bit about yours and Mark’s dream here. How far do you want to go with this and how big can it go? MONICA KLAUSNER: Well, we want to go very far, and we believe that there is a big market. It’s amazing how mainstream media is just sort of catching up to being vegan and plant-based eating and the benefits of it. Our goal in the next year, literally, is to move to a bigger facility where we can really service a huge amount of people. We’re in the middle of a big fundraise right now because we’re busting at the seams. We just can’t make food fast enough. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How are you raising the money? MONICA KLAUSNER: We’re doing a friends and family round. We’re raising half a million dollars, if you’re interested. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Half a million dollars, and are you allowed to say how much of the company you’re selling? MONICA KLAUSNER: We are selling shares at 49 cents a share. That gives you sort of an idea. We want to make this big. We want Veestro to be a household brand name that people recognize and think of healthy choices and eating smart when they think of it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is just so wonderful. So a family business can potentially go global. MONICA KLAUSNER: Yes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. For our listeners and viewers out there, if you want to buy Monica and Mark’s great food, it’s www.veestro.com. Monica Klausner, thank you for making our health and the world a better place. You are truly living proof that green is good. MONICA KLAUSNER: Thank you so much for having me, John. It’s a pleasure. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you.