Meet the Makers: the'artyvegan
Sustainability, to me, has to become more than just a buzzword. It has to become part of your everyday life. Living sustainable shouldn’t just be sustainable for the planet, it should be sustainable for you too. It’s about finding a balance between practices that work in line with your values and daily schedule. If we encouraged more people that it’s okay to just do what they can, rather than make them feel guilt or anxiety for not doing it all, at once – we would see a more positive, accepting reaction and overall impacting change on the environment, which is why I want to start sharing with you some of my favourite sustainable and eco-friendly brands making it a little easier for you to do you.
We are all able to contribute to the movement in some way and that’s what I want to inspire – even if just means making a simple swap and supporting a brand who is doing something important for the world. The’artyvegan is one of those brands. Created by father-daughter duo Maurelio and Ellora Torchia, the’artyvegan make fresh, unprocessed tofu, seitan and plant-based cheeses inspired by the pairs love for food, travel and environmental concern and deliver them to shops and people’s homes, including mine, across London.
The story of how the’artyvegan became what it is today is one full of love, life and feel good food. Refusing to accept the social norms of the word success or failure, Maurelio encourages his daughter and ultimately his business to focus on the emotional aspect. You need to focus on the words [and their meanings] happyor unhappyrather than success or failure. “You only have one life and it should be filled with things that make you happy… if you do things out of joy, you can never really fail”. Maurelio states. The brand is only just starting out, after launching earlier this year and are already offering a voice to those wanting to shout about food waste and its impact on the world. Co-founder Ellora who still laughs at how she become a part of this brand-new movement tells us that she was “unsure about what was going to unfold” when she started helping her father create his own business. “It began with my Father’s vision of making tofu and selling it – but ultimately it grew and is still growing into a far greater opportunity to have the conversations I have wanted to have for a very long time.” Both Maurelio and his daughter (plus the rest of their family) have been vegan for over 30 years and believe now is the time to speak up. “Now, more than ever, I believe we need to share the knowledge and be better in business” Maurelio comments. “It’s 2019 – there are more people that are now ready to think increasingly about where their food comes from and it’s major impact [on the world]. Now… is the right time”. But where did the idea for the brand come from?
Moving to Japan shortly after Ellora’s birth, Maurelio learnt the art of tofu. Learning both the traditional and commercial processes, Maurelio realised there was something pure about the craft of turning the humble soya bean into something else. You have to really “respect the process and time taken to make by hand,” says Maurelio “it’s a feeling that has stayed with me ever since” and one which he credits the success of his business now. Having travelled around the world with his wife, Veena – the Torchia family experienced the art, culture and traditions of some of the most wonderful countries across the world. Turkey; Sri-Lanka; Tunisia; Russia; France; India and Japan are just a few amongst the long list of places they called home. Setting base for 6 months to a year at a time, Maurelio, whose background saw him train as a chef in Switzerland helped him create multiple food businesses with each one bringing a new knowledge, skill or inspiration to his increasingly growing and impressive portfolio.
“We are just two culinary souls brought together by our love of bringing fresh, homemade clean and green goods to food-lovers” Ellora mentions who claims to be a little bit of a fantasist but is enjoying the challenges the journey is giving her. “I fell into the business by accident. But I don’t think I’d change a thing about it. It’s been a beautifully creative thing and opened up possibilities that neither my father nor I could have ever imagined.” Ellora, who also works as an actress full time is in charge of the administrational aspects of the business and can be often see waking up at 4am to process invoices and upload on social media before focussing on the other branch of the business. “my domain is the vegan cheese, and his [her father] the tofu – we do swap if things get too repetitive” but Maurelio thrives of the monotonous tasks, “I wake up at around 5.30, get ready, have a cup of tea – rinse out the soaked soya beans and start blending. I’ll then make tofu till it’s time to call it a day… I really enjoy it!”
The pair are usually never in bed before midnight and with Ellora’s early wake-up call it’s no reason why she regularly warns new-starters to be prepared not to sleep very much and states that you must “pick a good, fun and reliable partner” and to make sure to allocate time off, regardless if you’ve finished the to-do-list or not – “it’s never ending! So, be prepared to let it go, stay on top of the boring things and when demand outweighs possibility for supply – get help.” For someone so inexperienced before now, Ellora has a true grasp on what it means to be an entrepreneurial start-up founder, but she hasn’t always been that way. “I stumbled into this so naively; it had been a real challenge to negotiate everything that needs to be done. But you must always remember why you’re doing it. Especially today with the topic of sustainability – it’s very hard not to be a hypocrite, so try not to beat yourself up too much, just do your best, your bit… try to keep grounded and remember that you are trying – which is all any of us can really do!”.
Utilising his past business experiences, Maurelio has been a steady hand for Ellora throughout the business process but it even came as a surprise to him how fast things snowballed for the’artyvegan. “I often find myself a bit like a deer in the headlights, as things just move so fast nowadays! Technology has made it so easy for people to access their demand – I wish someone would have taught me how to use a mobile phone BEFORE I started my own journey! Maurelio chuckles as he taps the device on the table in front of us. “Something else I wish someone told me before I started was - it’s never too late [to start a business]; it’s never too late to say YES at things coming your way. I couldn’t have imagined the possibility of all this, just a few years ago – I was very settled in a different routine and the thought of starting something again… well… it seemed like far too much work, and yet, things happen and opportunities form and sometimes you’ve just got to jump in not knowing the outcome.” Overcoming adversity and facing the unknown is something both father and daughter have learnt to deal with. “As an actress, I get rejection a lot – so I’m glad that I have that to help keep things in perspective for me. I will fail a lot, there’s no control over that, but it’s what you do after… that’s the most important thing. Dusting yourself off and trying and trying again means, fingers crossed – you’ll fail a little smaller next time.” Ellora expresses with a hint of excitement for the future in her voice.
Working tirelessly every day the duo is taking small steps to grow into a larger company. The ultimate aim: a zero-waste plant-based production company. “We are slowly putting the action steps in place that can help us become a completely zero-waste company” one of the two comment with the other agreeing as they speak. “We are working on an initiative that allows people from vulnerable backgrounds, who have an interest in food to work with our fully edible waste and make ‘free-food’ for the homeless and others in need. Our company is one for those who can afford to buy our products, and to utilise our waste for those who can’t.”
the’artyvegan has just expanded; taken on a larger team and we, along with this food-loving duo can’t wait to see what happens next.
Interview has been condensed and edited, with permission for clarity.