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How this Girl Boss opened a vegan cafe on Koh Tao, Thailand

Please welcome another awesome story, from yet another awesome GirlBoss. This time we have Lauren, the founder & owner of VegetaBowl (a quirky vegan cafe)  from Koh Tao island, Thailand. Let's hear Lauren's story below. Stay tuned for more inspirational entrepreneurial stories, every single Monday. 
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Begeta Bowl Koh Tao island
Q - Hi Lauren, please introduce yourself and the business you own.
I was born in Toronto, ON, Canada.  I went to University to study psychology and children studies, with the final goal of becoming a teacher. When I was 23 I traveled to Thailand for 2 months and never left.  I came to Koh Tao to become a dive master, which is where I stayed and opened my vegan cafe, VegetaBowl.
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Q - Why did you decide to open a vegan cafe? And are you vegan yourself?
I've always been a massive foodie, and my dream was to open a restaurant. I started off selling baked goods at a local dive school, which I loved, but it also made me realize I wanted to serve food that makes people  feel good about themselves and what they are eating. I used to be vegetarian and vegan, and that's the type of food I enjoy the most- so it only made sense that that's what I should do. Plus [at the time], there were no vegan restaurants on the island. I'm not currently vegan, but I eat that way 95% of the time.
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Vegan food on Koh Tao, Vegetabowl Koh Tao vegan food
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Q - You are ranked as nr 1 restaurant on Trip Advisor for Koh Tao island (at 171 reviews). That's pretty impressive, how did you manage that?
It's all thanks to our awesome customers who wrote us glowing reviews! Thank you! 
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Q - So one of the main questions I ask about Thai businesses is, how did you find opening a business in Thailand?
I've heard it can be quite difficult, but I was lucky to have my boyfriend help me along the way. He already had a company set up, so I was able to open VegetaBowl as a subcomany (or branch) of his. This made the whole process a lot easier than starting it up from scratch on my own.
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Q - Where did you look for inspiration to create your menu?
I'm from Toronto, and we have a vast array of vegan restaurants! I got inspiration from some of my favorites! Also, I based the menu off food I make for myself at home.
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Vegan restaurant on Koh Tao island, Vegeta Bowl vegan cafe Koh Tao
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Q - What would you say has been the hardest part in this business venture?
The hardest part would probably be doing business on a small remote island. We're faced with issues most restaurants wouldn't have to deal with in the city; such as regular power cuts, water shortages, monsoon rains and lack of ingredients. 
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Q - If you could go back to the start, what would you change about the way you did something and why?
I know it sounds cheesy, but I probably wouldn't change a thing. I've learned so much about running my own business through the mistakes I've made. I've really come to realize that all things (good and bad) have helped me get to where I am today.
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Vegan food on Koh Tao Thailand
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Q - How do you deal with failures? 
Like most people would say, I try to see them as learning opportunities. When something doesn't go my way, I try to deal with it with logic instead of emotion (which, of course, can be hard at times). If it's something that really upsets me, I step back from it all and go for a walk on the beach or watch the sunset. Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in your problems, that you forget to enjoy the beautiful world around you. 
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Q - Have you got any thoughts of expanding? 
For sure! I would love to open another location on one of the neighboring islands, or in Bali- that would be my dream.
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Vegan cake on Koh Tao island
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Q - Knowing what you know about hospitality at this point, would you do it all over again?
In a second
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Q - What advice would you give when it comes to creating a brand like yours? It seems like you have it nailed.
It's all about love and passion. Its impossible to become great at something you don't love and enjoy.  I think VegetaBowl works so well because people can feel the love I put into my food and restaurant (many customers have actually told me that). Every bit of paint on the walls, I did myself. The menu, the website, the logo, the interior design.  I created it all on my own because I loved doing it and I was so excited about it. I think that love really shines through my brand.
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Vegan cafe on Koh Tao, Vegetabowl cafe Koh Tao
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Q - So your business is based on the island of Koh Tao. How do you cope with the low season? Do you have to create a lot of promos to get people in?
Low season can be hard, but I also like it because it gives me the opportunity to be creative in the kitchen!  During low season I have time to do daily specials, which I normally don't have time to do in high season. This definitely helps bring in more locals. 
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Q - How do people know about Vegetabowl? Do many people find you onTripAdvisor? How about social media? Do you work much with that and do you find that there's a great response?
I think most consumers hear about us through facebook and word of mouth. On such a tiny island, the latter can go a long way! We have a facebook and IG account, but I'm not very good at updating those.  
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Vegetarian Cafe on Koh Tao island, Thailand
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Q - Have you got any other business ventures in mind?
I would love to open more VegetaBowls around the world! 
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Q - What does a day in your life look like?
Tan on my roof, shop for groceries for the restaurant, work the lunch rush, box at 3, go to the beach with my 2 dogs, eat dinner with my boyfriend, and either watch TV or go to Fishbowl bar with friends. Sunday's we're closed so that me and my awesome staff can enjoy the beautiful island we live on.  
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Koh Tao sunset
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Q - How do you stay in the know when it comes to business? Do you read articles, watch videos, learn about marketing etc? Or do you just run your business the way you know best?
I actually went into this knowing nothing about business. I never studied it, researched it, or had much interest in it. Growing up I honestly never thought it would apply to me.  Along the way I've definitely googled a few things and have gotten help from some friends who have restaurants here. My boyfriend studied business, so he is always quick to offer me advice (whether I ask for it or not haha). Honestly though, most of it is trial and error and just learning along the way. 
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Q - What advice would you give to someone who's looking into this type of business?
Quite often we underestimate the journey & realise later on, that it's actually much harder than we thought.
Opening your own business is a lot of work, but if you love it, it won't feel that way.  Don't try to open just any business because you want to make money- do it because you love it! The money you make will be a nice added bonus.
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Q - Let's say I want to work for myself, but I just struggle to find an idea to turn into a business. Where should I look for one?
Look at your passions, your hobbies, and the things that make you smile.  I know one badass business woman who loves traveling and fitness, and she started her amazing fitness retreats called New Horizons Active Escapes. I love traveling and fitness as well, but I didn't even know this was an option. She got creative, but started with what she loves. That's what you should start with too... 
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Thank you Lauren for taking the time to talk about your journey & life passions. 
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