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The Business of Compassion: Miyoko Schinner on PYP 481

Miyoko Schinner is founder and CEO of Miyoko's, one of the most successful plant-based dairy alternative ventures of the past decade.

She's also a passionate advocate for animals, and long-time vegan educator and activist.

I've known Miyoko for many years, and in some ways I was surprised when she decided to build a large, capital-intensive business fueled by serious investors.

Don't get me wrong – I'm delighted by her success (having tasted her plant-based cheeses back in 2013, I was sure they could “fool” most palates and substitute for dairy in just about all situations). I own a dog-eared and cashew-milk stained copy of her 2012 book, Artisan Vegan Cheese (what she termed, “the book that launched a thousand vegan cheese businesses”), and have been making her buffalo mozzarella with varying degrees of success for almost a decade now.

And yet, I wondered what would happen when Miyoko met capitalism in a big way.

From her Facebook posts over the years, I know that she's taken a lot of criticism from vegan purists who object to her, say, partnering with a co-manufacturer that isn't 100% vegan. And from anticapitalists who find fault with some of her funding sources.

And as someone not enamored of capitalism myself (at least the current state of capitalism, which funnels resources from the earth and the world's neediest peoples into the coffers of the wealthiest investors in the world), I also wondered if Miyoko's missions of saving animals and spreading love and compassion wouldn't get swallowed up – if not totally subverted – in the daily urgencies of business.

In our conversation, we talked about Miyoko's journey to founding the company, and the choices and tradeoffs involved in “playing big.”

We discussed her evolution from someone who saw business as nothing more than a “profiteering enterprise” to a visionary who recognized that her ethics could be expressed in the marketplace.

And not only could they, but she had a moral imperative to create palatable alternatives to dairy if she were going to help the world transition away from animal agriculture.

We talked about the bumps along the way, from realizing that the small batch processes of cheesemaking broke down under conditions of scale, and having to divert time from craftsmanship to hiring and firing, to jettisoning the plan of slow, organic growth to seize an opportunity to get big fast.

Miyoko shares her success formula (spoiler: keep experimenting and stay humble), and offers advice to other social entrepreneurs who wish to follow in her footsteps.

Enjoy this inspiring conversation with a true leader in the plant-based movement.

Links

Miyoko's Creamery

Artisan Vegan Cheese book

The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples

The Vegan Meat Cookbook

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Music

The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

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Gratitudes

Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.

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