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Meet Maggie Ortlieb of VegOut Magazine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maggie Ortlieb.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Maggie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I moved to Los Angeles six years ago from Michigan. Being new to the city, I started researching like mad, trying to find the best vegan options LA had to offer—from restaurants to events and meetups. I used Yelp, Time Out LA, We Like LA, Happy Cow, and other sites, but there was no source that was curated and strictly dedicated to veganism, so I created it.

Around this time, I also had friends and coworkers asking how I could stick to a vegan diet when eating at restaurants. The answer seemed obvious to me—there is pretty much always at least one vegan option on the menu, or you can get creative with french fries and side salads like I was accustomed to doing back in Michigan. Did other people not know that? This furthered my desire to create something to show people all the amazing plant-based options out there, and the fact that (almost) anywhere you are, you always have the option to choose a vegan meal over one with animal products.

This leads me to the first article we ever published, “How to Eat Vegan at Taco Bell.” This was back when the website was on Blogger and the only person reading the articles was my mom. We didn’t even have an Instagram. It was a good thing that my mom was reading the articles though, because she’s the one who really kicked the content into gear, jumped on board with my mission, pushed us through the dark times, and is now VegOut’s managing editor. My mom and I joined forces and she wrote all the content for the site while I worked on social media. We weren’t even really a business for the first couple of years, we didn’t make any money. But we grew a following—the Instagram really took off and over the last four years, we’ve grown to over 90K followers. It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago, when I left my corporate job, that we started monetizing across platforms. We grew from a tiny blog and Instagram page to a full on media company covering multiple cities across the US via our website, mobile app, print magazines (LA and NYC), and social media.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think every entrepreneur would tell you the same thing—building a business is definitely not a smooth road. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion and uncertainty. Definitely more so in the beginning, but I still get highs and lows on a weekly, if not daily basis. There were times when we kept going and I didn’t even know why, I just had this greater vision and kept working toward it. I saw the big picture and that motivated me. My team saw it too and pulled me through the dark times (shout-out to my mom, Tammie Ortlieb, and Joel Alatorre, our creative director, who have been with me since day 1).

One huge struggle with building any company, but a media company especially, is funding. You need money to grow, but you can’t make money or get investors until you have something to show. We went the bootstrapping route, so we’ve been self-funded from the beginning and have kept our costs low, but it’s not like I’m independently wealthy—I kept my corporate job until I had enough faith to take the leap to doing VegOut full-time. We didn’t have a product to sell, so we weren’t making money there. And no one wanted to buy advertising, because they had never heard of us and we didn’t have a huge platform back then. People say it takes three years before companies are profitable. It varies from company to company, but you shouldn’t start a business just because you want to make money. Your heart really has to be in it, otherwise people will see that it’s not and you’ll have to keep going day after day, working around the clock building something you’re not passionate about. Thankfully for me, VegOut is a mission-driven company and it’s about more than just making money. It’s a movement that’s changing the world.

Please tell us about VegOut Magazine.
VegOut is a vegan media company delivering curated content covering the best plant-based things to eat, see, and do in cities across the US. From the best restaurants and happenings in town to celeb interviews, we’re the source for all things vegan. We publish daily content on our website (vegoutmag.com) and mobile app, have two quarterly print magazines (LA and NYC) that are distributed in supermarkets across California and Barnes & Noble locations across the West and East coasts, and we interact with our readers via our social media platforms.

The thing I’m most proud of as a company is our integrity. I’m also super proud of the team I’ve built. The people who have joined me on this journey are incredible beyond words and the most talented people I know. Most of the team didn’t specifically go to school for the role they’re playing, they just figured things out. We have theater majors designing magazine spreads and running social media, and they’re absolutely killing it. I am a huge believer in finding people’s strengths and interests and putting them in positions where they’ll thrive, no matter their background. It’s better for everyone that way. We’re a family, we enjoy working together, and it really shows in the work we put out in the world.

What were you like growing up?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since birth. The word wasn’t in my vocabulary, but I was always scheming, building, and creating. From planning and bringing to life a carnival in my parents’ house for the neighborhood kids, to bringing home the kids’ menu at Bob Evans so I could recreate the restaurant experience for my family in our dining room with frozen smiley fries and pancakes, to turning everything into some kind of production (making a voting booth for the family dog’s name), I couldn’t sit still.

I was also really quiet, always observing. I loved learning and figuring out how things worked, why things were the way they were. Discovery Channel’s How It’s Made TV show and pretty much anything on HGTV were my jam.

And if you asked my parents, I was also very stubborn and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

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