Vegan Roots LLC

Cincinnati, OH

Caitlin Bertsch of Vegan Roots

Caitlin Bertsch had thoughts of globe trotting and working in a field where she could put her college education to good use. Instead, she discovered a recipe for vegan goetta that intrigued the most skeptical carnivores and launched a growing business, Vegan Roots.

How did you start your business?
Everyone snickers and asks, “Is that even possible?” at the mention of vegan goetta. But once they’ve tried it, there aren’t many who don’t like it.

At the urging of several people, I went through the ArtWorks' Springboard class with the expectation of selling my vegan scones. When I mentioned to the class I made vegan goetta, there was the reaction mentioned above, so I brought some in. It was then that I realized I might have something pretty unique.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I’m a Cincinnati native, and when my immediate family and several friends went vegan at about the same time, we were devastated to think that we wouldn’t be able to eat anymore of the local Cincinnati favorites, including goetta. So I attempted to recreate it vegan style. It  turned out so well we decided it should be shared with the rest of the vegan, vegetarian and carnivorous Cincinnati folks.

I enjoy being vegan, and I find it fun and exciting to create dishes that are interesting for vegans and carnivores and everyone in between.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I recently graduated from the Springboard program through ArtWorks. The people there were a great help in understanding that starting a business is not terribly difficult! They’ve also helped to connect me with a wonderful group of entrepreneurs—people who have helped by encouraging, inspiring and sharing. Just a few weeks ago, several of us participated in Pallet23’s launch in Northside—it was exciting and fun to share a space with so many creative minds for one evening.

Where can we find your goetta around town?
I have been making my vegan goetta at the Brew House in Walnut Hills, where it is on the menu regularly and is often featured as a Meatless Monday option. You can also find it at the brunch counter at Park+Vine downtown, and it will soon be on the menu at Bella Vino in West Chester. It is gratifying to have such a diverse interest in my food.

What would you do differently if you started your business again?
I am still learning quite a bit—I’m learning about running a business, making connections, navigating rules and regulations, understanding what is needed now and what can be done in the future.

One thing that I wouldn’t necessarily change, but could see how it might help me in the future (and would have helped tremendously in my formative steps) would be to find a mentor—someone who has gone through the same process of starting a food business as me and can help to navigate it with a bit more poise and tact.

What’s next for you and your company?
Next steps are finding some place I can work out of on a more regular basis, as I need more time and space to make goetta and other vegan goods. There is only so much goetta a person can make in just a few hours a week!

I would love to be able to get my goetta into more restaurants, as well as see it in some stores. I might be working with a group from Walnut Hills to help put together a commissary so that other food entrepreneurs like me can more easily find a place to work—that would be really exciting!

And, as always, there is still a lot to learn, so I’m just making sure my head stays above water.

Interview by Robin Donovan