Interview with Linda Weatherlake, founder of www.neena.com.au. Neena is an online marketplace where you can find vegan, cruelty-free cosmetics and accessories.
How did you come up with the idea for Neena?
I started it at the end of 2015, I was working in advertising, hated my job, but loved who I worked with. I was the most passionate vegan, any question that anyone had, I was always able to answer it. I knew I had to do something different but didn’t know what to do. So I quit my job, didn’t know what I was going to do. But 2 weeks into my resignation I had a friend come and talk to me, saying, I need a fake tan and I need it to be vegan, what do you recommend?
It just dawned on me, if you are asking me, there are a million other people asking the same question. So I’ll start Neena, it will be skincare and cosmetics, all vegan and we will go from there.
Then it wasn’t in my plan to expand Neena. But my heart lies more in fashion than beauty. If I can get all of these products, which are on trend, and all vegan, not the stereotypical vegan stuff. There is some weird shit out there. So I just wanted to put everything I had into it and do it.
My mum almost had a meltdown and just said, you can talk to me after its up and running. Because it was literally no planning, it was I want to do this, I need to do this, and it’s going to happen.
How long did it take to set up?
3 months. But it’s 16 hours days for 3 months. Its just I have to get this happening, I don’t have a job, but it needs to be done. I never realised how powerful passion is until you start to use it, and how much you can get done.
The idea from the start was, if someone is going to spend their last $50 with you, then we want it to be vegan and we want it to be a present.
What or who is your biggest inspiration?
I don’t have one person who inspires me, but it’s all the stories from many people who inspire me, like Summer Salt Body. However, I do love what Stella McCartney is doing, someone with such an influence, someone who has the background she has, to make the decisions that she is strong enough to change. I think that is spic, especially in the world she lives in. Just that one person to stand up and say it is not right and I want to change it.
You decided to go Vegan 5 years ago, what was the reason?
I was always getting close to it, but never quite tipped over the end. But there is a video circling facebook at the moment about the red and blue circle by James Wildman. That video was the final turning point for me. It resonated with me so much that I emailed him and thanked him for changing my life. I remember sitting on my bed at home, thinking everything has changed. All the leather is gone, shoes, handbags, all went. And shoes are my thing. So to do that, it made a massive change.
I had a great support network to help me through that transition as well.
Do you have a lot of brands wanting to join your community?
We do, it is a lot of skincare. But it is so nice to have brands reach out and want to join. It’s tough because we can’t take on everyone. But we are trying to balance between fashion and beauty. The idea is to have a one-stop shop for everything. We want to help you deck out your whole wardrobe in vegan products, without you stopping and saying its too hard for me. But to make it chic and fashionable at the same time. From shoes to handbags, its gradual but we will be there.
What is your favourite beauty product on your site?
I do love the handbags, I own too many of those. There is an amazing skincare range called medara from Latvia. They use about 95% organic ingredients. The whole brand is not vegan, so we choose the products which are. The only part that isn’t is some of the range that has some beeswax, but I have never tried anything like this. As soon as I tried it, I sent it to my mum, like what do you think about this. She said it’s just incredible.
What is your favourite Melbourne restaurant or cafe?
I love Particle in Avondale heights, they are the most beautiful people. I also love Holy Bowly in Hampton, even though it’s not all vegan they make a huge effort. I love red sparrow and Yongs (Green Food), Smith and deli, we are spoilt for choice. I said to someone last night if I could spend every minute of my life eating, I totally would.
What’s next for Linda Weatherlake?
We can’t say too much but we are working on another vegan brand which will be out later this year. But I really want to shake up the vegan stereotype. I want to change how everyone sees it and thinks about it. Really disrupting it honestly and telling people how it is.
Lastly, what is your favourite vegetable?
At the moment, eggplant. If you ask me next week it will be different but my favourite food is definitely Acai.