We had the good fortune of connecting with Brittany Byars and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brittany, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
From day one of Couteau’s conception, when it was just a list of ideas jotted down on a piece of paper, I knew that I wanted to incorporate eco-friendly practices into the very core of its being. I believe that we all have a responsibility to do our part in keeping the planet healthy and balanced, and that includes businesses as well.
The first thing I wanted to tackle was the materials we used. All of Couteau’s packaging – from the box to the wood knives to the stickers to the parchment paper and more – is sustainable and eco-friendly. It takes just a little bit of extra effort to research and find each thing and as more and more resources become available it will only get easier. Being part of the plant-based community/movement means that we need to take these kinds of things seriously because they are important topics to our main customer base. Animal welfare, climate change, sustainability and healthy food are among our top priorities at Couteau.
This January was our third month of business and also happens to be Veganuary, a month where people can challenge themselves to explore a vegan diet or expand their knowledge and understanding of veganism. For this reason I decided to run a campaign where we donate 10% of sales to the non-profit organization Support + Feed. We want to support an initiative that provides healthy, plant-based food options to those in need in our community as well as support small local businesses. It has been exciting to run our first fundraising campaign and the support has been overwhelming. I’m looking forward to doing it again as our business continues to grow.
My vision for the future of Couteau is to one day ship vegan charcuterie subscription boxes to all corners of the USA and Canada as well as create a one-for-one business model inspired by Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes. If you’re familiar with the brand, you will know that each pair of shoes purchased provides a pair of shoes to someone who needs them in a developing country. I believe that conscious consumerism is the way of the future and I want Couteau to be a company that leads the way in this new realm. For each subscription box sold we will provide access to healthy plant-based food and education. The more sales we make, the more we’ll be able to give back and help create a kinder, more sustainable world for humans and animals alike to enjoy. I’m excited to see how this idea will take shape in the months to come!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business is called Couteau et Fromage, which in French translates to “Knife and Cheese”. We are a Plant-Based Charcuterie Board company specializing in delivering gourmet grazing boxes, catering events and coming very soon: vegan charcuterie and cheese subscription boxes shipped across the United States and Canada. We curate and hand select each and every ingredient that goes onto our boards and hold them to a high standard of plant-based, sustainability and of course: quality and taste.
I’ve been on a plant-based journey for the last 4 years and I’m constantly inspired by the Vegan movement as I learn new things and make changes to my lifestyle. I first cut out pork and dairy, then eggs, then beef, and then chicken and finally fish. I’ve been vegan to the best of my ability for the last 7 months. I never want to be preachy because I know how personal our attachment to food can be and that it’s not always easy for someone to make drastic changes to their diet, but I think that we all have a responsibility to pay more attention to where our food comes from and ensure that the wellbeing of animals and the environment is taken into consideration when producing food for the billions of people who live here.
With Couteau, I want to show everyone, not just vegans, that you can still enjoy delicious, artisanal, gourmet food without it having to come from animals. Couteau is an all inclusive brand, we don’t seek to polarize the message of plant-based. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy vegan cheese and charcuterie, in fact we’ve had a lot of feedback from non-vegans who are pleasantly surprised at how good it is! At the very core of our culture is simply a basic love for good food; we just happen to focus specifically on food made only from plants because we recognize that it’s better for ourselves, animals and the planet. There are so many amazing and delicious alternatives out there nowadays and it’s been so much fun exploring and curating them for our customers. My job literally consists of tasting new foods and deciding whether or not they’re worthy of a Couteau board! I love it.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far in my business is wearing all the hats and doing everything myself; it’s been extremely overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. Entrepreneurship is the craziest blend of fear and courage and has pushed me to expand my knowledge and abilities in so many ways. I’ve had to learn business, graphic design, social media marketing, product sourcing and more all on the fly as I build my company. But I’m not complaining, I wouldn’t trade it for the world! It’s an adventure and every day brings with it new challenges and lessons to learn.
Being a creative type, I’m definitely more of a big picture kind of person; it’s easy for me to dream big. But becoming a business owner has forced me to focus on the little details and only put one foot in front of the other as we progress and move forward. Time management has turned out to be the biggest hurtle that I must overcome and I recognize that in order for this business to be successful I must practice greater levels of self discipline and structure. Being a business owner is as much about building your business as it is about building yourself.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh my gosh, where to start! LA is such an amazing city with so much to do.
One of my most favorite things about living here is the weather, which gives us the opportunity to be active outside all year round. I would have to take my bff on as many hikes as possible from Topanga Canyon, to Runyon Canyon to the Griffith Park Trails up to the observatory and of course the iconic Hollywood Sign. I would try to make sure we got at least 3-4 hikes in during their week long visit!
We’re so lucky to have all kinds of wonderful plant-based restaurants here in LA as well – Cafe Gratitude, The Grain Cafe, Veggie Grill and The Butcher’s Daughter are among some of my favs that I’ve tried but there are still so many more out there that I haven’t been to yet. I think having my bff visit would be a great opportunity to add more to the list such as Crossroads, Plant Food & Wine and the Vegan Street Fair. We could spend their entire week long trip here going to a different vegan restaurant every day for each meal and still not be able to cover them all!
I live in Venice and I could honestly spend the entire week here finding things to do. Of course we would go shopping on Abbot Kinney, looking through the many cute shops as well as grabbing a coffee at TOMS. After that we would switch locations to walking up and down the iconic boardwalk with all the street vendors and artists and performers, picking out crystals and getting henna tattoos. And of course we would have to spend the afternoon on the beach in the beautiful Southern California sun, getting our tan on and watching the surfers.
After that we would grab our skateboards and head north along the strand until we hit the end of it in Malibu. Skateboarding is a sport I’ve always loved and I recently picked it up over the last year since moving to LA. It’s no coincidence that I moved to the heart of Venice, the birthplace of skateboarding, just steps away from the skatepark. And of course we can’t forget to watch the iconic LA sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Those gorgeous hues of pink, orange, yellow and blue are just so IG worthy and beautiful and are actually the inspiration for the brand colour palette of Couteau!
No trip to LA would be complete without a scenic drive through the Hollywood Hills. It’s not that I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, I just love looking at all of the old Hollywood homes and imagining their stories and the eclectic, artistic people who built them. Each house is different and interesting and I let my imagination run wild. Another great drive is up the PCH. I really enjoy heading north to Santa Barbara, the road winds along the ocean the entire way and the view is absolutely beautiful.
To top it all off, we would definitely have to take a drive out to Joshua Tree and spend the night in the desert, either camping under the stars or in a cute cabin. You can see so many more stars at night without the light pollution from the city, it’s wonderful.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost, I would like to shoutout my Mum, Monique. She has always been my number one cheerleader and support system. No matter what direction I turn in life, she’s always there to give me advice, a shoulder to cry on or a hand to help me up when I fall. I don’t know where I would be without her. She’s the one who taught me how to be kind to animals and to care about people and the planet. She’s the most amazing, nurturing person I know and I’m so proud that she’s my mother. I love you Mum! Thank you for everything you do.
Second shoutout is to Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes (another business started here in Venice). I’m greatly inspired by his one-for-one business model and reading his book “Start Something That Matters” has been a powerful resource and guiding light for me as I embark on my entrepreneurial journey.
Last shoutout is for my partner, who’s idea it was to start this plant-based charcuterie board business in the first place. He is another incredible support system in my life and through this whole process of creating Couteau, has been there right alongside me to offer encouragement and guidance every step of the way.
Photo of me in the water: Pascal Shirley