For a Greater Cause: Q+A Interview with Astrella of Cause & Events

Veganism inspires people to be of service for a greater cause. Through her vegan events company Cause & Events, Astrella is doing just that in Melbourne.

Astrella curates fun and inspiring fundraiser events that raise money for not-for-profit organisations and invites local vegan makers to be a part of the fun. I spoke to Astrella about how her vegan events are helping others and attracting vegan guests as well as non-vegans.

Astrella, when did you decide to go vegan and what was your reason why?

“I think it might have been around May 2016 when I watched Cowspiracy and I went from, ‘I’m Indian I’ll die without yoghurt’ to ‘oh my god why didn’t I know this and go vegan sooner?’. Later, I watched What The Health and it validated my decision. But taking ownership of my own cognitive dissonance was a real turning point for me and it slowly opened my mind to questioning the lack of compassion in all aspects of life that we tend to take for granted. Like, Blackfish exposed the atrocities of Sea World on orcas and The True Cost challenged the manufacturing practices of large clothing companies.”

Cause & Events is a Melbourne-based event group that holds vegan events. Why did you decide to start Cause & Events?

“My dream job would be to pilot a large commercial jet. But fantasies aside, since I studied operational efficiency, also in 2016, I have been driven to help small businesses. I worked for various large corporations but I couldn’t see how my job was directly contributing towards making the world a better place. So, since then I have been workshopping different ideas on how to help improve lives.

I had been a meet-up events organiser for over two years (all through the pandemic) and it was really hard to watch businesses struggling to keep their heads above water. I could host one meet-up a week and it would attract between six to 23 people, depending on the venue of the event – that wasn’t going to make the state of the post-pandemic economy turn around anytime soon. So I thought of ways to scale up my efforts to help more businesses and voila! Here we are.

Typically, business owners start meet-up groups to find more clients and grow their business. But for me, the concept for my business evolved from running the meet-up.”

Your events company actively supports and promotes organisations who fight animal cruelty. Why is it important to support these groups?

“Compassion is a very hard concept to teach. Although we all understand what it means, not all of us are able to empathise with the suffering of another being without knowing the details of their circumstances.

I believe that the work of organisations fighting animal cruelty is foundational to creating a society that is compassionate and able to co-exist with the planet’s biodiversity.

The large companies are only able to offer $2 burgers and rake in billions of dollars because the blind society with their flash advertisements and low prices. But if you were to ask any attendant in any shop about the details of the manufacturing and supply chain, they either wouldn’t know or they wouldn’t want you to know. This lack of transparency is fundamental to the profits of large companies and government departments.”

Your events are vegan events with a difference, ranging from cheese and wine events to high teas. Who do you attract to your events? Is it a mix of vegans and non-vegans? What have been some of your most popular events to date?

“As an events company, Cause & Events recently announced its presence with the All-Vegan High Tea. But the vegan meet-ups have been quite popular. Our largest meet-up had 35 people and we occupied the whole basement of Funghi e Tartufo in Hardware Lane. Since it was so popular, we will be going back there in January 2023, but people have already started sending in their RSVPs since July.

I had the opportunity to speak to many of our lovely supporters at our high tea event and it was pleasant to learn that about half of our visitors were not vegan. The premise of running my Meet-up group and Cause & Events has always been to include everyone, regardless of their dietary preferences. It is only through showing compassion to others that we can expect them to show compassion towards animals. It is really important to me that everyone feels included in a non-judgmental environment so that they will be open to trying new things and slowly adopt veganism as a lifestyle. The more we can do this, the closer Cause & Events gets to accomplishing its mission.”

What are some of the animal groups you’ve already supported? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

“At our all-vegan high tea, we raised funds for Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. At our upcoming all-vegan wine and cheese festival we will be raising funds for Farm Transparency Project.

I am keen to collaborate with organisations who have an undiluted message, in that their actions align with their mission statement. I would love to collaborate with organisations who are involved in direct action. For example, Humane Research Australia, Lamb Care Australia, senior pet rescue shelters, Anonymous for the Voiceless and Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds.

I would love to find a way where I can help these organisations talk about their work to the people who attend our events.”

What role do local vegan businesses play in your event work? Who have you worked with so far?

“The three main objectives of Cause & Events are: to promote vegan businesses, to help people discover more cruelty free alternatives to food and consumer goods and to promote the work of charities fighting animal cruelty. Most vegan businesses are small and operated by local business owners. These are the people who innovate in their kitchen and are brave enough to create plant-based products.

I have personally tried and tested many of these amazing creations and I believe more people need to find out about them. So, I created a platform that features the game changing work of these businesses. You will notice that unlike other vegan events or markets, my events have a specific theme to showcase one type of product every time. My events are set up in a non-competitive manner to encourage customers to explore and support as many businesses as possible.

The businesses I work with depend on the theme of the event. But I have a few business partners with whom I have an ongoing relationship:
– Goodwill Wine
– Vegie Tribe
– Noo Moo Foods
– Vegan Drinks Co
– The KYND Butcher

Do you have a success story you can tell me about as a result of one of your events?   

“I am grateful for everyone I have met through my journey of running meet-ups and Cause & Events. I am so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many loving and supportive people all the time.

Our first event, the All-Vegan High Tea couldn’t have turned out better. I couldn’t have done it without the amazing people I worked with at Vegie Tribe, Vegan Drinks Co and my generous and kind friends Gloria, Johannes, Flick and all those who supported my initiative by buying a ticket.

It is their kindness and support that motivates me to grow Cause & Events even when some days are hard and unyielding.”

If someone buys a ticket to one of your events, what can they expect?

“I want to be as transparent with my audience as I possibly can because it helps them realise the power they hold in their wallets. Knowing where their money goes and how it changes lives encourages them to support small businesses and charities.

The tickets for all events are standardised and after the event I send a summary of the revenue to the charity organisation to show them the funds that were raised. I also send an email update to all our subscribers and ticket holders.

We also include a certain spending amount in the ticket price to support the participating businesses. This is also an opportunity to create some interactive novelty. Each visitor receives a token to spend at the event. We call it our very own ‘monopoly money’. After the event the participating businesses return these tokens to me and receive real cash. The ticket prices have been structured in a way that most of it goes to the participating businesses and charities.

It is a very social atmosphere, so you don’t just arrive, browse and leave. But there will be spaces set up to relax, banter and have a great time.”

There is a saying that goes: think global, act local. What do you hope to achieve on a global scale? How can you change hearts and minds on this scale?

“Besides being open to collaboration, I hope that other event organisers will consider featuring more charities at their events. I hope that people demand better from businesses and that they believe in the power they hold as consumers.”

Why is veganism so important when it comes to changing hearts and minds?

“Veganism teaches us more than compassion. For those of us who are not born and raised as vegans, it teaches us to challenge tradition and ask the hard questions. We must demand better from companies and the government whom we pay and entrust our health and safety with.

We teach our kids to stay away from the man with the dodgy white van who offers them candy. And yet we allow ourselves to follow messages that lack transparency, ethics and alignment of words and actions. Veganism teaches us to protect our health and our planet the way we would protect those who are dear to us.”

Are there any plans to expand Cause & Events outside of Melbourne?

“I would absolutely love to! If I can do anything to support people’s journeys of discovering more vegan products and supporting animal rights organisation, I’m there! If anyone reading this is looking to collaborate in supporting this initiative in Melbourne and beyond, please get in touch. I’d love to speak with you.”

What can vegans in Melbourne expect from Cause & Events in the future? Perhaps, you can share some of your upcoming events?

“The wine and cheese festival is happening in November. December will feature vegan beauty products and services. The theme for January is based around nutrition and healthy eating in support of the Veganuary campaign and the New Year’s resolutions of our audience. The full list of our events is updated on the What’s On page of our website.

There are plans to host documentary screenings followed by a discussion with the audience on how their own personal vegan journeys can evolve. And of course, scrumptious food and drinks will make an appearance too.”

Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to add?

“I want to emphasise the message that veganism is not a trend but a necessity in the fight against climate change. What we do and what we teach our kids will shape the future. There is a saying that often floats around the internet, when you support a small business you are helping someone buy new shoes for their children’s dance or sports practices. When you buy from large corporations you are helping another CEO buy another mansion or a private island somewhere.

If you would like to stay up to date with our shenanigans you can sign up to our emails on our website or follow our socials. I look forward to meeting you at one of our events soon.  Thank you for taking the time to get to know more about Cause & Events.”

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