When Matt Letten was a senior in college, he had just lost 100 pounds. He’d been exercising, eating healthy, and working to build a sense of confidence and purpose that he felt he never had. One afternoon, he met with his mentor.
“This guy was always someone I could run anything by,” says Matt. “We were sitting there discussing how I had just gone through this physical transformation. My mentor said jokingly, ‘You could be the next Richard Simmons.’”
Today, that’s not far off. Matt joined forces with his younger brother, Phil, to found Vegan Bros. Their goal? To be “the Tony Robbins of veganism.”
The WeWork Custom House members publish funny, profanity-laden blog posts and videos, and they run a weight loss and fitness-coaching program.
Vegan Bros is the perfect marriage of each brother’s background. After college, Matt opened several gyms. Phil worked for animal rights organizations and had been vegan since he was 20. Phil started working out at Matt’s gym, and Matt adopted Phil’s diet and passion for animal welfare.
They realized they were on to something.
“It was May 2014,” Matt recalls. “We were sitting in a park in Seattle, talking and brainstorming. We were sipping on whisky, which we use as creativity juice on occasion. We were high on life. We had just thrown a sold-out party on the roof of my gym the night before, and we donated all the money to our favorite animal charities. Phil made a joke like, ‘Why don’t we do something online?’ We made eye contact. We got serious.’”
On their website, the Letten brothers’ objective is to be welcoming, teaching the benefits of a vegan lifestyle while also showing interested non-vegans that there isn’t just one way to be a “Vegan Bro.”
“We like to be as inclusive as possible,” says Phil. “Being vegan isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. You can be vegan one day or one meal a week. Before I was completely vegan, I said, ‘I am going to be vegan, except for cheese pizza.’”
This approach has earned them lots of fans (nearly 33,000 on Facebook, to be precise). But it has also ruffled some feathers—no pun intended—in the vegan community.
“This is a hiccup that we expected,” says Phil. “There is this small and very vocal segment of the vegan community that despises us. People who aren’t vegan yet are more accepting of what we do.”
The Vegan Bros are about to reach an even bigger audience, as they’ve just inked a book deal with Penguin Random House.
“The book is essentially our manifesto,” says Matt. “We’re putting our flag in the sand. In the past, veganism was seen as a weird, feminine lifestyle practiced by self-indulgent, politically-correct hippies. We’re bros: we preach veganism for ‘normal [people].’ We aim to be helpful, but also to make you laugh.”
The brothers are busy, but they’re loving it.
“When you’re doing something you’re truly passionate about,” says Matt, “There’s no distinction between work and fun. Sometimes I’ll be working on my computer, and I’ll look, and it’s 10 o’clock at night. Or we’ll go to a bar, but talk about our web analytics the whole time.”
In the past, drinking “creativity juice” has served them well. So, cheers, Bros.
Photo credit: Gia Genitempo