Vegan Businesses - Putting Values at the Forefront
The standard business model that encourages generating as much money as possible regardless of environmental consequences is changing, and vegan businesses are playing a major role in this change. Running a value-based company can be a challenge, especially when you’re competing against others who aren’t bound by such values. But those values also serve as a signal that calls to those who share a passion for the vegan lifestyle.
The Vegan Entrepreneur - Meet Mark Mulcahy of Vegan Chic
With concerns over whether the vendors can be trusted to provide animal free products and with competing in a market full of majority non-vegans, running a vegan business is ripe with challenges. No one understands these challenges like Mark Mulcahy, owner of the cruelty-free boutique, Vegan Chic. Located in Los Angeles, CA,Vegan Chic is a value-based business that sells top-quality shoes, bags, and accessories that are all 100% vegan.
Why Mark Mulcahy Chose to Go Vegan
Now the owner of a successful vegan boutique, Mark is the first to admit that he wasn’t always drawn to the lifestyle. Explaining that he used to eat meat and put cheese on everything, he adds that he’s never felt better than after he made the switch. Mark explains what finally made him commit to the vegan lifestyle:
“My wife was vegan long before I was and it wasn’t until I really did my own research that I realized that we can be a lot healthier without needing to harm animals. I think a lot of people tune out these facts about how animals are treated, but if they did their own research, they’d see that veganism is healthier and better for the planet.”
Going Vegan Means Expanding Your Palate
When asked about the early challenges he faced when sticking to veganism, Mark reflects on all of the new foods that became regular parts of his diet. “I opened up to new foods like squash, pumpkin, quinoa and a lot of others. Instead of putting cheese on everything, I’d use guacamole. For our most frequent foods, my wife likes prepared vegan meals, but I’ll typically have a vegan burrito bowl.”
Vegan Integrity - Keeping His Shoes Cruelty-Free
Running a value-based business still requires shrewd and occasionally tough business decisions. Since vegans must put integrity at the forefront, Mark admits he’s had to return shipments from vendors who swore their product was vegan-friendly, only to find out that they use an animal based material or glue in their construction. Mark elaborates on how integrity plays a significant role in the everyday operation of Vegan Chic.
“Our shoes cannot contain any suede, fur, or leather. Another product that we watch for is glue - many glues are made from animals as well. Good materials for vegan shoes include vulcanized rubber, velvet, hemp, pleather, and microfiber fabric.Tyvek is used in vegan shoes and is considered indestructible.”
Why Vegan Shoes are Superior
Part of running a successful vegan shoe store is getting everyone to buy your shoes - not just vegans. When asked about his approach to marketing vegan shoes to non-vegans, Mark’s explains that his vegan shoes are superior to shoes made from animal products. Here’s why:
“Think about what leather is - it’s the hide of a living thing. A lot of people forget that by nature, leather decays unless it’s continually treated with toxic chemicals. Instead of wearing the skin of an animal, we have ultra-strong man-made materials now that are also extremely comfortable. With superior flexibility, durability, and no need to constantly coat them to keep them from decaying, our shoes appeal to non-vegans because they’re simply made better.”
Bridging the Gap to Non-Vegans
To compete in a crowded industry, Mark Mulcahy knows the value of selling to non-vegans as well. In addition to superior synthetic materials, Mark explains that he’s had a lot of success selling his Vegan Chic product line on Amazon. By partnering with Amazon, Mark finds thatjust as many non-vegans are drawn to his cruelty-free shoes.
“A lot of our non-vegan business comes from Amazon. I find that a lot of customers have a leather prejudice even if they’re not completely vegan. Plus, when most customers go on to Amazon, they’re just searching for a high-quality shoe that they like without worrying whether it’s vegan. This is where our quality advantages come in - materials likeItalian Microsuede andTyvek are appealing for their superior durability, comfort, and other advantages.”
The Most Popular Shoes at Vegan Chic
With at least 20 categories of shoes formen,women, andchildren, Vegan Chic sells everything from flip-flops to designer shoes worth hundreds of dollars. To the question of which of these many shoes is their best seller, Mark revealed that their stock changes throughout the year.
“It really depends on the season. Certain shoes are more in demand at different times of the year, and we have to make sure that those are the kinds we have in stock. There are some brands we keep in stock all the time though because they’re very popular: We always have men’s Oxfords for example, in addition to other designer shoes that are always in demand.”
Trials and Challenges of Running Vegan Chic
Every business has its own unique set of challenges and vegan businesses are no different. As someone who successfully balances his passion for animal rights with the challenge of running Vegan Chic, Mark Mulcahy knows the vegan business climate better than most. From dealing with those with excellent values but a lack of business skills to vendors who miss their due date, Mark has seen it all as the owner of Vegan Chic.
“A lot of the vegan vendors I’ve dealt with are great when it comes to their vegan values, but if they can’t get their product out on time, then their business suffers. It’s not enough to be a devoted vegan, you have to thoroughly understand business as well. That’s big for us at Vegan Chic - we need the right products from our vendors at the right time, and they all have to meet our high standard of being 100% cruelty-free.”
Marketing Vegan Shoes - 2 Successful Strategies
In a world where chain shoe stores are common and non-vegans are the majority, Mark has successfully been able to market his products to the mainstream. With a combination of using Amazon and targeting the right people, non-vegans have fell in love with Vegan Chic’s products just as vegans have.
1. Appeal to the Educated
Mark explains that educated consumers are most likely to seek out, understand, and support the vegan cause. “When it comes to caring about the environment, caring about animal rights, it’s usually educated people who are able to do the research and support these causes. Even if someone isn’t vegan, they may still care enough about animals to purchase a vegan shoe.”
2. Amazon Let’s your Product Appeal to Everyone
The other way that Mark has been able to avoid getting pigeon-holed as a vegan business is by selling his products on Amazon. While customers who enter his shop must already know it’s a vegan business, shoppers on Amazon are just interested in high-quality shoes. Mark admits that Amazon is a major benefit when it comes to selling his vegan products to non-vegans. “Amazon has been amazing - about 50% of our business comes from Amazon now.”
Final Advice for Vegan Business Owners
As an experienced vegan business owner, Mark Mulcahy has encountered numerous challenges. In his final advice to blossoming vegan business owners, Mark reminded us of the importance of a strong business foundation, in addition to strong values.
“It’s important to understand that strong vegan values aren’t enough to keep your business afloat. Make sure to have good grounding in business in general before starting one. It’s also vital to keep good, consistent ethics and business mechanics.”
A Message to Non-vegans
As a former meat-eater who found his way to the vegan lifestyle through his own personal research, Mark has a message for those in a similar situation.
“Be honest with yourself and your food. When you walk through the grocery store, consider what went into these foods. Do research for yourself and don’t believe the messages from the meat and dairy industries. For example, they’re marketing slogan is ‘Milk Does a Body Good’, but the truth is that no other animal consumes the milk of another animal. Raising and slaughtering animals is terrible for the Earth, and we can’t keep it up forever.”
Bhu Foods and Vegan Chic - Committed to Vegan Excellence
From the creative line of vegan protein bars and cookies fromBhu Foods to the fashionable vegan shoes and bags sold by Vegan Chic, it’s businesses like these that symbolize a growing movement. As more businesses become successful at marketing their vegan products to vegans and non-vegans alike, the message will spread and more people will sympathize with the vegan cause. Join Vegan Chic and Bhu Foods in standing up for all forms of life and in making the planet a better place for everyone.