Howdy Green Vs, and welcome to the very first interview from our new Vegan Entrepreneur Series. Each month we’ll be chatting to our favourite vegan entrepreneurs and gaining an insight into their way of life, business and more!
First up is Laura Stageman, founder of Votch, the beautiful watch company that offers gorgeous timepieces with quality vegan leather straps – hoorah!
We loved getting to know more about Laura and her inspirational story behind her business. If you’d like to feature in our Vegan Entrepreneur Series, or nominate somebody else, shoot us an email at: email@example.com.
Hey Laura! How did your vegan journey start?
My vegan journey started a couple of years back now. I realised I didn’t want to eat animals from a very young age, but it wasn’t until I was struck ill with a condition called Topical Steroid Withdrawal that started to learn more about veganism. I was bath-bound for many months for pain relief, and to distract myself from the discomfort I would watch hours of documentaries, especially ones focusing on animal welfare, which had always been a big concern of mine. I started learning the impacts that meat and dairy consumption has on the planet as well as the excruciating conditions inflicted on animals, so I decided to remove eggs and dairy from my diet, having followed a vegetarian diet for so long. But it obviously didn’t stop there, and I just didn’t want to consume or wear anything that an animal had had to die for. Being vegan is as normal as it comes to me naturally now, and there’s literally a (better) substitute for everything; gorgeous shoes, bags and the food options are endless!
What made you want to set up your own business?
I have always wanted to be my own boss. I spent many years working for others and I always had this burning desire to be my own boss and run my own company. Conforming to a 9-5 isn’t for me, I like to be up working at 5am some days and other days prefer to be working into the night.
When I was on a recent trip to Malawi working with a charity, the founder told me how they just didn’t set alarms; they went to bed when the Sun went down and awoke when it rose. That got me thinking a lot about how we spend our time, how it is so structured and how I didn’t want to live a life on someone else’s clock.
Over the years I’ve had countless business ideas, and when a watch strap broke and trying to find a vegan replacement was impossible, the idea for Votch was born. Suddenly the seed was planted in my brain and it was something that wasn’t going away any time soon, so I began doing everything in my power to start creating the brand. It’s been one of the most fulfilling, difficult, rewarding, challenging journeys I’ve been on to date – but now the watches are out there and I’m seeing the reaction from customers, I couldn’t be happier that I’ve chosen the correct path for myself and I’m glad I didn’t spend the rest of my life thinking ‘what if’. The fact I can give back to charities I want to support will continually make my heart happy.
What’s your top tip for someone who wants to start an ethical biz?
Never lose sight of your morals and what you stand for, and research. Understand your consumer, understand where the gaps are and where the potential is. Learn how to talk to you customers, interact and nurture those relationships, because they will be the key to your success.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
I wouldn’t say there is one person I take inspiration from, there are so many snippets from those around me and public figures I choose to take inspiration from (and equally traits to avoid), but seeing those who, in whatever situation they may be in, are making the most of each day, treasuring life and what it has to offer and challenging themselves as they go inspire me so much.
My biggest inspiration always has been, and always will be, nature. Just completely stepping away from everything manmade and bringing it back to basics is when I always feel my most free, and my mind is at its most creative, especially when Rolo my dog is in tow with me too.
What’s your favourite vegan meal or recipe?
Oh there are so many! At the moment I’m obsessed with this Indonesian tempeh curry that is served at a street food market in the week in Farringdon, London. Then there is Fed, an all vegan Italian restaurant in Dalston where if I could live there, I would – their vegan carbonara and pizzas are literally out of this world. And at home I love making homemade cashew nut milk curries at the moment, and fresh spring rolls with satay sauce. OK I’m going to have to go an eat everything now…