How To Make A Luxury Vegan Shoe

On my radio show, Launch Pad, airing weekly on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School, I talk with entrepreneurs about their startups, and once a month I choose an Elevator Pitch Of The Month. This month my selection is Stacey Chang, founder of VEERAH. Listen to our in-depth, half hour conversation here.

First of all, here’s founder Stacey Chang’s elevator pitch for VEERAH:

“Veerah is inspired by women, made for warriors. We are a mission-driven luxury shoe company founded for women to conquer the world in style and make a positive impact. Veerah is PETA approved vegan. All of our shoes are responsibly sourced and meticulously crafted without compromising quality and style. We are proud that we are the only luxury shoe brand that offers high fashion, high function and high impact. Our founding principle is to do good, look incredible.” Listen to Stacey give her elevator pitch.

One of the big things that I wondered about VEERAH shoes is how Stacey got them made, especially when she was starting out.

During our conversation, Stacey walked me through her process of finding factories willing to work with her—with the low numbers associated with any new venture, plus the unusual and new materials Stacey needed for vegan shoes, and her insistence on superlative craftsmanship—and I think her story is both fascinating and really useful for other entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out how to approach factories.

Her first step was to actually pitch to factory owners, so that she could explain her vision and her plans. “I put together a presentation deck. I don’t think they see that often inside the factories, right?” Stacey explains. “I showed them how I see our business from today to year five. And I showed them today we have something unique and proved to them that there is a need in the marketplace and how I envision that we can grow long term.”

I love this. We think of sales and marketing as pitching to consumers or to channel partners or investors, but in this case, Stacey really had to market her vision and her company to the manufacturer.

She found that some factory owners were really receptive to her ideas. “I just want to make the best shoes possible,” Stacey says. “So for the factories it's also very refreshing. Right? At the end of the day they want to make good shoes too. So to have someone come in really thinking about I want to make better shoes, better for the environment, and I want to become a global brand eventually, and have them join me to start this journey with me.”

There are a couple of takeaways from Stacey’s story for other entrepreneurs, I think. One is the importance of sharing your vision, so that what might have been just a working relationship becomes a true partnership. Another is the importance of persistence—Stacey talked to a lot of factories before finding the right ones, and she emphasized over and over that it was “a long process.”

If you keep trying, and if you’re willing to work hard to sell people on your vision, you can get anything made—even luxury vegan shoes that are both comfortable and beautiful.

Karl Ulrich is Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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