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How A CA-Turned-Entrepreneur Created A Line Of ‘Animal Friendly’ Shoes
By Devika Srimal Bapna:
As an animal lover and a PETA volunteer, I decided to give up leather a few years back. How leather is made, simply aches my heart. Even though it’s illegal to kill healthy young cattle in India, they are beaten, deprived of food and water, dehorned, transported in appalling conditions and tortured with iron rods. As statistics go, India produces around one billion pairs of leather shoes every year for consumption and export, and the hide from one cow produces 18 pairs of shoes. Which means 50 million cows are slaughtered for shoes!
With this knowledge, I pledged to never wear leather again but consequently, had a tough time finding good non-leather shoes that were stylish, of good quality and affordable. You could say that it was almost a light-bulb moment when I thought, “What the heck, I should start my own brand!” And that’s how ‘KANABIS‘ was born – a brand for fashionable, affordable, high quality and PETA-approved vegan footwear. The name is a play on the word cannabis (a.k.a. marijuana) since we use a lot of canvas instead of leather in our shoes, and canvas was historically made from hemp, which came from cannabis.
Crunching Numbers To Selling Shoes
The challenges, you ask? Phew, plenty and counting! We started off from the drawing room of my house and have only recently shifted to a new office in our warehouse. I didn’t ever imagine that I would have to worry about which air conditioner, fridge or printer to install but setting up something from scratch especially when expenses are on a shoestring (in our case quite literally, ha!) teaches you all this and more. Also, I don’t come from a fashion or footwear background. I am a chartered accountant and started my career at a Big Four accounting firm in London, and quit that to sell shoes! So, that was a big learning curve in itself.
Keeping It Fun
One of the things that has really worked for us, is that every shoe we sell has a quirky name with a story. Our white lacy wedges got its name from a picture we posted on Instagram, of when I first tried the sample shoe and captioned it, “having a Cinderella moment!” Instantly, we got hundreds of likes and inquiries for that ‘Cinderella shoe’. And aloha, Cinderellas came to be! Occasionally we also do giveaway contests and recently partnered with PETA to run one that asked for people’s views on animal-friendly fashion. In a sense, the role of social media has been instrumental. Starting out, our crowdfunding campaign raised over $4000, and was solely promoted via social media. In a brief span, we have crossed 17,000 followers on Facebook, and have a fast-growing Instagram following that keeps us actively engaged with our target audience. Bloggers, fans and friends have also willingly helped spread the word about us.
Excerpt from Youth Ki Awaaz blog. For full article click here.