Hello, I have a lot of respect for people who try to start vegan shoe companies. I once tried to start one myself. It was not easy to find the right manufacturer. To be fully transparent, it was very difficult. The samples they made were all wrong. It is hard work. One of the shoes I wanted to make was desert boots. They are a really great style.
They look amazing on men. And very cool on women.
Enter a man by the name of Mark Bryceland who has made us some cool vegan desert boots and made a great vegan company to go along with them by the name of Hooves. I love the name. How cute. He has made a kickstarter campaign that is ending very shortly to get this off the ground. If you support his campaign, you will receive an adorable pair of desert boots. He already has the samples made. Check out his kickstarter vid. Mark is a very nice person and told me he reads the blog and was a fan–how sweet. He asked if I wanted to do a giveaway and I said I would like to interview him instead and learn about his entrepreneurial journey. He is one of us, searching the web for cool vegan shoes and coming up with hemp twigs…but he took matters into his own hands. I respect that. So without further ado…
10 Questions for Mark Bryceland, the Creator of Hooves Vegan Shoes
1. Could you say a little about yourself in your own words? My name is Mark Bryceland, founder of Hooves. I care deeply about animal welfare and I hope that by providing animal friendly footwear alternatives to leather and suede, Hooves can change minds and help reduce the suffering and exploitation of animals worldwide. That is what motivates me.
2. Why did you decide to start this company? Since deciding to stop wearing leather it’s been difficult to find non-leather footwear that both looks good and is affordable. And after wearing plimsolls for two years, even through two particularly cold London winters, I decided to start my own vegan shoe company and make the kind of shoes that I wanted to wear. (Enjoy this Steve McQueen desert boot inspiration pic)
3. Are you a vegan or vegetarian, and if so, how did you learn about it and decide to become one? Growing up, some of my friends were inspired to become vegetarians by Morrissey and The Smiths’ ‘Meat is Murder’ album. It was only years later, when my vegetarian flatmate and I cooked for each other, I realised that I no longer ate much meat nor missed it. I never really made a conscious decision to stop eating animals but just drifted slowly into vegetarianism over a period of years. Although, during this time, I did start to wake up and become sensitised to the unimaginable scale of suffering inflicted upon animals by humans. The transition to veganism was different in that I made a conscious decision in 2008, after reading Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics, to start avoiding animal products altogether. 4. Was it very difficult to start this company? (I know from personal experience starting a vegan shoe company is not easy, I tried and failed myself ha) Getting started has had its difficulties, but it has been a lot of fun too. Seeking out manufacturers, sourcing materials, and settling on a particular design was both frustrating at times yet enjoyable and rewarding at others. Organisation, motivation and time are all important factors in starting a business as, with any business, there are lots of things to do. Some of them are fun and interesting like visiting a photographer, modelling in T-shirts and making the Kickstarter video. But many tasks are not such fun. For example, I’ve spent hours cropping photos, inputting shipping rates into the website and keeping spreadsheets. But it’s been good for the soul. I’ve honestly enjoyed the whole process and the feeling of working towards launching my own shoe brand has been very satisfying. And now that Hooves is just about to launch, I feel the real hard work is just about to begin.
5. What was a low point for you in your journey to start a biz. Did you ever feel like giving up? I’m generally pretty optimistic and thick skinned so I never felt like giving up. There have been plenty of setbacks, discouragements, disappointments and obstacles along the way even though Hooves is only just starting out! Finally finding the right product and manufacturer generated a lot of enthusiasm and momentum to keep going. 6. Were there any exhilarating high points for you? Every day brings high points at the moment! Our Kickstarter campaign has just launched and will close in the first days of March 2014. We’re generating a lot of interest and receiving a lot of positive and encouraging feedback, which is very pleasing. I’m really pleased too with the quality of the boots and it’ll be a real high to see people wearing them about town.
7. What are your visions of the company for the future? My ultimate aims when starting out were to show others that there are alternatives to wearing leather. I also wanted to change minds about animal friendly footwear just by manufacturing great quality, genuinely attractive and keenly priced products. I don’t see Hooves having a large product range. Rather, I’d prefer to focus on offering a few classic staples that are widely and perennially popular. Ideally, Hooves will become a well established provider of animal friendly shoes, not just to vegetarians and vegans, but to everyone everywhere.
8. How did you decide on Desert boots? I bought my first pair of Desert Boots when I was 17 and wore out many pairs until I decided to stop wearing leather and suede in 2008. Launching Hooves with the Desert Boot wasn’t a difficult decision to make. The Desert Boot is my favourite footwear design and it felt like a natural and personal choice. Desert Boots have been popular for decades. They are stylish, smart and casual all at the same time and look great with just about anything. I’ve been wearing a sample pair every day for months and they still look and feel great.
9. What are some of your other interests and hobbies? I’m a music fanatic. I play guitar and love listening to music from Indie to Jazz and Exotica at the moment. I also volunteer regularly for a local no-kill cat charity in London, which rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes hundreds of cats and kittens every year. I run, work out and play tennis regularly too and have taken part in a couple of fundraising half-marathons for the charity over the last two years. I’m hoping to run the London Marathon for them one day soon.
10. What do you think about the state of vegan shoes, as a former vegan shoe blogger I’d love to hear your thoughts We live in an age where there are so many vegan options; yet, in my experience, buying animal friendly shoes always seems to involve some compromise between affordability, quality and aesthetic appeal, especially for men. Admittedly there are more attractive, good quality non-leather shoes out there at the moment than ever before, I’d say. But they can also be quite expensive, which is understandable given the generally small scale of the businesses. There are also plenty of options in the form of nice, inexpensive plimsolls by Vans and Superga and trainers are increasingly being manufactured using synthetics. It’s difficult for vegan shoe companies to thrive in what is already a niche market with so many mass-produced alternatives available. That doesn’t mean small companies like Hooves can’t establish themselves in this climate, but it does mean we have to work harder. Thank you very much, Mark. I like hearing that every vegan shoe lover is still having difficulty finding cool vegan shoes. There is a lot of room for us to grow. It is very exciting. I am very excited to have this great new vegan shoe company on the horizon. Go to the kickstarter to get a pair of desert boots and support Hooves.