Vegan Biz Profile: Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe

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Our fourth entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, an online vegan shop based in Marietta, GA (where you can also visit their showroom). Be sure to check out their vegan holiday gift guide. Also, Ken: eating baby brains is not vegan.

Tell us about Cosmos Vegan Shoppe.

We started Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe as an online shopping destination in 2005 to help make vegan specialty products available to everyone. At the time, it was much harder to find vegan packaged foods in regular stores than it is now. But there are still lots of fun vegan specialty items we carry that you can’t find just anywhere. We also offer non-food products like books, supplements, t-shirts and jewelry.

What are some of the best new products you’ve got available for the holidays?

A big seller this time of year are the Oppenheimer white chocolate chips. They’re great for vegan holiday baking. This year we are offering locally made vegan meats from Gutenfleischer’s. I wouldn’t dream of making a vegan dressing/stuffing without the Gutenfleischer’s SG Sausage. It’s so good! We have some gorgeous necklaces from vegan artist Christy Robinson. Her work is reasonably priced and well made. And the Sjaak’s fair trade chocolates are always a hit around the holidays.

How important are the holidays to your overall yearly sales?

Holiday sales pretty much set the tone for how we start off the new year. They allow us to restock strong and bring in new products to get us through the slower season. So yes, holiday sales are really important.

How cute is that kid of yours? SERIOUSLY!

Luka is way cute, Ryan! Pretty, pretty, cute.

Tell us about the eponymous Cosmo.

Cosmo will forever be known to us as “the best cat in the world”. Moe was with us for 16 years before we lost him to cancer late last month. He was a spoiled, loved, and cherished animal. Our love for Moe is a great reminder of why we stay vegan!

Tell us about another vegan-owned business that you love that other people may not know about.

There are so many great vegan businesses, and we are glad you have profiled some of our favorites here already. We do want to mention two that may not be as well known, but totally should be: Jeanette Zeis Ceramics and Twofour Manufacturing. Jeanette and Kenn share their life and studio space together here in Atlanta. Jeanette makes beautiful hand-thrown pottery and sells it from their studio and on her Etsy shop. Kenn creates some really cool and unique screenprinted wall art, had cut wood pieces, and more, which you can find on his Etsy shop.

These two work so hard and we just love ’em!

Vegan Biz Profile: Vegan Heritage Press

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Our third entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is Vegan Heritage Press, an independent publisher of vegan cookbooks. Vegan Heritage Press is based in Virginia.


Tell us about Vegan Heritage Press.

In 2006, I decided to make a clean break from the work-a-day world and move to the mountains. I’ve worked in various aspects of book and magazine publishing for many years and I wanted to put my skills and experience to use for something positive that could make a difference in the world. As I’ve been vegan since the late 1980s, starting Vegan Heritage Press seemed like a perfect way to merge my skills with something I’m passionate about. So, in 2007 I founded Vegan Heritage Press as an independent book publishing company that would publish vegan cookbooks. By spring, VHP will have six titles in its list.

What are some of your newest releases people can pick up for the holidays?

I’m extremely excited about our two new titles: World Vegan Feast: 200 Fabulous Recipes form Over 50 Countries by vegan cooking icon, Bryanna Clark Grogan. Bryanna is a fount of knowledge and her recipes are amazing.

Our other 2011 title is The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes, a wonderfully creative book by Betsy DiJulio, Arranged by the seasons, this book helps you cook your way through the year using seasonal ingredients.

One of my goals at Vegan Heritage Press is to publish cookbooks to round out my list with books that cover a wide range of needs in the vegan community. So, for example, those who want to create vegan versions of their favorite diner food and other comfort food will enjoy American Vegan Kitchen: Delicious Comfort Food from Blue Plate Specials to Homestyle Favorites by Tamasin Noyes.

For those who need quick 15-minute pantry recipes and want to know how to eat well when the power goes out, there’s my own book, Vegan Unplugged: A Pantry Cuisine Cookbook and Survival Guide. It includes 80 great pantry recipes by Robin Robertson, who also wrote our flagship title, Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes.

In the spring, I’ll be publishing our first raw cookbook, though it will be something brand new and interesting for everyone who is raw or experimenting with raw. Stay tuned!

What kind of challenges have you faced as a small press?

As the publisher of a small press, I have to wear a lot of different hats. That can be challenging, but it’s also very rewarding and fun. I’m fortunate to work with some great freelance graphics designers, editors, proofreaders, and marketing consultants. And I enjoy the one-on-one relationships I have with our authors. Many people like the idea of working with and supporting vegan businesses.

One challenge is to resist bringing out more than two titles a year. I limit the number because I believe a title needs six months of promotion. The big publishers can’t afford to do this—they usually give a book six weeks or so, and then it’s “sink or swim.” With two titles per year, I can turn on a dime, react to market trends via the social media, and work hands-on together with the authors to spread the word about what I believe to be valuable and wonderful books.

Who’s one of your favorite cookbook authors that you haven’t worked with yet?

Is that a trick question? There are so many great cookbook authors out there, I couldn’t name just one, but it’s probably someone I haven’t met yet that will have the next great idea for a vegan cookbook. And of course, I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know the wonderful authors I’ve worked with at Vegan Heritage Press and I think of them as family. I can’t help but extend that to all vegan authors and vegans in general.

Tell us about another vegan-owned business that you love that other people may not know about.

I really like what’s being done on Vegan Etsy. It’s great to see so many talented vegans on one site. All kinds of crafts, art, jewelry. I love the images posted by Josh at the Herbivore Clothing Company about how important it is for the vegan community to support each other. And the Vegan Etsy site is a great shopping alternative for fantastic hand-crafted gifts and keeps your dollars in the vegan community.

Contest: Spencer’s Market Giveaway

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It’s been years since I’ve done a giveaway here at the blog and I miss doing it, so let’s try it again!

We’ve got a great gift basket of vegan goodies to giveaway, courtesy of Spencer’s Market, a site that offers artisanal vegan food products at huge discounts. They offer products you may have heard of, but aren’t able to get in your area as well as new items that you’ll be itching to try. It’s a great idea because it helps the companies making these products get in front of people they may not otherwise be able to while also giving us lots of awesome vegan food to put in our faces.

Spencer’s describes themselves as “a personalized food discovery service” that works to match you with foods that meet your needs. Keep in mind, all of their offerings are vegan – not just a portion. The site is kind of Groupon-esque, but they focus solely on food and connecting producers with consumers that want the items but may not be able to get them through normal means.

The Basket

Spencer’s is giving away a basket with these goodies:

  • A bag of Terra Chips
  • 6 Primal Vegan Jerky strips (various flavors)
  • 1 box of LaraBar minis
  • 1 Bag of Uncle Eddie’s Gluten Free/Vegan Cookies

How to Enter

Simple! Sign up for their site through this link.

The giveaway runs through next Friday, 11/25/2011 at 11:59pm pacific time. The winner will be chosen by random by Spencer’s.

Vegan Biz Profile: McFarland Designs

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Our second entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is McFarland Designs a one-woman handmade jewelry maker in rural Humboldt County, California.

Tell us about McFarland Designs.

Well, it’s just me, toiling away in my garage, trying to make pretty things. :-) I hand-fabricate jewelry using various types of gold and silver and ethically sourced gemstones. My specialty is custom wedding/engagement rings. 5% of my sales go to a different charity each month. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I enjoy so much (and to be able to do it in ways that have positive effects on society and the environment). Self-employment seems to suit me well, and I love working from home so I can be near my animals and human family.

What types of things do you have for people to buy from you for the holidays?

Lots of rings! (And occasionally earrings or pendants, which I’m always happy to make as custom orders.) Every year I hear from a lot of customers who are planning to propose over the holidays, so it’s usually a busy time for custom engagement rings, and I’m also working on adding some more affordable silver rings to my shop in time for holiday gift-giving. I have a lot of rings in stock right now and I’m running a sale through the end of November to try to reduce my inventory before year end – in my Etsy shop (www.mcfarlanddesigns.etsy.com), you can use coupon code ‘NOV25’ for 25% off any regularly priced in-stock ring, or ‘NOV10’ for an additional 10% off sale items. Year-round, coupon code ‘HEYIMVEGANTOO’ is the secret-vegan-handshake for 10% off anything in the shop.

Before looking at your site, I had no idea there was such a thing as “fair trade gemstones.” From your perspective, how is the adoption of fair trade practices in the jewelry industry catching on?

Slowly, but it’s happening. Due in large part to customer demand, more and more businesses are beginning to take a closer look at their sourcing. But as with many other social/green movements, there are a lot of smokescreens and conflicting information to sort through. It’s so important for consumers to do their research and ask lots of questions. I get almost all of my metal through Hoover & Strong, the industry leader in recycled precious metal refining, and the only one to be third party certified as to their products’ recycled content. Some of my gems come from Columbia Gem House, a company at the forefront in developing the fair trade gemstone movement. Others come from a small local business that deals directly with small scale miners around the world. I also work a lot with lab created stones (also called synthetic, cultured, or man-made), which are physically identical to their mined counterparts. Just as gemstones are formed in nature through heat and other forces within the earth, man-made stones are cultivated through applying similar forces within a laboratory, resulting in a stone that is optically and molecularly identical to a mined stone. Lab created stones’ main impact on the environment is in the power used to run the laboratory, an amount far less impactful than what is incurred with traditional gem mining, and without the often destructive environmental effects of the mining itself.

I want to hear more about all the animals you live with.

Where to begin… we have three dogs – two 13 year old Weim mixes that we’ve had since puppyhood, and a very sweet brindle pit/hound mix who is about 3 years old. We also have a rescued bunny rabbit, a small flock of chickens (including two roosters), two ducks, and two turkeys. The chickens and turkeys all came from Animal Place and Farm Sanctuary. Some of them are ‘spent’ factory laying hens and others are ‘broilers’ (ugh, I hate that term!). The broiler girls have some specific challenges when allowed to live out a full life – due to being genetically manipulated to grow very large very fast (and be slaughtered at a very young age), when they are granted the chance to live longer than a few months, they often have heart problems or issues with their legs due to their weight. We’ve had pretty good luck with ours – the broiler hens’ life expectancy is just 2-3 years and of the three we adopted, one died at just over three years of age and the other two are still kicking approaching four years old. The second of our two broiler turkeys just passed away, but she lived to be six, which is really good considering her genetics. I think that’s the most rewarding part for me – seeing these animals whose supposed destiny was to become Thanksgiving dinner some five years ago out on the lawn, enjoying fresh greens, sunshine, and dust baths.

Tell us about another vegan-owned business that you love that other people may not know about.

I don’t know if I can keep it to just one! I love A Scent of Scandal, and of course Herbivore Clothing Company, but maybe everyone already knows about those. I am a big fan of Etsy, and there are a lot of wonderful independent vegan sellers there – you see a list of all members of Vegan Etsy here. I also have to give love to Sjaaks Organic Chocolates – their inventory is not 100% vegan, but they do have tons of vegan options, everything is fair trade, and I believe the owners are either vegan or nearly so. I spoke with one owner recently and he told me they are definitely working towards their entire line eventually being vegan. (As an aside, I’m coordinating a holiday Sjaak’s chocolate sale for a local nonprofit I volunteer for called SpayHumboldt – if you want to try some Sjaak’s chocolates knowing that the proceeds go to a great cause, please buy them here!)

Vegan Biz Profile: Herbivore Clothing Company

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A few weeks ago, Josh at Herbivore posted a series of simple graphics promoting the importance of buying from vegan-owned businesses during the holidays. The idea is simple and elegant: if you’re buying gifts, make sure your money goes to people whose ideals you support. So, for the next month-or-so, I’m going to feature a series of profiles of vegan businesses. Some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t, and some you may have forgotten about. If you’d like to participate, drop me a note!

It makes sense that we start the series with the folks responsible for the “hey, don’t forget to buy vegan!” reminders: the kind crew at Herbivore Clothing Company.

Who are you and why do I care?

I’m Josh! We’re old friends! You… forgot?

I’m Josh Hooten! I co-founded The Herbivore Clothing Company almost 10 years ago with my partner Michelle here in sunny Portland, Oregon.

What types of great stuff do you have for people to buy from you for the holidays?

You know, we only stock stuff that we would/do use so it’s hard to pick specific items as we like it all. But some recent favorites of mine are our redesign of our Wings Are For Flying Not Frying shirt. I drew and lettered this design by hand, so that was fun for me. And we printed it with a super soft ink so it has a real cozy, vintage feel to it. I’m also really happy with our new Eat A Plant, Save A Planet design. Both of those come in a couple of versions. We also have a gigantic selection of vegan cookbooks which seems to get bigger every time the UPS driver comes. We have been cooking out of Jonie Newman’s veggie burger book, The Best Veggie Burgers On The Planet, and Julie Hasson’s latest, Vegan Diner. We are also really proud of a book we published, the Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal. And then there are always our belts, wallets, jewelry, scarves, tote bags, backpacks, courier bags, socks, art, lunchboxes, waterbottles, body care items, purses…the list goes on! And if you can’t decide on a gift, we always have gift certificates.

What inspired you to create the “buy from vegans” series you posted a few weeks ago?

That came out of a series of conversations I’ve had in the past couple of years with friends who own vegan businesses. It seems when we see each other the first thing we ask is “How are you all doing?” with a slight bit of trepidation in our voices because the economy has been down for so long and we’re all afraid for each other. I think it’s important, any time of year, to support people who support the things you believe in, but especially so during the holidays. All retailers make a good chunk of their incomes at this time of year but small shops can’t afford to market themselves like big retailers. This means we aren’t in your face all the time and aren’t bombarding you with messages to buy from us. So we lose a lot of support, I think, because we just can’t market like that (nor would most of us want to.) Small businesses also can’t compete with big retailers on price because those big places order such huge quantities they get better discounts, or better shipping rates, etc. So while you can probably save a few bucks buying a book on Amazon, they also sell stuff that violates your ethics, and I think whenever possible you should support folks who support your ethics. Also, if you buy a bunch of gifts from a vegan retailer, they won’t go out and buy hamburgers with your money, they will buy vegan food. So the money stayed, for a while longer, in ethical places. That is a big deal and worth spending a bit more for, I think.

How important are holiday sales to your business?

Holiday sales are a big deal. I don’t know what percentage of sales we make in November and December but it’s a chunk. A few years ago when the economy really sank November and December, sales wise, were totally flat. There was no boost from holiday sales and it was hard for us to keep the doors open until things picked back up in the Summer. You spend a lot of money getting your inventory up to hopefully have enough stuff to sell. So you have full shelves and no money and hope to sell a bunch before the bills come. When the holiday sales never come, you can feel your heart sink. That was terrifying as we’ve always been really careful and conservative in terms of growth and spending. (Note: This is the only place in my life I’d describe myself as a conservative. Just want to be clear there.) That felt like everything we’d worked on for years could have gone away for reasons we couldn’t control. We’d played it safe and didn’t over spend or stock a million things just to have huge selection and generally done things in a way we thought were right and then all of a sudden we were trying to figure out how to get out of our lease and who could we sublet the space to and all sorts of disaster scenarios. I’m sure a bunch of other vegan retailers were in the same boat. So holiday sales are a big deal, especially in this economy. We pulled through, obviously, but that was scary.

Tell us about another vegan-owned business that you love that other people may not know about.

We love our vegan mini-mall neighbors Food Fight Vegan Grocery, Sweetpea Baking Company, and Scapegoat Tattoo and our pals on the east coast Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe. MooShoes in NYC are awesome and were a real trailblazer in the vegan retail realm. Hardcore kids shouldn’t miss Motive Clothing on the east coast. Vaute Couture make super awesome coats. Sudo Shoes in Boston are super nice and have a great selection. Vegan Collection belts and wallets are great. Also, Never Felt Better in Sacramento. I can’t wait to visit Nice Shoes in Vancouver someday and Sarah’s Place in Victoria. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch more and I’m sure there are a ton I don’t even know about.