Vegan Biz Profile: My Vegan Baker

2 Comments

Our seventh entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is My Vegan Baker, a Northern Virginia-based vegan baking business started by Kristin Stolz. I had the chance to taste some of her baked goods when she was getting started a few years ago, and let me tell you: they’re good.

Tell us about My Vegan Baker. What inspired you to start it?

I started My Vegan Baker two years ago shortly after moving here from Los Angeles. I wasn’t finding vegan options in Northern Virginia and I thought if I am looking, others are looking, too. I’ve always baked and one day a friend was telling me how good something I made her was and that was it. I started the long paperwork process that day.

Do baked goods make good holiday presents?

Baked goods make great presents! Who wouldn’t like a box of delicious mint chocolate chip brownies, tasty oatmeal bars, or even a cake? Vegans like quality baked goods as much as their non-vegan counterparts. This is the perfect time of year to show someone you care by giving the gift of tasty treats. They’re perfect for teachers, too. They probably don’t need another mug or apple ornament. But, a tasty gift they can share with others… now that’s something they would love.

Do you offer a vegan fruitcake?

While I don’t do a vegan fruitcake, I do take special orders. I do make an amazing vegan kransekake (see picture). This Norwegian delight is delicious. It’s made from almonds and is fun to share. A great conversation piece and fun for a party. If you’re looking for something you don’t see on the menu, just ask. Which leads to the next question.

What items do you offer that are particularly unique?

Vegan whoopie pies. Delicious.

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

Another great vegan business is Arbonne. They offer botanically-based, certified vegan skin care, anti-aging, detoxification, nutrition, weight loss, and cosmetics. Everything is formulated in Switzerland and made in the US. This is important as Switzerland has such high standards relating to what goes into personal care products. Arbonne does not use parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, mineral oil, or other harmful chemicals. You can find them at www.arbonne.com. Their products need to be purchased through an independent consultant, of which I am one. I have used the products for years and believe in them. They also have a baby line which is so important, especially in light of the lawsuit pending with Johnson and Johnson and the ingredients in their baby products.

Vegan Biz Profile: Nice Shoes

Our sixth entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is Nice Shoes, an all-vegan shoe store in Vancouver, BC owned and operated by Joanne Chang (pictured, hugging shoes).

Tell us about Nice Shoes.

We are the first all vegan shoe store in Vancouver, BC Canada. We sell online as well as at our store located on Fraser Street & 19th Avenue. We’re vegan/activist owned and operated. We exist mainly to fill a void in the Canadian vegan community (oh and of course to CRUSH the leather industry!!). Prior to our opening, Canadians have to go across the border to get decent vegan footwear or order online and pay a bunch of unnecessary customs fees and shipping. To ease the burden on Canadian shoppers, we offer free shipping across Canada for any orders over $100.

What great new items do you have for people buy this holiday season?

There’s too much to mention! Our hottest sellers right now are the Snug Boots by Vegetarian Shoes, they’re basically Ugg boots without the cruelty. Harvey’s Seat Belt Bags are beautiful purses made of seat belts. Jaan no silk satin skinny ties. Dansko rain shoes – perfect for the rainy Vancouver weather and approved by the American Podiatric Association for comfort. We also have great stocking stuffers like A Sent of Scandal Candles, Go Max Go chocolate bars and Truth belts.

You can check out our full Holiday Gift Guide here!

What’s been the biggest challenge of being a vegan retailer that sells online as well as at a brick-and-mortar shop?

Each aspect presents a different challenge. As a brick-and-mortar, we had to find a an affordable location within the city of Vancouver. This means opening up shop in a non-shopping district. Although we are on a major bus route and within 10 minutes walking distance from a very popular shopping area (Main Street), people have trouble wrapping their heads around coming here to shop. We also do not get much foot traffic.

As an online retailer, we find that people are apprehensive about shopping online for shoes due to the fit. In order to ease the minds of our customers, we offer free shipping and one free ship back for size exchanges. It’s not a profit making offer, but we are happy to help our customers get what they need.

There’s got to be a story behind the guitar straps in your store. They have their own specific top-level category in the shop and you have 12 options! Are you aiming to be the world’s foremost retailer of vegan guitar straps?

Actually, there’s not much behind it! We (my husband & I) have been vegans for nearly 20 years and Couch Guitar Straps is just one of those companies that has been around since the days when only a handful of vegan businesses existed. Couch straps and belts are hand sewn by vegan guitarists in downtown LA and they use upcycled car seat vinyl – how cool is that? They make such cool guitar straps, we can’t help wanting all of them. We also hear all the time from our guitar playing customers that it’s nearly impossible to find vegan guitar straps. So this is a win-win!

Tell us about a favorite vegan shop of yours that others may not know about.

I’d like to give a plug to a soon-to-be vegan shop. In 2012, Fairy Cakes, a vegan cupcake store is going to open up two doors down from us! Besides being vegan, Fairy Cakes caters to people with food allergies. And for the salt lovers, they will also be carrying savory cupcakes!

That said, if anyone out there would like to join us on Fraser Street, we are not opposed to the idea of being a part of a Canadian vegan mini mall. Just thought I’d throw this out there…

Vegan Biz Profile: Sarah’s Place

4 Comments

Our fifth entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is Sarah’s Place, the cute little vegan curio shop in Victoria, BC run by vegan cookbook author extraordinaire, Sarah Kramer.

Tell us about Sarah’s Place.

Sarah’s Place is the world’s smallest (I think) vegan curio shop – located in the heart of downtown Victoria. The shop measures in at a scant 7.5 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The boutique is a collection of some of my favourite vegan items. I carry pottery by Jeanette Zeis, clothing by Bernie Dexter, Hemp Hoodlamp winter jackets, Zimt chocolates, Estrella Soap, New Moon Kitchen cookies, etc., etc. I could make a long list :) If you can’t come to Victoria to visit, you can always visit the online version of Sarah’s Place store and check out all the items. I ship world-wide!!

What are some great new items folks can purchase from you as holiday gifts?

I have tons of yummy treats for stocking stuffers and/or I highly recommend Earth’s Herbal Teas as a stocking stuffer. They are wildcrafted by my dear friend Lily Fawn here in Victoria and all the teas have a medicinal quality to them as well as being super tasty.

For kids either or both of The Monkey Bunch music cd’s. Kids go crazy for The Monkey Bunch!! For the man in your life … a Hoodlamp P-Coat would be great! A purse always makes a great gift! If you’re looking for someone who likes to have fun in the kitchen then the Spirooli Slicer is perfect and of course … you could always get them a cookbook. I can think of 4 that I would highly recommend. :)

The one thing I DON’T carry at my shop is my new iPhone/iPad app called GoVegan! w/Sarah Kramer. It’s weird to have a product that I can’t physically touch or hand to someone. It’s available at Itunes and you can “gift it” to anyone you know who has an iPhone/iPad. We’re hoping to have a version of it available for androids very soon.

I love how your shop is so physically tiny – what are some benefits (and drawbacks) of taking a small, carefully curated approach like that?

Me too. I love my little store … it’s the shape of a shoebox and one side of the store is all windows. It’s like I’m in a human sized aquarium. The benefits are the rent. It’s expensive to rent a space in the downtown retail core of Victoria and so this tiny shop is affordable to me. It’s such a unique space that I initially had some issues with where to put everything but after a trip to Ikea for shelving and using some of the store’s vertical space to showcase the clothing… it feels small in here but not cramped. Although on a Saturday afternoon when everyone is in here shopping … having more then 6 people in here can feel tight. :)

The only downsize is that I would like to carry more products and just don’t have the room … but I wasn’t sure what the feedback would be for the store so I thought I should start small and see how it goes. I am in absolute shock at the response to the store. I’ve been busy since the first day I opened my doors and I am so grateful for all the people (local and from out of town) that come and visit me.

Has any actor from Sleepaway Camp ever purchased something from your store or one of your books?

OH MY GOD! Why are you asking me about Sleepaway Camp? [Ed. note: This is why.] Did you feel that chill run up my back?? I saw that movie in the theater when I was a kid and I almost shit my pants I was so scared … I don’t want to ruin the ending for anyone but the twist in the end scared me to my core. I can’t even think about that movie without feeling scared … ahhhhh! Next question!!

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

Well I of course love the crew at Herbivore Clothing. I’ve been long-time friends with them and they are such good people. I also love VX in London and have worked with Secret Society of Vegans for years. They did the graphics on Vegan A Go-Go and also my 2010/2011 Calendar. I LOVE the ladies at Moo Shoes and of course Food Fight, Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, etc., etc. As for new places – there’s a new Vegan Shoe store in Victoria that just opened up called VShoen. I can’t go in there anymore because I always walk out with a pair of shoes. *laugh*

Vegan Biz Profile: Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe

2 Comments

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

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.