In the world of vegan shoes, pickin’s seem to be slim, but with the opening of an all vegan shoe store in Vancouver, Canadian’s need not look any further for some stylish cruelty-free kicks. After spending a little too much time surfing Nice Shoes website and finding multiple shoes that I now apparently “Need”, I was lucky enough to interview Joanne Chang, one of the co-owners of Nice Shoes and find out what trials and tribulations there are involved with opening a vegan shoe store.
How long have you been vegan? What made you adopt a vegan lifestyle?
I’ve been vegan for 18 years.
I was vegetarian 5 years before fully committing to the vegan lifestyle. I was buying organic and free range milk and eggs and feeling good about my choices. One day while standing in front of a giant refrigerated case looking at thousands of eggs in cartons, I thought to myself “I wonder what happens to all the hens when they get too old to lay eggs”. This prompted me to write a letter to one of the free range brands I purchased my eggs from. A few weeks later, I received a letter in the mail and the farmer informed me that all his hens were sent to slaughter after they stopped producing eggs. That letter started me (for the last time) on the journey of veganism.
When did you open Nice Shoes and how has the response been since opening?
We opened in March of 2011. The response has been quite positive so far. Before we opened, Canadians had to rely on ordering shoes from US & UK and get dinged by postage and customs fees. Now Canadians across the country can enjoy free shipping and not have to worry about paying postage. For those from Vancouver (where our store front is located), there’s the added bonus of being able to try on the shoes before buying!
What inspired you to open a vegan shoe store?
As I’ve mentioned above, it was just really inconvenient for vegans and vegetarians to shop for shoes in Canada. It often felt like people are being punished for making compassionate choices and that really isn’t right. We want to give compassionate Canadians access to the same things that meat eaters have without having to jump though hoops. We believe that having more access to everyday things really helps normalize veganism.
When first opening your store, were there many challenges you had to face to get it up and running?
There were minor challenges here and there but none that were unsolvable. We are extremely lucky to live in a community of vegans from all walks of life who want this community to succeed more than anything else. As a result, for every challenge we faced, we were able to find a eager expert who guided us in the right direction.
Being a unique business, did you find you had a lot of success upon opening or was it more gradual?
We’ve only been open for a year and a half so the word “success” is not yet in our vocabulary. We will let you know in a few more years! However, we have seen a gradual upwards movement as we become more established in the community and as more people find out about us.
What did you do before opening Nice Shoes?
I was working in Human Resources and Staffing for about a decade. My husband still works as a Fundraising Consultant, web developer & graphic designer.
From your experience of running a successful business, what advice could you pass along to others interested in following a similar path?
As I’ve mentioned before, we are not yet successful. However, I would advise everyone simply to follow your hearts and don’t allow fear to hold you back from doing something you truly want to do to make a difference in the world.
What are your most popular items?
Describe what a typical day is like in your life:
I start off the day feeding, medicating and playing with my house hold of adopted and fostered animals. Then I make a green smoothie with lots of veggies and fruits for breakfast. I go to the post office to mail out any online orders that came in the previous day, pick up some lunch at the grocery store and pick up pet supplies (if necessary). I get to the store around 10 am and start to sweep, mop and dust. Open the store at 11am. Then help customers, respond to emails, pay bills, do inventory, order products, price merchandise, manage our Facebook page etc. We close at 6pm and I take out the garbage, go to the bank and go home. My very sweet husband usually has dinner ready by the time I get home even though he just spent a whole day working at the office. We eat, relax, play with our animals and go to bed.
Who are some people that inspire you?
I’m inspired by every human on this planet who is doing something to help animals.
How do you respond to negative comments from those critical of a vegan lifestyle – both online and in the real world?
I try to focus on the positive and not get too hung up on winning debates. We only have so many hours in a day and so many things we can focus on. Focusing on critics can be a real time suck. Being vegan makes me happy and so I choose to give my attention to people who are making the vegan lifestyle a happy and positive experience.
What vegan products have you discovered that you simply couldn’t live without?
Currently I’m obsessed with coconut water and Matt & Nat handbags!
What can we expect to see in the future for Nice Shoes?
We’re always working on expanding our shoe selection. So please expect more shoes!
Tell us a little about yourself & fill in the blank:
I am happiest when… I’m cuddling with a fur baby.
My biggest pet peeve is…the misuse of the word “myself”.
My favorite meal currently is… homemade burritos. My husband and I love to make everything from scratch including the tortilla!
If I could have a free dinner anywhere, it would be…Candle 79
The number one place I would like to go on vacation would be…Hawaii
Not only does Nice Shoes carry a great selection of vegan shoes for both guys and gals, but they also carry books, belts, bags, socks, you name it! You can say hello to Joanne and all their beautiful shoes at their storefront located at: