An interview with Votch founder Laura Stageman

I love discovering brands that live and breathe vegan values, and it’s great to meet the people who are putting themselves out there and making changes in the world. One such trailblazer is Votch founder Laura Stageman, the entrepreneur behind the stylish vegan watch brand. I’ve been lucky enough to hear the story of Laura’s journey and am delighted to share with you the things that inspired her to create the PETA award-winning vegan business.

Votch founder Laura with Rolo

Interview Questions

TVE: How and when did you come up with the idea to create Votch?

LS: A few years back I was struck down by a condition called Topical Steroid Withdrawal, which left me bed and bath bound for several months and I had to quit work during this period. As a documentary fanatic, I spent my days absorbing as many documentaries as I could to keep my mind stimulated and to try to take away from the pain I was suffering. I really focussed on animal welfare as it had always been something I had been deeply passionate about, and I became very aware about how animal skins, leather and fur were produced. The condition I was suffering saw my skin fall off my entire body, and I made the decision there and then that I didn’t want to be responsible for wearing someone else’s When I got better, I just knew I had to create and do something that aligned with my passion for animal welfare, but where I could also give back and help charities too. So when an old watch strap broke, and finding a vegan leather replacement was nigh impossible, the idea for Votch was born. High quality watches, with high quality vegan leather straps and 10% of the profits donated to our charity of the season every 3 months.

TVE: Why do you think it so important for consumers to stay clear of leather?

LS: Our society is based on the whole ‘fast fashion’ notion, and seldom do we consider what is behind that £20 ‘real leather bag’. Every year over a billion animals are slaughtered for leather, and some of the largest exporters are from countries where there are little to no animals welfare laws. People often presume leather is just a byproduct of the meat and dairy industry, but this is not the case, and often it’s not just cows that are slaughtered for their skins, it can be cats, dogs, to name but a few species too. But it’s not also just the animals we’re harming, also in some countries the conditions of tanneries are so toxic not only to the people working in them, but also their surrounding environment where chemicals get in to the water supply and people are washing and drinking from this. I also find it particularly alarming that as a society, we’re largely quick to shun fur, but leather is deemed acceptable. This makes no sense to me now, skin is skin. So we try to make the difference to show people that you can go cruelty free without sacrificing anything, there are plenty of other alternatives and options out there these days for anything.

TVE: You donate a portion of your profits to charities – which charities are you currently supporting?

LS: We donate 10% of our profits back to a different charity every 3 months, and we are currently working with BAWA who are based in Bali. We decided to partner with a charity in Bali after learning about them on our recent honeymoon. We spent the day with the team and learnt about all the incredible work they do for the animals of Bali and beyond. As a global brand it’s important for us to support causes all over the world, and we’re so happy to be able to help in the small way that we can.

TVE: Has veganism always been a big part of your life?

LS: My respect for animals has always been there. I was 9 when that rumour went around school that cow toenails went in to burgers…I was eating a burger and thought I saw a toe nail. I was young at the time but I instantly made that connection. Veganism for me was a journey like most people and was a long time vegetarian before going vegan over a year ago now. Now it is completely normal to me and my husband and I live in a completely cruelty free home together.

Votch watches

TVE: What is life like now that you have your own business?

LS: It’s a constant rollercoaster, every day is different, sometimes so many things will happen in one day, you win a PETA award, you get a new supplier, you see your watch featured in a really cool magazine. Then sometimes it’s quieter and you can feel a bit lost. It’s 24/7, when it’s your baby, for me it’s all I can think about – what we can do next, where we can take the business…I go to bed thinking about Votch and wake up thinking about it. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, you are in control of your businesses destiny and that can only be determined by the work you put in.

TVE: Wise words. Do you have any other advice for other budding wellness entrepreneurs?

LS: Seek support, it’s not easy in the beginning and I highly recommend a mentor to voice ideas to and to also make sure you’re covering all grounds. If you have an idea in your head, you just have to go for it, make sure you don’t sit back one day and think ‘what if’, that’s the only way you can let yourself down.

TVE: What are your future ambitions for Votch?

LS: To grow the range and to be stocked worldwide on a larger scale than already. We’re constantly seeking the latest, most innovative fabrics we can use as well as expanding in to other areas. 

TVE: What are your dreams for the future of Votch?

LS: I want to grow Votch as much as possible into a global brand, to make cruelty free and conscious accessories, without compromising on style and quality, available to everybody.

TVE: What are some of your favourite vegan brands?

LS: I love Matt & Natt for bags and shoes and also Lee Coren too. I find the website Unicorn Goods fantastic as it offers a whole world of vegan goodies!

TVE: Do you have a vegan top tip you can share with us?

LS: I love going to Vevolution events and networking with all the other vegans in the area where I live! Seeing so many compassionate people all under one roof makes me believe anything is possible in our combat for compassion! So my advice would be to get involved, the louder we are together, the more we will be heard.

A big thanks to Laura for sharing the story behind Votch. You can check out the Votch website and social channels below to find out more about the gorgeous product range…

www.votch.co.uk

Votch on Twitter

Votch on Facebook

As more people embrace a vegan lifestyle, more amazing ethical, vegan or sustainable business startups are blossoming. If you’ve ever attended these vegan or fitness festival you’ll have no doubt noticed many new brands. I find it so inspiring to see people like Laura turning their passions into products and businesses that give back, and have ethics and welfare at their core. I really think it is so important that we support and reward brands who are creating cruelty-free products.  With Valentines Day and Mother’s Day both coming up, a gorgeous vegan watch is a great gift idea that is definitely on my shopping list.

Ruth x

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