Changing the world one step at a time
When Justin Mead decided to become vegan 17 years ago, he struggled to find ethical and sustainable fashion in Australia. A trip to South America and Europe showed him it was possible to find good quality stylish vegan shoes and that’s when he realised there was a gap in the Australian market.
“When I became vegan in 2001, I found it tough to find footwear to my taste, so I made do with products that were more functional than stylish. In 2009 my partner and I traveled around the world and came across so many exciting vegan fashion products that were missing in Australia, so when we got back, we made a plan to bring them here.”
Despite the growing awareness, Mead says even among the vegan community there is confusion around what makes a shoe ‘Vegan’. Veganism is not just about food. According to the Vegan Society, “veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.
In 2010, Justin launched Vegan Style, an ethical shoe and accessories business. In the beginning, he only intended to be an online business, so all the products were stored in his spare bedroom at home. But as the business grew, he opened their first boutique on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy in 2016.
Today, Vegan Style’s product range includes shoes, handbags, briefcases, backpacks, wallets, belts, socks t-shirts and cruelty-free skin- care products and cosmetics.
In addition to stocking international vegan brands, Justin established his own in-house brand, Zette Shoes, named after his sassy and savvy cat. “She’s Vegan Style’s real CEO,” Justin jokes.
- A vegan shoe is one that’s made without any animal derived components, which includes the upper, insoles, outsoles, glues, dyes, reinforcement parts and more.
- Vegan brands like Vegan Style ensure all components are cruelty-free and not made from any animal derived materials. They also care about people, the environment and making products of the highest quality.
- Many vegan “leathers” are made in self-contained, non-polluting factories.
- Steadily improving technology means more and more non-leather materials are sustainable (recycled, recyclable, biodegradable yet durable).
The keys to sustainable growth
“GetCapital have been great at adapting their products to suit our business needs as we’ve grown over the years,” he says.
Justin believes that a lot of small businesses are nervous about finance, so they avoid it. “I think you get to a point where you need finance to help your growth”, he says.
“What we’re increasingly doing is sourcing products from factories directly so that we’re building our own brand. And that’s where we’ve needed a lot of upfront capital because the minimum order quantities are a lot bigger when you order just from brands directly.”
Initially Justin started out with a Flexible Business Loan from GetCapital. In time, as Vegan Style was importing more products from overseas and business needs changed, they set up an Import Line of Credit facility to pay international suppliers directly.
Long-term business goals
As the business grows, Justin continues his mission of making the world a better place by bringing high-quality non-leather footwear and accessories to thoughtful Australians.
“Our business has an ethical focus, so we feel like we’re helping to change the world and make the world a better place. With finance it gives us the opportunity to develop the business and build a better world.”