JAN 24, 2021
Behind the Brand: Get to Know Chief Warrior Stacey Chang
Founder & Chief Warrior Stacey Chang talks about becoming an entrepreneur,
lessons learned, dreaming long term, and finding balance.
Our Founder & Chief Warrior Stacey Chang recently chatted with Jennifer Huang, curator of Paperclip Jenn. Jenn created paperclipjenn as an inspirational notebook dedicated to curious minds, creating events, sharing founders’ journeys covering travel, sustainability, and wellness. To learn more about Jenn’s work, check out her website www.paperclipjenn.com (@paperclipjenn).
Stacey wearing MULAN in our fulfillment center
Who is Stacey Chang? Tell us a little about yourself!
I am the Founder and Chief Warrior of VEERAH (@veerahofficial), a designer vegan footwear brand based in NYC. I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan and when I was 15, I came to the U.S. for boarding school. After graduation, I went to Boston University, and after college, I moved to NYC where I worked at Coach Inc. HQ with various roles in International Sales, Merchandise Planning and Material Management. I loved my time in NYC, but decided to get my MBA at Wharton. After business school, I wanted to be a part of the growth taking place in Asia and landed a role with The Estée Lauder Companies Asia Pacific HQ in Hong Kong. Eventually, I left corporate America and began to work on my own venture and learned about shoemaking in Italy, Singapore, Taiwan, and China. I launched VEERAH at the end of 2016. Before the coronavirus, I was splitting my time between NYC and Asia. When I am not working, I enjoy trail running, triathlon and marathon races, playing with my dogs, and listening to podcasts. I find these activities help to eliminate stress and create balance in my life.
Why did you decide to embark upon an entrepreneurial path to create this company?
I love shoes, but I was frustrated by the lack of options in the marketplace to serve modern women’s fast-paced, dynamic, and conscientious lifestyles. As a socially and environmentally conscious woman, I felt that there had to be a way to find a balance between style and conscience. I didn't want to sacrifice style for a plant-based lifestyle, and I also don't want to hurt any life for the sake of beauty.
VEERAH, derived from the Sanskrit word for warriors, represents our drive to recognize the warrior spirit within all of us, and to serve women who balance strength and femininity everyday. VEERAH shoes are inspired by women, made for warriors. I created VEERAH to merge style, quality, compassion, and functionality for women today (who we refer to as #VEERAHwarriors). I am so excited about what we have developed and I hope that VEERAH fills that void for so many women out there who are looking for a better way to align their closets with their values. We promise to always “Do Good + Look Incredible.”
Stacey finished the Iron Girl triathlon in Venus
Stacey in Vicky with her beloved rescue dog, Dou-Le, which means “a lot of happiness” in Mandarin.
AS THE FOUNDER OF A VEGAN SHOE BRAND, ARE YOU ALSO A VEGAN? DID THAT PATH COINCIDE WITH STARTING THE BUSINESS OR WERE YOU ALWAYS A VEGAN?
While all of the materials that we use to make VEERAH products are strictly vegan, I do not profess to be the perfect vegan. ( for example: there are a few definitions of veganism depending on where you are in the world, such as an even stricter Buddhist edict that prohibits garlic and spring onion!), but I am doing the best I can and always thinking about the ways I can make a more positive impact, and encourage others to be more compassionate in their daily life.
I created VEERAH because I truly believe that beauty and compassion can harmoniously coexist. I strive to live in a cruelty-free world and want to make high-quality vegan fashion accessible and mainstream.
Who are your mentors?
Everyone I come across is a mentor in their own way. I gather a lot of inspiration from a diverse mix of successful people by listening to podcasts. For example, The Tim Ferriss Show by Tim Feriss and How I Built This with Guy Raz, and The Chickpeeps by Evanna Lynch which focuses on the vegan way of life. In fact, I was fortunate enough to join one of her episodes to chat about VEERAH. Another new favorite is How to Save a Planet with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Alex Blumberg. They make serious topics very approachable and actionable. The list goes on and on!
Stacey was starstruck meeting Tim Ferriss and Evanna Lynch.
Both Evanna and Stacey are in Signature Orchid Collection, crafted from recycled plastic bottles.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU ENCOUNTERED DURING THIS JOURNEY AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
Finding manufacturing partners who were capable of making beautiful shoes, and believed in our mission to create innovative, sustainable and gorgeous ones, was extremely challenging. Factory owners are like venture capitalists, I had to pitch them to work with me! Even though they’re not giving me money, they invest a tremendous amount of time and resources to work with a new brand. The effort to develop a shoe is the same whether you’re making 10 pairs or 10,000 pairs, so they want to be sure they’re backing a winner. Factories usually have minimum quantity requirements, and I wasn’t some major brand with a large order quantity. But I was also very concerned about quality control and ensuring they met my values and standards, which is to make the best shoes possible that just happen to be vegan! I think it is really important to share your vision, so what might just have been a working relationship has become a true partnership.
Stacey spends about 100 days a year inside the factory, working closely with the manufacturing partners.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO PRODUCE VEGAN SHOES AND ENTER THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION MARKET. ISN’T IT A RATHER COMPETITIVE MARKET?
I am so excited about what we have developed and I hope that VEERAH fills that void for so many women out there who are looking for a better way to align their closets with their values. Every few weeks I see a new vegan or sustainable shoe brand pop up. Yes, that’s more competition, but it also legitimizes sustainable vegan fashion. It’s becoming more and more mainstream, and that makes me feel proud.
Stacey enjoys her walk with Dou-Le in Hedy
For those who want to start a business in the sustainable fashion industry, what are some of your key tips?
I love seeing more sustainable fashion entrepreneurs making the lifestyle more approachable with more options available. However, I don’t think being sustainable is enough. The products must fulfill customers needs and the quality and aesthetics must be more superior in order to make the general public adopt them. For example, I think it is worse for the environment if you make a “sustainable” product that is uncomfortable or unattractive that no one will want to wear.
Where do you see VEERAH going in the next decade ?
What are your dreams for VEERAH?
My goal is to continue growing VEERAH and positioning it to become the #1 vegan women's footwear brand in 2021. However, my vision for VEERAH is to become a global leading fashion brand that champions sustainable and cruelty-free fashion while empowering women to make a positive impact on the environment and within their communities.