November 30, 2013
By Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer
From Hanukkah and Christmas to New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, the winter months involve a lot of gift giving. If you’re going to be spending your hard-earned cash on hostess gifts and presents, why not double your generosity? Shop at Herbivore Clothing Company online or at their store on SE Stark in Portland. Not only do they stock their shelves with vegan and sweatshop-free items, the owners Michelle and Josh donate money and products to numerous causes.
For example, they recently raised $20,000 for three animal sanctuaries by joining a few other conscientious businesses and donating 10% of sales. This particular fundraiser began five years ago as a 100-mile bike ride Josh would do to raise money and awareness and has generated $125,000 since its inception. This is just one example of Michelle and Josh’s generosity and commitment to a cruelty-free world.
So, while you’re selecting sleek handbags, the most recent vegan cookbook, earrings, and a few thought-provoking t-shirts, you’re also helping fund good causes.
Speaking of t-shirts, Josh has a knack for coming up with attractive images and sayings that get to the heart of the matter. He explained to me, for example, about the new slogan “Eat no harm”: “No one is going to say ‘eat harm.’ You can’t argue with it.” This saying, like the cow-hugger design and “Bacon had a mom” offer important messages softly.
Bolder options abound as well. As Josh says, “I respond well to strong voices and being told the truth in a powerful way. I don’t need to be hugged and have my head patted.”
During the eleven years Herbivore has been in business, they’ve watched vegan culture evolve. “It’s more mainstream,” Michelle said. They recently had to build more bookshelves to make room for vegan cookbooks because it’s become such a good market for publishers. Although they’d like to see mostly vegan authors, “Big-time meaty chefs” are doing vegan books as well, Josh said.
Michelle and Josh are also publishing new book, a guide for the “new ethical vegan” available in 2015 by Book Publishing Company titled Eat Like You Give a Damn (which is my personal favorite of their slogans).
This incredibly busy couple also raise a daughter and attend at least fifteen veg fests around the nation each year. I wanted to know the secret to their success, so I asked what advice they might have for other vegan entrepreneurs.
Without hesitation, Michelle said, “Do it! Don’t think that you can’t. We were so scared. You should be scared of investments or taking a plunge, but if you really believe in it, others will too.”
Josh agreed, then added a tip that their company exemplifies, “Think of it as activism before a business. It’s not just a market, it’s a cause, and if you make money, you can do more activism. It’s about spreading a message. Being an ethical business and giving a lot is the only way to do it.”
If running your own business and changing the world sounds a bit daunting, I suggest you follow my advice: stop by the store, say hello to whoever is behind the counter, and enjoy an hour browsing, trying on a few things for yourself, and filling your basket with gifts for everyone else. Afterward, reward yourself for avoiding materialism in favor of activism by stopping in next door at Sweet Pea for dessert and a little caffeine.
Northwest VEG members get 10% anything in the store! To keep up on Herbivore events sign up for their newsletter here. To shop online, click here.