Q&A By Suzanne Kvilhaug
For Vegan Villager
What’s the Why behind Sudo Shoes?
The Why is pretty simple. Until we opened the nearest vegan shoe store was in Manhattan! Roughly 5% of the local population identifies as vegan or vegetarian. The Boston commuting area is home to a little over 7 million people, that’s 350,000 veg folks without a shoe store, not to mention those a little farther out in New England.
What percentage of customers would you guess are vegan?
Surprisingly it’s about 50/50.
If you had a mission statement, what would it be?
I believe that most people truly live according to their principals only when doing so is made possible and practical by the society or market which they exist within. For example, if the nearest vegan shop is hundreds of miles away many people will indeed just take the next best thing, a cheap synthetic shoe likely made with animal glues, in other words not at all vegan.
If we had a mission statement it would be something like: “Sudo strives to create a market where veg minded people can easily find shoes and bags that don’t ask them to sacrifice their principals.”
Did any other vegan stores influence or inspire you?
Moo Shoes in New York City, how could it not? I just love the store and they were the pioneers, in the U.S. anyway. That’s where I bought all of my shoes…until now of course.
Ten years ago, did you imagine yourself owning a vegan shoe store?
Nope, but I did always assume that someone else would open one in Boston. It surprised me that it never happened so I decided to open Sudo.
Before opening, did you have a fear of the business failing?
I always believed that Sudo would work, if I didn’t truly believe it I never would have been able to follow through with all the various tasks and challenges required to get opened in the first place. It did work too! We’re a small team and we are always growing but Sudo was paying the bills from day one.
Do most people know that it’s an all vegan shoe store before stepping foot inside?
Yes, most do know what we’re up to, but not all! It’s funny but when you allow people to figure it out for themselves they’re almost always excited and supportive of this cool shop which they discovered, there’s a sense of being in on something. If you just blurt it out and they don’t happen to be veg they often feel immediately unwelcome.
Has Cambridge proven to be a good choice? Why or why not?
Cambridge was a great choice, the neighbors are really supportive and friendly and Cantabrigians are just very educated and conscientious people in general.
What’s the farthest anyone has traveled from to shop at Sudo?
There’s a lot of competition for that title! Boston is a big hub for international business so we regularly get people from literally the other side of the world. We have regular customers from San Francisco, Japan and many from France and the U.K.
What is the best part about owning the store?
Saving animal hides!
Along with the common assumption that synthetic shoes are automatically vegan, what are other misconceptions about vegan shoes?
I have experienced a lot of misconceptions about vegan shoes. People think that they’re saving animals if they buy vegan shoes but they are also making a much more environmentally friendly choice when they stop buying leather shoes. They often forget to take into account the impact that raising cattle has on the planet.
Also, I’ve been wearing this same pair of vegan Chelsea Boots every day for over 5 years! Vegan shoes last as long, maybe even longer than leather shoes.
What advice would you give someone opening a small vegan business?
Believe in it and hire people who believe in it. The business is most likely to succeed if it’s an extension of who you are. You should be proud of every aspect of the business, if you’re not then change something.
Sudo Shoes is located at 1771 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (Porter Square). Tel. 617.354.1771 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org