I suppose you could say that running a business - vegan or not - would be one and the same. This might be true but I'd say that having a vegan or plant-based clientele is somewhat unique in that your customers are uncompromising on one issue at least: that there be no animal products used whatsoever. On this front, I'm happy to report that we were recently awarded the PETA-Approved designation which is so exciting! In order to be designated as a PETA-Approved business, we had to sign an attestation that nothing we sell includes or promotes any animal products or by-products. SOULiers Studio exclusively sells vegan shoes for women (and maybe other products down the road - soon - stay tuned...). Ok back to business. I like lists so I'm going to enumerate a few observations I've had since launching my own business. 1. The Best Part: Being the "captain" of my own ship. This is both scary and exhilarating because you (and your partners if you have them) are making all of the decisions and you have no one to hide behind when you make mistakes. But you also get to feel an unparalleled sense of pride when you succeed. 2. The Hardest Part: Finding and connecting with your audience. While my store exclusively sells vegan goods, I'm also dedicated to ensuring that the shoes are ethically-made - in more respects than just because they are not made with animal products. I ensure that alll of the products carried at SOULiers Studio are made in factories and workshops that employ good labour practices and provide fair, living wages for its workers. And most of the shoes are handcrafted and of very high quality, meaning that they will last for several seasons. Now, all of this means that the price points are not what you'd find at a mass retail store. And this is what has proven somewhat challenging as it seems that there are a lot of vegan shoppers who balk at the higher price points and while I completely understand that not everyone can afford $200-$300 shoes, I think it's worth considering durability (i.e. how long your shoes are going to last compared to cheaper options that you'll have to replace more frequently) and ethical practices that consider the human element, not just the fact that they are vegan! I love connecting with consumers who are dedicated to ethical fashion and who are using their purchasing power by voting for better products with minimized social and environmental impacts. 3. The Most Interesting Part: I've connected with so many interesting entrepreneurs, self-made businesses, and inspiring individuals who are all advocating for a better world. Here are just a few, in no particular order:Alyssa Beltempo Slow Fashion Blogger and Stylist with an impossibly classic yet edgy aestheticOlivia Bufo, aka Lettuce Liv, vegan lifestyle and food bloggist Jillian Harris, reality TV star but more importantly, incredibly real woman who shares her life, her heartfelt stories, and her funny quips about family life and her journey towards a plant-based lifestyleErin Ireland, Food reporter and vegan advocate who posts daily food porn through her Instagram account and her website that wins for most clever name: It's To Die For4. The Most Under-Estimated Part: Running an online business is not really a "build it and they will come" kind of thing. It requires constant care and marketing efforts in order to connect with people to make them aware of what you're offering. On average, it's said that we are bombarded by thousands of advertising messages every day so cutting through that clutter can be tough. Sometimes, you have to persevere and keep climbing upwards when you're in a valley that seems endless. When you see progress though, and when you connect with another customer who appreciates what you're doing as a small business, it makes it all worthwhile.