Why I Started Grape Cat
Posted on September 09 2015
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”
Hi, I am James Lucas owner of GrapeCat.com and I believe in living a life without cruelty. Grape Cat's mission is to offer attractive, functional products that people can buy with peace of mind knowing that all of our products are fair trade, vegan, eco-friendly, and causing the least impact on the environment with human and non-human animals.
Grape Cat is an online vegan retail store carrying all of your fashion needs from t-shirts to coats, and wallets to duffle bags, and everything in-between.
We do not sell any products that are made of leather, wool, fur, or silk. We try to find fair trade items that help people in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. We also look for eco-friendly products that reduce harm to the environment.
A question I get a lot is “How did you get into this business?”
I grew up with the typical American diet. We used to go to McDonald's for lunch and dinner when my parents were too tired to cook. At Thanksgiving, we would have turkey and at Christmas, we would have ham. I loved going to zoos and the aquarium. I was so fascinated by animals that I wanted to be a marine biologist.
Like most people, I never connected my love of animals with my meat eating that is until, in 2002 while working for the Wall Street Journal, I started having lunch with a vegetarian. During lunch, we would talk about the food that I was eating and how it made its way from the farm to my plate. I learned about factory farming and the horrors these animals experience there. I slowly started connecting the dots between animals I loved to watch and pet, and the ones I was consuming. I first gave up beef and pork, and then chicken and turkey. By the end of 2002, I was vegetarian.
In 2009, I had an idea that I would start Bucks County Vegan Supper Club. I had it in my mind that I would be able to teach people how to cook their own vegan dishes. This eventually turned into a monthly potluck and has grown to a group of over 425 members. The group now does camping trips, goes to restaurants, and more. This group has helped me and other members become vegan.
In 2011, I really wanted to go into the television business. A friend of mine said she thought it would be fun to do a cooking show. We started “From A to Vegan” with our spouses. At first, we were doing cooking videos and blog posts. Now the blog does restaurant, cookbook, and product reviews, gastronomy tours, and commentary on current events.
Since the nearest shops that sell vegan products are in NYC and in Maryland, everything that I bought was purchased online. After seeing how hard it was for me to find a local store that was carrying vegan clothing and accessories and after realizing the need, Grape Cat was born in March 2013. Our first year was tough as I learned that if you build it they would not always come. 2014 was better as the website was being found in search engines and we were participating in more vegfests. This year we have expanded to New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and North Carolina. Next year we are expanding into Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois.
And this is where I need your help…
The types of referrals I’m looking for are customers who are or would like to be conscious consumers, as well as fairs, community events, festivals, etc., and radio shows or podcasts.
My customers buy my products and return over and over again because not only do they get great customer service but also because they can sleep at night knowing that they are doing their best at being a conscious consumer.
Here are three of my favorite brands.
These are Matt & Nat bags and wallets. Matt & Nat stands for material and nature. They are a vegan brand from Montreal. The linings are made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles and include sustainable materials such as cork and rubber. The outside is made from polyurethane.
Alchemy Goods uses the inner tubes that are reclaimed from cyclists and bike shops across the country. Their materials are sorted, cut, cleaned and prepped in their Seattle workshop and then are assembled at a sewing shop in the neighborhood.
Malia Designs was formed to increase economic opportunity for women in Cambodia and to support organizations that fight human trafficking in Southeast Asia.
Fair Trade producer groups that employ disadvantaged people in Cambodia make their products. By bringing their crafts to Western markets, they can expand their access to sustainable income.
Malia Designs also aims to help victims of Human Trafficking by donating to organizations working in this arena. Human Trafficking is a multi-billion dollar illegal trade affecting millions of people every year. They believe that one way to counteract this global issue is to increase access to economic opportunity in the most affected areas.