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Friday, July 25, 2008

How to start a vegan friendly company from your kitchen

Strawberry Hedgehog began when Tracy Perkins was a vegan college student, couldn't find affordable, quality vegan bath and body products. Tracey began making products for herself and friends and family. She named her company after the strawberry hedgehog cactus.

Tracy runs her company currently out of her home. Products are made in small batches in her kitchen. While Tracy does most of the work, occasionally her husband also participates. She made her own website, her own products, and she also packages, labels and ships. Tracy is proud of her products, as they are free of any animal products, preservatives, chemicals and artificial dyes or fragrances.

Tracy and her husband, James, consider themselves to be eco-conscious. They use biodiesel in their cars and James is a founding member and the director of the Arizona Alternative Fuel Alliance. He keeps the community up to date with green-news and tips at his website AZSustainability.com. Tracy is also a geology instructor at a local community college and a geology graduate student at Arizona State University focusing on education and better understanding geologic hazards. She's taught students of all ages and tries to incorporate concepts of sustainability into her classes.

Here is an excerpt from my interview with Tracy Perkins:

1. When did you start the company?
I began making products for friends and family in 2001, after a while people started requesting I make them products to give as gifts and it took off from there. I officially became a business in 2007.
2.What plans do you have for growth?
Part of my appeal is that my company is small so my goals for growth are fairly modest. Right now it is just me, I do not think I would want to expand beyond perhaps a few people helping me make my products or at least helping on the packaging and shipping end. It is the creative process that got me into this and I would hate to lose that. Ideally I would like to have my products carried in local boutiques and spas while still available online through my website. Basically I would like to be able to make enough money to support my family - no plans to take over the world or anything.
3. What has been the most difficult part of starting your company?
Packaging and accounting have been my biggest struggles with my company. Paypal and Turbo Tax took care of my accounting woes and I through trial and error I continue to find better packaging that fits with my eco-conscious goals and is still affordable enough and appropriate for my products.
4. What advice do you have for people starting their own companies?
Take your time and follow your passion. There is no need to dive in full force or feel like you have to have everything lined up from the get go. My philosophy so far has been slow and steady wins the race. I do not pay for advertising, it is all word of mouth but I am constantly growing. I still have a day job so I do not have to stress about how much money my business is pulling in. If you can keep the pressure off you keep the fun of why you got into whatever your business is in the first place.
5. How much time do you spend per week on your business?
Depending on the season I spend about 20 to 40 hours per week on my business. The slower summer months allow me more time to focus on my blog or product development while during the busy winter months are usually packed with hands on labor, making the products, getting them out the door, and making sure I have enough ingredients on hand to freshly make the products for the next orders.


Tracy said...

Thanks for your interest in my little company. I hope the info will be of use to folks interested in either starting online businesses or hopefully environmentally-minded businesses.