”Make a list of people who have gone through similar experiences in the same or different industries or just someone you trust to be honest with you and share your idea with them. Don’t worry, no one will steal your idea. Execution is the hardest part!” A piece of advice from Staecy Chang, owner & founder of VEERAH, for those who are just starting out.
VEERAH (vee-rah), derived from warrior in Sanskrit, is a mission-driven luxury shoe company founded for women to make a positive impact as they conquer the world in impeccable style. Luxuriously crafted and responsibly sourced with cruelty-free materials, VEERAH is committed to always “Do Good. Look Incredible.”
VEERAH is rooted in the belief that today’s modern women aka #VEERAHwarriors are the embodiment of strength, femininity, and compassion. They take on every endeavor with great conviction, character, and confidence and so should their shoes. Your lifestyle demands a shoe that not only keeps up but always stays one step ahead of the game.
Stacey Chang has a fashion entrepreneurial spirit and proven results, you and I have a lot to learn from her and she will be sharing some things with us in this interview.
Hi, Stacey, it’s nice to meet you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to interview you. Can you tell us more about VEERAH?
- Can you tell our readers about yourself?
I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan and when I was 15, I came to the U.S. for boarding school. From there, I went to Boston University. After college, I moved to NYC and worked at Coach Inc. HQ with various roles in International Sales, Merchandise Planning and Material Management. I loved my time in NYC, but decided to get my MBA at Wharton. After my MBA, I wanted to be part of the growth taking place in Asia and to be closer to my family, so I moved to Shanghai for a few different startup gigs. Eventually, I landed a role with The Estee Lauder Companies in Hong Kong in its Asia Pacific business. Nearly 3 years ago, I left corporate America and began work on my own women’s footwear venture – VEERAH – and moved back to NYC.
- How did you get into entrepreneurship, have you always been entrepreneurial?
Not particularly. I didn’t start the business to be an entrepreneur. I just really wanted better shoes!
- What inspired you to start VEERAH?
As a socially and environmentally conscious woman, I felt that there had to be a way to find a balance between style and conscience. I didn’t want to sacrifice style for a plant-based lifestyle and I also don’t want to hurt any life for the sake of beauty – but that doesn’t mean that looking and feeling good is any less important. I came up with the name VEERAH with I was practicing “Virabhadrasana”, warrior pose in yoga. It is the perfect name to represent our drive to recognize the warrior spirit within all of us and serve women who balance strength and femininity every day.
At VEERAH, we are inspired by women, made for warriors. I created VEERAH to merge style, quality, compassion and functionality for women today (who we refer to as #VEERAHwarriors). I am so excited about what we have developed and I hope that VEERAH fills that void for so many women out there who are looking for a better way to align their closets with their values. We promise all the VEERAH warriors to always “Do Good. Look Incredible.”
- What made you choose this type of business?
I love shoes, but I was frustrated by the lack of options in the marketplace to serve modern women’s fast-paced, dynamic and conscientious lifestyle. I was traveling a lot for work, but it was difficult to travel with a carry-on only and with just one or two pairs of heels for all the events that I needed to attend. Further, I couldn’t find comfortable designer heels! I found many women share similar problems, so I decided to solve them by creating VEERAH, the first and only luxury shoe company that delivers high fashion, high function, and high impact. Our shoes are classic silhouettes that come with removable accessories for multiple looks. Crafted innovatively, VEERAH’s custom soles are supportive, comfortable, and flexible. Lastly, all of these premium materials are eco-conscious and 100% cruelty-free!
- When starting a business, what are the legal issues involved?
I wanted to incorporate the company as a Public Benefit Corporation, which is a legal entity that defines its goals based on positive impacts on society, community, and the environment. As this legal entity is still quite new, not all the lawyers and government officials are familiar with the set-up. I had to do a lot of research on my own to avoid overlooking some details.
- What are your company goals currently? As in vision and mission (what is the problem you are looking to solve)
In addition to answer 3. And 4., we are working to raise the brand’s awareness and have more people to try on, feel and touch these awesome VEERAH heels and reinforce the belief that you can Do Good AND Look Incredible.
- Can you tell us more about VEERAH Warriors 1-10-100 Battle Plan?
A big part of our company ethos is giving back and we are currently partnered with She’s The First, an incredible organization supporting girls’ education. We have also created our “1-10-100” battle plan”. This means that we donate at least 1% of our proceeds to social impact causes, 10 hours are paid to our employees per month to volunteer or take self-improvement courses, and for every 100 feedback forms we received we will support a full year of a girls’ education with She’s the First. We aim to grow together and give back!
- How did you come up with this plan?
I am fortunate to be able to do what I do because of my education. Unfortunately, there are still over 130 million girls out of school today. Having a Master’s degree, myself and believing in the importance of lifelong learning, supporting educational causes has always been something really dear to my heart. I want to make sure the business that I am creating is aligned with my values.
- What can our readers do to help VEERAH achieve this plan?
When buying your next pair of heels, consider VEERAH and share your feedback with us! Not only will you be getting a great pair of heels that are comfortable and stylish, you will also be helping us to support girls education.
- How would you describe your work style?
I am structured, dedicated, flexible, and a 98% perfectionist. I like to embrace the unexpected as I know a lot comes up in a startup and being open to ideas and being able to implement them is key.
- What would be your ideal working environment?
The ideal workspace is a place for inspirations and collaborations. I love working in our studio in NYC. It is bright, colorful and bold, just like our shoes. All our shoes are named after a woman who embodies the “VEERAH Warriors” spirit – strong, fearless yet feminine. They include Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, and Audrey Hepburn. Their quotes and images are decorated throughout our studio. We often play music in the background for a relaxing environment for brainstorming.
- What do you think is the best strategy that worked well for you to get more traffic to VEERAH.com?
Working with influencers who are passionately about VEERAH. Their feedback is authentic and genuine. They may not have a huge number of followers, but their followers are very engaged and I see significant traffic coming from these influencers’ sites.
- How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
To empower my team to take on more ownership, so I would have more time to develop new skills, such as photography and cooking, and to have more time to train for a triathlon and improve my race time.
- Tell us about your proudest achievement?
It took me nearly 2 years to bring the first collection to market. It was very challenging to find the right suppliers and manufacturers that are willing to collaborate because our quantity is small and are demanding high quality. Further, we want to use innovative, eco-friendly materials that they are unfamiliar with. For them, the same amount of development work is required for making 50 pairs vs. making 10,000 pairs. After a lot of persistence and persuasion, it was a very proud moment when I saw the first 100 pairs of VEERAH shoes coming out of the production line.
- Who has impacted you most in what you do and how?
My dad who is also an entrepreneur. He has a tremendous work ethic, yet he always tells me not to work hard, but work smarter.
- What do you do in your spare time?
I exercise to train for my next triathlon race. I enjoy going to comedy clubs and listening podcast. Whenever possible, I want to spend more time with my family.
- Where would you like to be in five years from now with your business?
In 5 years, I want every woman around the world to consider VEERAH when they think about buying a pair of shoes. They become aware of the impact that they can make with their purchases and believe they can Do Good AND Look Incredible.
- What does your and VEERAH’s Mondays look like?
There is no typical Monday! Startup life is about embracing the unexpected every day. A Monday could involve a photo shoot, a Facebook interview, a client appointment in our NYC showroom, going over social media, website updates and working with manufacturer oversea.
- If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Make a list of people who have gone through similar experiences in the same or different industries or just someone you trust to be honest with you and share your idea with them. Don’t worry, no one will steal your idea. Execution is the hardest part! You would be amazed at how helpful people are and this can even lead to new connections, new ideas and avoid the mistakes that others have made. This has been one of my favorite parts of the journey to create VEERAH. I have met so many new and inspiring people. In addition, I’ve learned so much, broadened my perspective, and have been even more motivated.
- Is there anything you would have wanted to do differently?
As a startup with a limited budget, I am always so grateful for anyone who is willing to work with us. However, not everyone had the right skill and ability for the work that needs to get done. I ended up spending more time and resource to redo the work. I now learn to either switching the person, supplier or service for a different task or to let them go as soon as possible if they are not right for the job.