In this week’s Q&A series, we chat with Votch founder Laura Way, who launched her vegan business in 2016. We talk about inspiration, challenges, and why Votch is creating a watch that’s better for people, animals, and the planet.
Hello! Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your brand?
Hi! I’m Laura, a busy mum of two small humans and a dog called Rolo! I live by the sea in Brighton with my family and own and run Votch. We are a cruelty free watch and accessories company that gives back!
What inspired you to start Votch?
Votch began a few years back when I was struck down with a condition called Topic Steroid Withdrawal, a condition that saw all my skin fall off. During the years it took me to recover, I turned to documentaries and educated myself on various subjects regarding animal welfare, including facts about the leather industry that truly shocked me.
Seeing the suffering that animals endured simply for fashion, and having felt the pain of losing my own skin, I vowed never to wear the skin of another being again. When I recovered, and with a new-found vegan perspective on life, I knew I had to create something where I could make a change in this world.
Finding accessories that are stylish but cruelty free isn’t always that easy, and when an old watch strap broke and finding a watch I liked that was simple and stylish, but with a faux leather strap was pretty impossible, the lightbulb moment happened and Votch was born!
What were the main challenges you faced when first starting Votch?
My biggest challenge to date was learning a new skill set and industry. Prior to launching Votch I produced TV commercials – whilst this had many transferable skills, time management, budget controlling etc – actually creating and manufacturing a product was a whole new world to me.
I launched Votch with a small business loan and personal investment so funding to date has been hard at times, especially for covering stock, however – as someone who always likes to push and challenge myself we are currently in our first round of fundraising to enable us to launch new collections and ranges to meet demand.
Can you tell us more about the materials you use? How do you ensure they have little impact on the environment as well as animals?
Our values are simple, and that is to continually do the best we can do. We are always striving as a company to do better and to create a product that inflicts no harm to animals with the smallest footprint for the environment.
We are forever researching the most innovative fabrics possible for our watch straps, and this push for progress is matched by our desire to develop our designs and durability.
We currently use the most innovative and sustainable materials we can, such as Piñatex and AppleSkin and are always trialling and testing more.
We want to make cruelty free accessories more readily available to all, and to show that you don’t need to be cruel to be cool.
As we continually evolve, we are always searching of ways to reduce our impact on the planet. With every order purchased on our website, we plant a mangrove in Madagascar! Mangroves are fantastic carbon sinks, stabilise the soil and improve the quality of the water.
Planting these wonderful trees also provides a natural habitat for wildlife and an income for local villagers. We also have a recycling scheme to put to use people’s old and broken watches to avoid them being sent to landfill.
The need for clear, credible climate action from all organisations is essential. This is our way of supporting climate solutions and limiting our impact on the planet.
In your eyes, what’s the biggest achievement or milestone of Votch so far?
Showcasing Votch on Dragons’ Den was a huge achievement for me, we received such wonderful feedback on the brand and product – whilst we didn’t receive investment it was a great way to showcase Votch and show the world how vegan fashion has and is evolving!
Have you seen a shift in consumer perception in recent years to Veganism? How has this impacted your brand?
When I first launched Votch, vegan fashion was still deemed as very different to what it is now – it was seen as unstylish and cheap PVC vegan leathers.
The rise of materials like Pinatex and Appleskin have pushed vegan fashion into a new world of sustainable and stylish brands.
We have many customers who aren’t necessarily vegan, but want to take steps and changes in being more sustainable by making more considered choices.
How do you ensure your company stays true to your mission as you grow?
I always stay at the core of every decision we make, my ethos and morals have been thoroughly revolved around animal rights since I was a small child – so whilst I am running the company, and I hope to always be, our mission will always be one of showing the world you don’t need to harm animals for fashion.
What’s your favourite Votch style and why?
I am absolutely in love with our new crossbody bag!
I have been obsessed with making watches for the last 6 years, but making a new bag was so exciting, especially its versatility with the two different, interchangeable straps!
Our customers love it too, it’s been our best-selling item since we launched it!
Do you have any advice for people looking to be more sustainable in their consumption habits and lifestyle?
Make small changes and they will eventually become a habit – don’t put too much pressure on yourself to change everything overnight. Support ethical brands, shop in charity shops and preloved stores – and always get refills where you can!
Have you tried a product from another sustainable vegan brand that you think our audience should know about?
I love my Flamingo trainers – I wear them everyday and they have lasted brilliantly!
What does the future look like for Votch?
We are working on a new watch design currently and hope to expand on our bag offering in the new year.
We want to say a huge thank you to Laura, for taking time to discuss her brand Votch with us.
We’ve named Votch as one of our top 10 sustainable watch brands out there, and we wish Laura all the best with her brand.
Want to discover more watches? Check out our guide on American-made watch brands.