Attorney Mom Turns Vegan Passion into a Business
Website creates a marketplace community
Did you know that lipstick contains crushed-up beetles? Or that shampoo contains pulverized fish scales? And that testing cosmetics on animals is illegal in Israel but not the United States? These are some of the issues that led Sarit Shmulevitz, an Upper West Side mom and attorney, to become a vegan, and eventually start her website, "Foranima.com." It's an online vegan marketplace, where "veggie-preneurs" create shops, much like Etsy, and sell vegan-friendly products, from snacks and clothing, to cosmetics like makeup, soap and hairspray.
The online community just launched in March, and is still in Beta form. Shmulevitz said that they will officially launch later in the year, and for now, she operates the website out of her Upper West Side apartment, where she lives with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. Even though the products are animal product-free, they are not just for vegans.
"I want to market to vegans, but provide the transparency for everyone, and make it aspirational enough for non-vegans," said Shmulevitz. "A big part of our mission is tapping into the idea that we need to become familiar with what we are putting into our bodies. People are not very well aware that we are putting so many chemicals on our skins on a daily basis. We prefer natural cosmetics and products instead."
Shmulevitz came up with the idea during her years working on Wall Street as an attorney. She said she started attending a lot of tech events and animal protection events, and knew that she wanted to start a business that would combine these two passions. The more she learned about animal testing and cruelty, the more interested she became in a vegan lifestyle, and she has adopted it herself the last three years. In 2012, left her successful career as a lawyer -- despite her accolades in the field -- and put together a team to make her dream happen.
For Anima is a marketplace-based community where sellers create a shop online to sell their goods. Shmulevitz utilizes both established brands and up-and-coming, homegrown vegan business owners. Right now, she said the most popular products are the cosmetics, snacks and vegan shoes and handbags. One of the most popular misconceptions of a vegan lifestyle, she said, is that vegan versions of traditionally animal-based products like purses and bags are either low-quality or expensive. But, said Shmulevitz, you can't even tell the difference, and the site sells high-end bags for $200 and even a few for as low as $30 or $40.
"We do a lot of research and identify brands we should reach out to based on their stories and life philosophies," said Shmulevitz. "For instance, our popcorn vendor had an interesting story of battling cancer on his website, so it was a combination of his personal story and his product being vegan that drew me to him. Then we tell their stories on our blog."
In the future, Shmulevitz said that she wants to shift the website to become more of a lifestyle brand and include products like olive oils and more pre-packaged foods. Overall though, For Anima, she said, is about sustainability.
So far, For Anima can ship anywhere across the United States, or even to Canada. But, she said, a lot of her support comes from her community at home. She has made sure that her vegan neighbors on the Upper West Side are aware of it, as well as the parents of her daughter's classmates. So far, she said, people have been really receptive to the idea of a sustainable and animal product-free lifestyle.
"We want it to be a sustainable health and growth free space," said Shmulevitz. "I haven't seen anything like this so far -- a website that can be used to inspire people outside the vegan community."
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