When Michigan mom Elizabeth Katzman decided to leave her job as a lawyer to stay at home with her two young boys, she never imagined that she would embark on an exciting new career in the green scene.
She’s since started her own blog, Elizabeth’s Kind Café, to teach other families how to cook, garden and compost with their kids, which eventually expanded to a local talk and cooking show by the same name.
As if chasing the kids around, blogging daily and hosting a monthly segment on Bloomfield Community TV wasn’t enough, Katzman is taking her eco-entrepreneurship one step further this fall by starting her own vegan shoe line.
As a woman who is committed to living an eco-friendly life in style, Katzman had trouble finding footwear that was fashionable but still met her values as a vegan and earth-lover.
“I thought [the line] was a good way to get the word out that fashion can be cruelty-free,” Katzman said. “You can care about the environment and animals and still want to be fashionable.”
A little more than a year after its inception, Katzman’s blog now hosts a full-scale retail shop – proving that the sky is truly the limit for this eco mom.
“It’s nice because it’s a job, but instead of taking me away form my kids it’s made me more connected with them,” she said.
Katzman lives about 30 minutes outside of Detroit in Birmingham, Mich. with her husband, Steve, and sons Henry, 2, and Noah, 4. After having children, she knew she wanted to stay home with them but wasn’t sure how to make it feasible.
“One of the hardest things after I had kids was trying to figure out what to do [for a career],” Katzman remembered. “If I went back to practicing law, I would be out of the house basically the entire time they were awake. So, I definitely didn’t want to go back to doing that.”
Cooking dinner with her sons was already a regular routine for Katzman, and her husband would sometimes videotape it to send to family and friends.
“He said ‘those videos are so cute – why don’t you do cooking videos with the kids and post them on the internet?’” she said with a laugh. After that, the rest was history.
Katzman began her blogging career in April 2010 with a composting, gardening and cooking blog called Not a Cool Mom, which she later changed to Elizabeth’s Kind Café after adding a vegan lifestyle to her eco repertoire a few months later.
“I wanted to talk about what we do at our house, which is gardening, cooking what we garden and composting what is left over,” she said. “Then I decided to change up the Website to be predominantly aimed towards vegan living…It was a whole new world that opened up to me.”
Since moving her blog over to Elizabeth’s Kind Café, Katzman expanded to hosting a local cable talk show and producing retail products, including the shoe line and her own brand of DIY home and yoga mat cleaning kits.
That may be quite a lot to do in a little more than a year, but the laid-back mom is humble and nonchalant about her speedy success.
“Once I get into something, I really get into it,” she said simply.
“I’ve always gravitated towards being a vegetarian,” said Katzman, who gave up red meat and veal during her teen years. “I would occasionally eat chicken or turkey, but it always kind of made me feel sick to my stomach.”
“I continued to eat it because I thought you needed that for protein or to be healthy,” she continued. “But as I was researching recipes [for the blog], I started coming across more articles about how not eating meat and dairy is really good for your health.”
After that, Katzman began tearing through books, articles and online videos about the meat and dairy industry and was shocked at what she found.
She and her husband finally decided to make the switch to vegan after watching the documentary Earthlings, which chronicles the lives of animals being raised for food and clothing.
“I decided after seeing [Earthlings] that not only would I not eat any meat or dairy, but I didn’t want to wear it either,” Katzman said. “It all kind of clicked for me at the same time.”
Katzman, who said she tried going vegan in the past but was put off by the flavor of mass-produced faux meats and cheeses, quickly discovered that a vegan lifestyle didn’t mean depriving her family.
“It’s definitely opened up an entirely different social life for us,” she said. “Our weekends are spent going to farm sanctuaries and spending a lot of time with animals.”
Katzman chronicles her search for exciting vegan recipes, recycling and reuse ideas and earth and animal-friendly products on her blog, and many of her own friends have caught the vegan bug.
“Some of my close friends who really liked meat are now vegan, and it’s sort of amazing,” she said. “I feel like if even one person stops eating meat, it’s such a big accomplishment. It definitely makes it all worth it.”
Her shoe line
“It all started because I was looking for vegan shoes for myself and didn’t really find the styles that I was looking for in the market,” Katzman said of her Elizabeth’s line. “I thought that there was a market for classic styles and everyday wear in vegan shoes.”
Handmade in the United States from recycled materials, the line features fashionable fall footwear like peep-toe booties and faux suede platforms that are high in style but low in environmental impact.
The ultra-soft faux suede used in Katzman’s line is made from waste recovered from plasma TV manufacturers. The faux leather, which is also made from recycled materials, is completely biodegradable and emits no volatile compounds, meaning these kicks are safe for your compost pile.
“It was really difficult to find those two textiles,” Katzman said of the faux leather and suede she chose. “Now I’m always on the hunt for new material that would make a nice shoe.”
For those in warmer climates, Elizabeth’s fall line also includes cute jelly flip-flops sporting black cow print or pink pigs and the message “Go Veg.”
A portion of the proceeds from every sale benefits People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and 1% for the Planet, a global environmental initiative, two organizations very near and dear to Katzman’s heart. In keeping with her family’s love for animals, proceeds from Katzman’s shoe line and cleaning products are also donated to local farm animal sanctuaries.
“I definitely did not think about the fact that an animal had to die for my shoes,” Katzman said of her fashion choices before going vegan. “It never occurred to me. So, whenever I see something that I find shocking, I guess I have a need to…let other people know in case they would think it was interesting also.”
Katzman intends to keep classic staples in the line and introduce additional styles over the coming months.
As for further expansion, this up-and-coming momtrepeneur will probably stick with what’s on her plate for now.
“Since [the blog and shoe line] are new, I feel like – at least for the next six months – I’m going to do just this,” Katzman said. “But you never know. I always think of something else.”
For a taste of the cute, innovative and eco-friendly videos from Elizabeth’s site, check out this adorable video about recycling crayons at home.