We had the good fortune of connecting with Desiree Dupuis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Desiree, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business? I have an entrepreneurial spirit, I had been running my own businesses for 10 years and VOES was created as a solution to a problem I had been personally facing as a vegan woman. When I learnt about the atrocity of the animal agriculture industry in 2008 I stopped eating and wearing animal products. Over time, I began to be increasingly frustrated and disappointed with the lack of options for designer footwear not made with leather or suede. The only options available at the time were synthetic shoes made of petroleum based material such as PU and PVC. As I began to learn even more about the animal agriculture industry and the devastating harmful effects it has on the planet, I realised I didn’t want to trade one harmful product for another, saving animals by not buying leather but then harming the environment by purchasing synthetic leather. As a woman who loves fashion and footwear it was my frustration and the lack of options available that inspired me to take it into my own hands and launch my own brand with ethically made sustainable designer footwear.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more? 2008 was a big year for me. Not only did I change my lifestyle to be animal free with the new awareness of the animal agriculture industry, I also came into the awareness of the freedom and power I wanted to create for my career and financial security. While I was working in Marketing for a national company, I saw very clearly the corporate ladder that I was climbing and what my life would be like 10 years into the future. I learnt that I could spend the next 10 years of my life climbing this ladder and still be chained to the office, still not have job security, still be at the beg and call of a boss. All things that I realised I did not want to create for my life. While reading the 7 habits of highly successful people I identified that my number one value in life is freedom. As such, I quit my full-time job on a whim knowing that I was going to work for myself and start my own business. I ended up running a financial and insurance firm for 10 years and selling that company in 2018 to focus on scaling the international NGO Ruben’s Shoes Society I had also founded 5 years earlier with my business partner and best friend, Kelly. I am most proud of my ability to hone into my intuition and follow my heart. I believe what sets me a part is my ability to take risks, jump off the cliff into the unknown and my drive and determination to find solutions and to solve problems. I would call myself a courageous, thought leader.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to? As a digital nomad, I have spent the first few months of 2023 working from my macbook in the north of Argentina in a small town called Obera in the province of Misiones. The northern part of Argentina is lush and full of gorgeous trees, greenery, flowers and plants. The people here pride themselves on their tierra roja – red soil – and mate culture is life. Although my home base has been this tranquil small town where siesta is also alive and well and the town shuts down every day in the afternoon, I have also had the wonder of travelling through other major South American cities including Buenos Aires, Rio, São Paulo, Santiago de Chile, Lima and Bogota, along with some smaller towns Valaparaiso, Foz de Iguacu and Mendoza. In January 2023, we drove 3 hours from Obera up to the incredible, majestic and breathtaking Catarata Falls, which I highly recommend for anybody who is fascinated by the majesty of life. From there we flew to Rio en route to our vegan footwear manufacturer Ahimsa who are based in a small town in Brazil called Franca where the footwear industry is a major part of the economy (I believe over 500 footwear manufacturers in this small town). I was incredibly impressed by Chile, where I learnt that 25% of the population under 30 is vegan! There is a strong movement of freedom and inclusivity for which people have been fighting for rights of minorities. I was in Chile with a girlfriend and we kept wandering around unexpecting falling into vegan restaurants and cafes with incredible cuisine. We travelled to Valparaiso which has a very historic European feel and is full of cafes, art and local artisans. The last city I would recommend and loved is Lima. The newer parts of the city in Miraflores, San Isidro, Larcomar and Barranco are cute, clean, and gorgeous with incredible architecture and breathtaking views from the ocean-side cliffs. The city is modern and tech forward.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout? I‘d love to give a shout out to the two ladies, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, who are the authors of a book called Skinny Bitch. Skinny Bitch was published in 2005 and is one of the first books to expose the animal agriculture industry by including graphic information about where meat comes from. I picked up this book at YVR Vancouver Airport on my way to Maui with my best friend Kelly. I had always been interested in nutrition and I was excited to educate myself more about food and what I was putting into my body. As I began to read more of the book and read excerpts out to Kelly we were both completely horrified and appalled with what we were learning about the treatment of animals. We had been living in ignorance not understanding what meat actually is and how a piece of meat ended up on our plate. Our minds were immediately awakened and changed on the spot. Neither of us ever planned or expected to become vegan; however knowing what we now knew, we both converted to veganism immediately. I am so grateful for Skinny Bitch for opening my eyes in 2008 and for my best friend Kelly for being my right hand animal lover, advocate and vegan counterpart.