The last few months I’ve been out on the road promoting my vegan cowboy boots. To Marshall, then Austin, home in Dallas, over to New Orleans, and recently in Austin again. It’s been a bit nerve-wracking, tiring too but loads of fun! It’s also been quite the learning experience and for that alone it’s been worth it. If you ever want confirmation that your heading in the right or even wrong direction try setting up a table at a major event and wait for the response. It will either crush or encourage you and I feel so blessed to be on the latter. You. Love. Them. For that, I’m extremely grateful.
It’s been such a privilege getting to know so many people and hearing about your own “boot” adventures. In fact, I love it so much I’m going to include them in my monthly newsletter so shoot me a line (a picture too if you have one) with your story at email@example.com. Did you have a pair as a child? Or maybe saved as a teenager for a studded pair? Perhaps you bought your first pair as an adult and have had them resoled over and over from the wear and tear. You might even be a cowgirl/cowboy like me and have had a long love with cowboy boots. I’m not ruling you non-cowboy boot wearers out either. Cowboy boots aren’t just for Texans or ranch hands. Never had a pair? Always wanted a pair? It’s not to late!
Today, I’m starting with my story.
My love affair with cowboy boots started at an early age. Growing up with frequent visits to my grandparents farms, I developed a passion for all things that make up farm-life including cowboy boots. A fashion staple, over the years my boots have carried me through changing styles and looks. They have taken me through the fall days of football games, the cold, wet and sometimes harsh days of winter, took me walking on the first days of spring and wrapped softly around my feet on the hot days of summer. They’re a part of my heritage, my personal identity and considered a Texas emblem. How could I EVER depart with something that was so inherently a part of me.
Welcome to the summer of 2013. I had recently quit my 25+ year career span in telecom, was attending summer school in Arkansas and preparing for a trip to New York to attend the Main Street Vegan Academy. While cruising down a country road one day I was making a mental check-list of things I needed to pack which naturally included a pair of cowboy boots. My thoughts were suddenly halted when I found myself behind a truck with a trailer carrying a herd of cows. Now coming from a family of cattle ranchers this was not a sight I’d not seen before but on this particular day as my car came in a bit closer I felt the fear and anxiety these cow expressed in their eyes as they penetrated my windshield. At this point I’d been vegan well over three years and though I had made the animal to mouth connection I had yet to make the animal to wear connection. Those cows knew their fate, I knew their fate and there was nothing I could do to help them. I was so emotionally affected I had to pull my car to the side of the road, removing the sight of the trailer. It was in that moment where just minutes before I was pondering over which pair of my precious cowboy boots would make the trip to NY, I knew that I could never ever again wear or buy another pair.
A few days later while at the Academy the deal was further sealed when we watched a film on the leather industry. I cringed at the site of children working in toxic environments and the high rate of illnesses and death rates resulting from this dirty business. I never wanted to support the leather industry again but this decision also presented a dilemma. I couldn’t imagine my life without cowboy boots yet a quick Google search told me that was exactly the direction I’d taken.
Later that day while chatting with fellow classmate and Texas transplant, Amy Hollander (Hi Amy!), I felt shallow sharing my thoughts and disappointment. I was also really struggling (also feeling intimidated among my amazing classmates) with how to apply my vegan passion into a fulfilling second career. With her sunny disposition and no-fret attitude she looked confidently at me and said, “then that’s what you need to do…go make vegan cowboy boots”! As crazy as it sounded at the time since I had zero experience, I left the Academy with a company name, a tagline and a logo. That folks was the creation of Kick Butt Boots, giving leather the boot! Amy is still my biggest cheerleader and I absolutely love her to death for her amazing support.
Fast forward a year and half later with tears running down my face, I had my first pair of custom handmade vegan cowboy boots in my hands. Now, they can be in your hand too! A conscious awakening created a personal need, sparking a dream that evolved into a reality. That reality is now known as Kat Mendenhall Boots http://www.katmendenhall.com, a brand that reflects my lifestyle. A lifestyle where everyday I choose to make the most conscious and compassionate choices I can in regards to my body, to others, the animals, and the environment.
I hope you choose that too. If you do, than I’ve succeeded.
XOXOX – Kat