Grounded People, the vegan shoe brand that launched online on Christmas Eve of 2021, has acquired $2.5 million in funding from Canadian venture capital group Right Season Investments Corp., which, like the footwear startup, also hails from Vancouver.
“We see the industry is about the explode. The goal of sustainable footwear is an $8 billion a year industry that’s projected to grow even larger,” said Tyler Lewis, CEO and Director of Right Season. “Grounded looks really strong. They’ve got a great following and a great overall image.”
“If you look at sustainability in business today, it’s never been greater,” Lewis said. “You see big companies from around the world moving toward being more sustainable, caring about the planet, reducing impact on the planet. These are all things we care about and Grounded [People] cares about too.”
Grounded People uses 100 percent recycled cotton to produce its shoes, which are manufactured in Franca, Brazil, at what founder and CEO Max Justus says is the only all-vegan factory in the world. On Friday, the company is announcing the second version of the shoe and later in the year will release its first vegan leather boot, using environmentally unfriendly polyurethane to give the cotton the utility and feel of animal leather.
“It’s incredibly humbling to have the support of the team at Right Season, especially given current capital market conditions and the challenges they bring,” Justus said in a press release. “Their trust and partnership are more than just votes of confidence, they’re validation to our entire team that what we are doing matters and is important. Grounded People has come a long way since our founding in 2020, and this investment will enable us to grow our team further, expand our retail and online presence, target international markets and continue building a robust product portfolio that simply and cost-effectively protects our customers and the planet on which we reside.”
Newcomers to the venture capital game, Right Season has made its biggest investment to date with Grounded People. Lewis said the funding entitles the group to 20 percent of company ownership.
Lewis said Grounded People met all the criteria to be its flagship project for reasons financial as well as intangible.
“Obviously we want businesses that have a long-term future and are capitalizing on global trends,” Lewis said. “From a public company standpoint we want them to be undervalued with good structure the ability to see rapid growth from a market standpoint as well as building their brand. We want brands that can become market leaders.”
The funding will help Grounded People compete in an ever-growing vegan shoe marketplace, but it’s a competition Justus thinks will be good for all involved.
“When we started it wasn’t as populated with vegan suppliers, but I do believe there’s no such thing as unhealthy competition. We all have the same goal in mind—sustainability and moving forward with fashion, but not fast fashion,” Justus said in December. “As more brands like us pop up, hopefully some of the larger brands will take notice. We’re all pushing in the same direction.”
But at the end of the day, business is a competition, and in that competition, Lewis likes the chances of Grounded People coming out on top.
“You look at what’s happening in the fashion industry—take a look at companies like Nike, Levi’s, Patagonia—they’re all trying to incorporate sustainably materialized, ethically materialized products, but Grounded’s been doing that since day one, so we really like grounded,” Lewis said. “Research has shows that consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly. The fashion industry contributes about 10 percent to carbon emissions, 20 percent to water pollution, but the fashion industry is changing.”
Grounded People is currently being traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange with the ticker name SHOE. Lewis says he expects to see the company traded publicly soon on the New York Stock Exchange and other markets.
“If you look at Grounded their share price is holding strong right now; they’re trading at around 50 cents,” Lewis said. “We like where they can go. We think they have the ability to trade higher and with the progress they’re making, they could definitely expand.”