Interview #21: Joshua LaBure & Vanessa Gochnour of NOOCH Vegan Market

Believe it or not, it's been 11 months since the last KMIV interview.  We needed to make sure a full year didn't go by without connecting with some amazing person(s) from our vegan community, and, sure enough, we stumbled upon two of those people in the nick of time: Joshua LaBure and Vanessa Gochnour.  

You may not have heard of them yet, unless you live in Denver or have been catching wind of their recent valuable entrepreneurial efforts and/or Kickstarter campaign.  All we can say is: they represent the little people who make a big difference.  That big difference is now manifesting in what aims to become Denver's first all-vegan market, NOOCH.

"That's outstanding!" you say.  Well, yes it is, but there's still one last step that's needed to get NOOCH up and running successfully - and it involves coming together to support the vegan community.

Let's meet Joshua and Vanessa!

Vanessa & Joshua
Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?

Joshua: For me it was a long collective process from the first vegans I met in high school, to PETA videos on a Goldfinger CD, then to getting a job at Whole Foods when I was 21. But the moment that it really “clicked” was when I was 23 and I was having dinner with my friend. I was exploring different political ideas at that time in my life and I was questioning a lot of the traditional ideas that I held. Our conversation led to the idea of property, I came to the realization that I was uncomfortable with the idea of treating animals as mere machines. After that conversation, I knew it was over, I decided to stop eating meat that day and after doing more research went vegan less than 2 months later. It has now been close to 3 years!

Vanessa: I’ve been vegan for over 4 years now and was vegetarian for 6 years before that. I’d been gravitating toward vegetarianism for some time because meat was always pretty disturbing to me. I gradually shifted to being a fairly strict vegetarian because milk and eggs really grossed me out. I ate cheese but only if it didn’t have animal rennet in it. Then someone told me about dairy production and how cheese was most certainly not cruelty free, even without the rennet. I had no idea! That definitely changed everything for me. I went vegan right after and have never looked back!  

KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges? 

J: The greatest reward for me was the change in my health. I ate very poorly up until I went vegan, I have lost 70 pounds and feel better than I ever have in my life. Also, I have gotten so much more involved with activism and community organizing, it has really given me an outlet for my passion to make the world a better place. I feel like the recognition of animals' rights, especially the right to their lives, will lead to a more peaceful world.

The biggest challenge for me is the naysayers, people don’t like to think that the choices they make are harmful, especially when it comes to something so ingrained in every culture, like food. People can be very defensive.

 
KMIV: Tell us about the birth of NOOCH Vegan Market, trials and tribulations, joys and rewards, and upcoming plans.

V: Well, it’s been Josh’s dream to open a vegan grocery store for quite some time now and I’d been throwing around the idea of a vegan retail shop for a little over a year. We’d been working together on projects and outreach through Plants & Animals Denver, and, back in January, Josh mentioned that he was ready to give the store a try and I thought what better an opportunity to combine forces. The amount of work that goes into starting a business is pretty crazy but we’re really lucky that this type of business is something we’re both extremely passionate about. We’ve been selling a small selection of hard to find vegan items at a popup market called Neat Market that’s put on by our group Plants & Animals Denver. Developing relationships with local and national vendors has been really fun. It’s so cool to work with vendors who are in it for the same reasons you are. Aside from having amazing vegan products in our store, we plan to use Nooch as another way to reach out to the community. We’ll host events at our space and around town, fundraise for nonprofits, and have workshops and teach classes.

KMIV: You're very involved in your local vegan food/activism environment, with Chomp! Vegan Supper Club, Animal ACTion Network, etc. How important do you feel community is to the vegan movement? What has your vegan experience been like in Denver, CO? 

J: I think that community is the MOST important component to the vegan movement right now, going against conventional wisdom can sometimes be isolating and people can lose motivation. But if you have people around you who are super excited and positive, it can be the very thing that helps people go and stay vegan! 

V: It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I really got involved in Denver’s vegan community. I was definitely a quiet vegan at first but realized how important it was to get out there, meet others and share my knowledge and experiences. Vegans who gravitate towards each other and work together can really make a difference.

KMIV: While it may still be a little bit before we have the joy of shopping - food or retail - at a national mainstream vegan store, it's the little ones all throughout the country that provide accessible opportunities to be a compassionate, cruelty-free consumer. What advice do you have for other vegan entrepreneurs who are looking to open up an incredibly beneficial store, market, or other shop in their city/town?

V: I would say, stay focused but also stay open to change and possibilities. Veganism is such a new idea to most people and it’s important to recognize that most everyone comes at it from a different angle.

KMIV: As it says at the top of the blog, Kiss Me, I'm Vegan! is a blog "for the happy vegan in all of us." What are the most positive aspects of the animal advocacy movement for you, and what do you feel are the biggest reason to smile when doing this work?

J: The most positive for me is just meeting amazing people! There are so many people doing positive things for animals and to promote veganism right now, it’s so exciting and inspiring being in the middle of it! Also, telling people about the delicious vegan foods that are out right now, it’s ridiculous. Vegan cheeses like Punk Rawk labs and Daiya to vegan meats like Denver Seitan and Gardein, then magazines like Chick-Pea and VegNews. I can’t believe the amount of creativity and craft that is going into the movement right now. We’ve come a long way, even in the 3 years that I’ve been vegan. It’s inspiring!

KMIV: Okay - here's a silly one, and our personal favorite: You're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?

J: This one is tough! Though I would have to say, Chick-Peas, Collard Greens and some BBQ SASS from my friend Keith. Yum!

V: I’d be totally content with black beans, quinoa, and green chile!



To support NOOCH on its journey, please donate what you can to Joshua & Vanessa's Kickstarter campaign.  As of this post, they have raised over 60% of their goal but still need our help.  Let's bond together for the sake of vegan markets all around and make NOOCH happen!

Comments

what a great post! thanks for sharing about nooch vegan market! sounds wonderful!
CurlyLocks said…
I've always enjoyed your interviews! The best of luck to Joshua and Vanessa. NOOCH market sounds great!
I am soooo excited about Nooch, can't wait to shop there!
Unknown said…
Hi - congrats on your KickStarter project! My girlfriend, Angie, is about to launch hers and I am wondering if you might have any suggestions. Also, she has developed over 50 amazing raw vegan snacks/food products and she would love to talk to you about whether you think they would be a good fit in your store (I think you will love them). Please get in touch with me if you think its worth conversation Cary 303-440-0390 carycreekside@gmail.com
Cary said…
I also wanted to note her Angies websites: angiessecretgarden.com and rawsecretgarden.com so you can take a look. I hope we can work together.

Her KickStarter will be RawFoodMagic which will be released in a few days. Hope to hear from you.