Q & A with Cayla Mackey of Unicorn Goods

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Photo and Blog by Meghan Farrington

Q: Tell me a little bit about Unicorn Goods.

A: Unicorn Goods is a Public Benefit Corporation, which we officially started in December of 2014. We are the world’s largest ethical vegan catalog, where we list products that are free of animal products (like leather, fur, wool, down, silk) and makeup that isn’t tested on animals. We donate 1% of our profits to pro-animal organizations. We originally started because I had a really difficult time finding a pair of vegan shoes. It took me 6 months, I kept a spreadsheet as I was talking to companies, until my cofounder, Dave,  said if you’re having this tough of a time and had to do all of this research, other people are probably having a tough time too, we should make this type of information publicly available. That led to the first generation of the site, and we’ve been growing since then!

Q: What exactly is a vegan product? What makes it vegan?

A: There are animal products in almost everything. From the veneer on this floor, to the paint on the walls, to the fibers in our clothes. An animal free product is one that doesn’t have any animal products or byproducts in its manufacturing. We focus on clothing and body products, specifically. So for clothing we locate things that are free of leather, wool, fur, down and silk, in terms of the actual things that are listed on the label. But then there are also other places that animal materials like to hide, like buttons, zipper pulls, linings, etc. Buttons are usually made from shells, especially on nicer shirts and men’s oxfords. Shell isn’t vegan so we like to make sure that the buttons are either plastic, wood, or something else. Insoles in shoes are really difficult, for example most Toms have leather insoles. Sunglasses and glasses cases usually come in a leather case if they’re nicer, so for people who are trying to not buy animal products, it’s actually a huge headache. Even if you can look at an items materials beforehand, there are parts of the item that could still contain animal products. So that’s what we focus on! On the makeup side, a lot of makeup and beauty products contain animal byproducts in their ingredient list, so we screen for that to make sure everything is vegan but then we also want to make sure that the products, even if they are vegan, weren’t tested on animals. So animal testing is also not vegan-friendly. People who are vegan don’t want to use things that have animal cruelty as any part of the supply chain.

Q: Have you ever been to any SEG workshops or any of our events?

A: I have. I think I’ve sat in on all of them! I went to the social media marketing workshop that WorldWays posted, and I thought that was pretty interesting. It’s really important that these workshops are giving –social entrepreneurs specifically– very business oriented skills. I think it’s really important for people who are mission driven to also know how to make money. The workshops are filling in that gap.

Q: What specifically about SEG do you think has had the highest impact on your business?

A: I will say that I believe the most important thing is the community that is centered around Social Enterprise Greenhouse. For social entrepreneurs, it’s extremely mentally difficult to do this work every day. I realized when I was a part of the Global Social Impact House through UPenn in January that one of the biggest things holding back Unicorn Goods was me because I was really reluctant to work in this space. I think most social entrepreneurs feel that. It’s very emotionally difficult and mentally difficult. Being around people who understand that and can be supportive is super important. Even visually being able to look around [the SEG Hub] and say I’m not the only one working on an idea like this is really emotionally helpful.

Q: What is your dream/goal in regards to the social impact your company is working towards?

A: There’s two ways I can answer that question. What motivates us to do the work, is that we are trying to shift an industry. So personally I wake up every morning and feel like I’m saving lives. That might sound a little dramatic, but really for every product that doesn’t have an animal in the supply chain, that’s one less animal that doesn’t have to be killed or suffer to produce that item. In terms of our mission, we envision a world where animals aren’t used or exploited for human consumption. In terms of our market place strength, we want to be the vegan amazon. We are looking to directly compete with big brands that are dominant in the market place now, we want to do that as a social venture.

Q: What does the motto “Do Well Do Good” mean to you?

A: I am a really strong believer that you really only get the chance to live your life once, and I think we all have an obligation to leave the world better than we found it. So I think ‘do well, do good’ is an embodiment of a life that’s improving things. And I think the order is appropriate as well, you need to do well in order to do good—it’s not do good do well, it’s do well do good– so making sure that we’re doing well as a company enables us to do the [good] work that we want to see happen.



Meghan Farrington
Communications & Social Media Intern

Meghan Farrington is a Senior at Bryant University studying Marketing and Creative and Applied Arts. She is interning in the communications and social media program under Crystal Rosatti. Originally from Garden City, New York, she has a passion for creating and sharing compelling stories and information about social impact and social enterprise and hopes to pursue a career within the advertising industry.

Contact: mfarrington@bryant.edu