In this interview, meet Renia Pruchnicki: Founder & Owner of Truth Belts. A Canadian-made vegan fashion company selling socially conscious accessories such as belts, wallets and more.
Can you tell us about yourself and background?
I have always been a creative person. My knack for imagination has allowed me to create a unique life for myself. I was born in Kitchener Ontario and moved to Toronto where I graduated from Toronto’s Ryerson University with a degree in Fashion Design/Production. I believe that our planet is in trouble and think I have a duty as an entrepreneur to do what I can to help create change. I wanted to create a company that made animal friendly accessories that were Canadian made as a way to make a difference. But I also created it because I wanted to live a life that I love. My hobby is swing dancing. I love music, dancing and nature.
Photo Credit: Renia Pruchnicki
What's the meaning behind the name Truth Belts?
I wanted a one-syllable word. I chose this name because Truth is a simple word that everyone can relate to. Everyone has his or her own Truth.
You started Truth Belts 16 years ago after you were laid off from a previous company you were working for at the time, was it a spontaneous decision to become your own boss or you took time in between to think about it?
It was something that was always in the back of my mind. When I did work full time before I started Truth, I often had some kind of contract job on the side. Usually it was doing illustrations. So when the time came, I did not hesitate.
You studied in Fashion Design at Ryerson University in Toronto and after graduation, you worked for various companies designing ski wear, backpacks and soft-sided coolers. Why you decided to choose belts as your main product for your business?
I originally wanted to have an entire clothing line, but I didn’t have enough money for that. All the fashion magazines were saying that belts were the hottest fashion accessories. The year was 2001. So I thought it would be a great way to start my company. It was an easy enough product for me to make and small enough that I could do it from my apartment. I have stayed with accessories ever since!
The concept of designing vegan leather belts or "Genuine Non-Leather" belts, as you like to call it wasn't because you were living that lifestyle. What lead you to choose the vegan route?
I was lead down the path after reading a book called “Total Health Makeover” by Marilu Henner. She was a vegan who wrote a book about food combining. I slowly learned how to cook differently. That led me to read more books, and watch various documentaries. The more I learned more about factory farming, the more I realized that I needed to eat differently. It was hard for me to give up meat. For me, it happened gradually over a span of a few years.
One of the materials used to create your belts and accessories are recycled car tires. What other fabrics are used when it comes to making your products?
Some of the other materials I use are polyurethane, cotton, polyester, elastic, jute and hemp.
Photo Credit: www.truthbelts.com
Photo Credit: www.truthbelts.com (The Marmaduke Belt)
Is ethical and sustainable living a big part of your lifestyle right now?
I would say that my lifestyle is somewhat ethical and sustainable. I do make an effort to do the best that I can. I do things like pick up litter at parks, recycle plastics and paper and sometimes shop at second hand clothing stores. I make an effort to buy local and organic food. I also donate a percentage of my sales to charities.
What are the creative ways you come up to solve the challenges you encounter daily when it comes to your company?
I do things like go for a walk at the beach. Nature is healing and it’s a way to recalibrate. I also meditate, do yoga and dance.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I make sure I meditate daily, and dance 1-3 times a week. I have learned to delegate some work to others, which frees up some time. I strongly believe that having an extracurricular hobby allows you to balance yourself out. For me, it’s dance, yoga and walking in nature.
What is the most rewarding part since you’ve started Truth Belts?
The most rewarding part is when I hear back from satisfied, happy customers via email or in person at a show, who tell me how happy they are with one of my products. It makes me smile!
What do you think is the most significant obstacle to women’s leadership in the entrepreneurial world in 2017?
Are there obstacles for woman? I have heard people talk of it, but never experienced it. I personally don’t believe that there are obstacles for women, who want to be a leader in the entrepreneurial world.
What advice (s) would you give to other like-minded women entrepreneurs, who are just in the process of starting their own business venture?
Take the time to write out a business plan. Then work backwards from that. Be persistent and keep trying. Don’t be afraid to fail. Celebrate any failures and share them with other in a way that helps you see how you have learned and grown from the experience. Find yourself a business mentor to learn from, such as Melanie Duncan, or Marie Forleo.
How do you envision the future of Truth belts?
I see my product line expanding a little bit. I would like to discover new innovative materials that I can use in my belts that are environmentally friendly. I think that one day I will sell my company and retire.
Photo Credit: www.truthbelts.com (The Otto Belt)
Photo Credit: Instagram @truth_belts (The Seva Flat belt)