If Imelda Marcos goes cruelty-free, Frank Zigrang might get rich; NON-LEATHER SHOE KING SHOWS HUMANE MERCHANTS HOW

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1993:

DAKOTA CITY, Iowa––”I’ve learned everything the hard way,” Frank
Zigrang states, “and I’m still learning from my mistakes.”
Zigrang founded his mail-order non-leather shoe firm, Heartland Products
in 1986, with no experience in either direct-mail sales or the shoe business. But in
six months as a vegetarian, Zigrang had discovered a vacant market niche, and as a
career businessman, he didn’t waste time moving to fill it. Heartland now boasts a
customer list of 30,000, annual sales of $100,000, and turns a modest profit.
“I’m making a living, anyway,” Zigrang admits. “It maybe isn’t much of
a living by some people’s standards, but I still have other business interests,”
including a share in the family grain farm run by his older brother.
Zigrang has become legendary in the animal protection community
through his frequent sales exhibits at half a dozen regional conferences per year.
But that’s not the key to his success. “I just do that for visibility,” he explains. “To
sell anything, you have to stay visible.” The keys, he emphasizes, “are the old
business stand-bys. That’s price, convenience, and quality. If you can’t sell some-
thing for less than the store at the mall, you sell something better than they have
down at the mall, or something they don’t stock, and you make it more convenient
for your customers to place an order with you than to drive down to the mall. You
stay in touch with your customers. That’s how you get repeat orders. You stock
what they want.”

Zigrang’s watchword is inventory. To maintain his sales volume, he
keeps $50,000 worth of shoes––that’s wholesale value––on hand at all times. “You
can’t have convenience without inventory,” he explains. “You can’t sell just one
thing, and you can’t always be back-ordering and making the customers wait. If
you get an order, you ship it out that day.” The current Heartland catalog lists 67
different shoe styles, of 22 different types, most of which are available in a range
of five to seven sizes.
Zigrang makes money, he says, to make a point. “If I just wanted to
make money,” he begins, “I could do it a lot of ways.” He earned a degree in busi-
ness administration from the University of Iowa in 1961, spent five years as field
director for the national fraternity Delta Chi, was a mobile home vendor for three
years, and spent 10 years as a realtor before founding Heartland. “If you look at the
hunting and fishing magazines,” he continues, “you’ll see that the ads are driving
them, paying for the publications, which keep the sportsmen informed and orga-
nized. Business is what pays for the ads and keeps it all going. In the humane com-
munity, we need our own economic base. People need to become involved not just
in activism, but in economic activity. Don’t just start a group and ask for contribu-
tions. Open a vegetarian restaurant, open a green store. Fill a need and create a
market. That’s how you’re going to sell our cause.”
Zigrang is also heavily involved in both activism and hands-on humane
work. In 1985 he became the volunteer dogcatcher for Humboldt County, where
he’s lived virtually all his life; in 1989 the county began covering his expenses. “I
bring two or three cruelty prosecutions per year,” he says. “I have a 100% convic-
tion rate so far, because I don’t prosecute if I don’t have a good case. I get excellent
cooperation from the police, the sheriff, the prosecutor, and the local newspaper.”
Zigrang has now served for seven years on the Fort Dodge Humane Society board
of directors, including a stint as president. In addition, Zigrang headed a Rails to
Trails fund drive for the local conservation board, which bought a 36-mile stretch
of abandoned railway and converted it into a hiking route.
Business background, Zigrang finds, gives him extra credibility as a
humane advocate, and especially as an outspoken vegetarian in a state closely asso-
ciated with animal agriculture––”Because I’m not hurting the economy,” he says.
“I’m creating the economy.”
––Merritt Clifton
Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.