Walking Her Own Path
After studying architecture at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Annie Mohaupt began her career in San Francisco with high hopes. But the Pecatonica, Ill., native quickly moved back home, which didn’t prove to be any easier for her career.
“Things can be hard in the construction industry, and I had done well in school, but when I got in the real world I was not taken seriously,” Mohaupt says. “One of my coworkers was someone who I went to school with, and I had done much better than him at school. However, when we got out in the field, everybody was listening to him and not me. It was frustrating, and after years of that I just got tired of people not making eye contact with me.”
So, in 2005, Mohaupt decided it was time set off on her own. She grew up on a sheep farm and was used to working with her hands. Her vision was to combine her artistic skills with responsibly made products that were 100% vegan. Thus, was born Mohop, which specializes in handmade shoes, handbags and accessories.
“Growing up on a farm, I was used to animal products,” says Mohaupt. “But now, I feel like that is not the future. They’re now developing leathers out of pineapple and mushroom, and different plant-based materials. It’s really exciting.”
Mohaupt spent months engineering shoes in her basement. She would often make a pair and walk them around the block. Eventually, she began selling her shoes at a craft fair.
“We were selling out, and there was a line out of the tent,” Mohaupt recalls. “After that, I knew I had something.”
But as quick as success came, so, too, did disaster.
“I got all of these emails that people’s shoes had broken because I had only tested them for comfort, and not durability,” Mohaupt says. “At that point, I had already been working on them for six months. I was like, ‘OK. I have to make a decision. Do I want to continue this business? Do I give people refunds for their orders and continue to remake the shoes?’”
Rather than give up, Mohaupt went all in and re-engineered her shoes to be durable and comfortable.
Today, she works with partner Justin Walker out of a small shop on Rockford’s southeast side, where they’re manufacturing their own, fully American-made products.