Posted: Mon 12th Jul 2021
More and more fashion brands are considering the environmental and social impact of their production.
Here, we meet three Enterprise Nation members putting sustainability at the forefront of their businesses.
Lucy Jeffrey, Bare Kind
Animal lover Lucy Jeffrey started Bare Kind with the aim of providing quality products that add value to the world. Combined with a deep-routed love of animals, Lucy landed on the humble sock as her headline product.
“I wanted to be a vet when I was younger. I’m scared of needles though, so that’s unlikely to happen”, Lucy jokes.
“I launched Bare Kind after identifying a market for conscious, great-quality socks. All my products are made from bamboo, which is naturally anti-bacterial and free from harmful substances.
“Bamboo fibre also boasts breathability and is cooler than normal apparels in hot weather. The socks themselves are made in a family-run factory in Istanbul where all the workers are over the age of 18 and receive fair wages.
“What’s more, when you buy Bare Kind socks, you are supporting the conservation of a species, as 10% of all profits are donated to the animal on your socks. The charities I work with are doing such brilliant work and I am so glad I can help in my own way”.
Working for a large bank gave Lucy the confidence to branch out on her own. But like many fledgling companies, Bare Kind began as a side-hustle.
And it wasn’t until December of last year that she finally made the leap into full-time entrepreneurship. Soon after she was able to draw her first wage from the business.
“Socks are literally now my livelihood. I feel like I’ve truly found my purpose. I’m working on lots of new designs, and I’m introducing children’s sizes to the range too – each one supporting one of a number of animal charities.
“Of course, it’s not been without its challenges. Like many business owners I’ve had to wear many different hats and have suffered burn-out; it’s so hard to switch off.
“But I’ve now outsourced my Facebook ads, and I’ve got two brilliant members of staff who take care of our content, PR and email marketing. And there’s Loki and Freyja, my pet rabbits. They’re both regular attendees of Enterprise Nation’s Lunch and Learn webinars.”
Sarah Jordan, Y.O.U
It was during a trip to Uganda in 2016 that Sarah Jordan saw first-hand the impact of women and girls not having access to underwear.
Determined to do something about it, she set about launching Y.O.U (Your Own Underwear), a brand on a mission to change the world, one pair of pants at a time.
“It took a while to turn my ideas into a business. After discovering some of the issues surrounding farming and growth of conventional cotton, I committed to only using fully-certified organic cotton – and only working with ethical manufacturers. We offer a buy-one-give-two promise, meaning we donate two pairs for every pair we sell.
“Our website went live in 2018 and we were selling our products at markets and in-person events too. When COVID hit we saw a significant drop in sales. But thanks to a lot of hard work and PR we ended up having a really strong year.
“With people slowing down, shopping locally and supporting small and sustainable businesses – and of course, being stuck at home and wanting comfy underwear – we experienced a 400% year-on-year growth. We’re currently working on new colours and ranges, including a collaboration with the breast cancer charity Future Dreams.
“Entrepreneurship is hard – and sometimes lonely. Surround yourself with people who’ll support you. I really value being part of the Enterprise Nation community and connecting with other small business owners. We were part of Gifted, the online Christmas market, at the end of last year too.
“My advice to anyone looking to become their own boss would be to find something that you’re passionate about and that motivates you. Prioritise balance and self-care too. Remember, you’re doing this to enjoy it too.”
Nick Crook, Boardies
Spotting a gap for affordable yet premium swimwear products, Nick Crook launched Boardies. Using sustainable materials and recycled packaging, the company has been making waves in the market ever since.
“It’s important to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Boardies’ USP is its creativity and original designs. Every item has a meaning or story attached to it. I felt that other products in the market were either very basic, boring, or over-priced. I set out to change that.”
Officially launching in 2015, Boardies’ products were picked up by some major retailers in the UK, including Selfridges and ASOS. Soon after it was able to extend its reach overseas to retailers in the USA, Europe and Australia.
“Trading in the Southern Hemisphere meant we were seeing year-round sales. But of course, the bigger we became and more orders we had to fulfil, the more finance we needed.
“With that, along with pressure from high-street copycat products, Brexit and then COVID, we’ve certainly had our fair share of challenges.
“The lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2020 meant that we suffered many order cancellations. We had to refocus, cut costs and seek government support to get us through.
“We applied for a Tower Hamlets Pivot Project grant through Enterprise Nation and developed a dedicated website for the USA. We also made improvements to our UK site and, as a result, our web sales conversation is up 40%.
“But Boardies is a lifestyle. And while we are motivated to grow sales and profits, we also want to make a positive impact on the world. We source materials derived from used plastic and water bottles, as well as regenerated nylon. And our packaging is made from recycled pizza boxes. We want to build a long-term, sustainable future.”
If you’re keen to share or learn more about sustainability in business, join this group.