How We Started a Sustainable
Business Selling Everyday Use Products
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, I am Stacey and I’m the MD of EcoVibe. We source and sell everyday use products made from sustainable materials to consumers through our B2C and B2B e-commerce websites. Our product ranges include cleaning, self-care and most recently food and gardening. Since we started, it’s been our mission to help make our other customers’ lives more sustainable.
My focus is directed on growing the business whilst overseeing the day to day operations.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
After completing a Marketing degree, I began my professional career as a marketing analyst for the animal charity PDSA. Over the next four years, I developed my skills of turning data into insight that would inform marketing strategies.
I always had the travel bug in me and therefore decided to take a year out to travel before returning to Yorkshire to continue within analytics. After working for a corporate, I was approached to work at a marketing agency to develop their data and analytics function which led to me becoming the General Manager for the company.
During this time I worked with an amazing team who started to look for ways to reduce their individual plastic use and cut everyday single-use household plastics out of their lives. However, this was a struggle. Either the plastic-free alternatives did not exist, or they weren’t truly plastic-free. With all the lack of choice and misinformation around the only option was to create a place that sourced and sold truly eco-friendly sustainable alternatives. EcoVibe was born.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
The key challenge for EcoVibe, in the beginning, was expanding our product range. We started with one product. However, to attract more customers and increase the value, we needed a wide product range. Identifying what products to purchase and where to invest money wasn’t easy.
As we were a startup we had no leverage with suppliers and working with manufacturers proved more difficult than we anticipated. This was a new world to us, as a team and we made errors along the way. All which have been great learnings.
Who is your target market?
Our original target market were females aged 40+ with a higher than average household income, living in the UK and with an interest in eco-friendly, sustainable products. However, since broadening our product range, we have been able to expand our B2C target market to ABC1 individuals aged 25+ who have an interest in reducing their impact on the environment.
Also, with the launch of our wholesale site, our B2B target market would range from zero waste independent stores to any company looking at reducing their environmental impact when it comes to the cleaning solutions they use.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
The most effective marketing channels have been paid social media advertising and PPC campaigns. We have identified a combination of key audiences and products which convert website traffic from these channels. In addition, we use our social channels and email marketing to enhance sales further by communicating new and exciting products to our customers which can help them make more sustainable switches.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
We try to get to know our customers and what they are interested in using various methods. Understanding customer needs has helped us tailor our communications after the initial sale. We have a broad range of products and not all will apply to each customer. Therefore by knowing what customers want ensures they don’t receive irrelevant communications.
We also continue to develop first to market products. We welcome customer feedback on both products we sell along with what products they would like us to sell. If we can’t find it we will look to develop it. We want our customers to be part of the journey and we’ve found this a great way of engaging with them.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
The culture within the business is really important to me. Every employee plays a pivotal role and I want them to feel that their work is valuable to the overall company goals. To do this we introduced OKRs at the beginning of 2019 and use a tool to visualise how each individuals OKRs relate to the company objectives for each quarter
Also, I am a huge fan of flexible working. I am aware that employees have a life outside of the company and different responsibilities. Therefore, even before COVID, the team had the flexibility to work from different locations and work flexible hours.
Finally being at work doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. We have implemented this throughout our day to day working. In our morning standup, we begin with either a question or activity that enables us to get to know each other better. In the afternoons we have energiser sessions which consist of various games and activities and, every quarter, we get together to update everyone on business performance followed by a social activity, which the team decide.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We use Xero accounting to understand business performance from a financial perspective. All other reporting is currently created in Excel. Our website is built on the Shopify platform which has enabled us to develop the website using various pre-built apps which enhance the customer journey. To send email communications and measure performance, we use a tool called Drip.
In order to visualise our OKRs we use Just3Things.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
To trust my gut more. Being green to running a new business and from a data background, I always wanted to see numbers to back up my decisioning. However, in the beginning, the numbers are not there. I had to learn to listen to my gut more and figure out the right questions to ask to decide without data.
I’ve also had to learn how to communicate effectively. My preferred style doesn’t suit everyone and therefore I’ve worked hard to adapt my communication style depending on who I’m talking with. It’s something I’m constantly working on.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love the freedom and flexibility that comes with running a business along with the variety of work I get to do. No day is the same. It’s also been a steep learning curve but I enjoy learning. Over the last couple of years, I have gained a great deal of business knowledge and continue to do so each day.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Having the ultimate responsibility brings huge pressure and feels overwhelming at times. I always want to do the best job I can and never want to let the team down. I put pressure on myself to get everything right whilst knowing you learn more from your failures.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I have been lucky to have a business coach who has been valuable to my learning and development. It’s nice to be able to talk through the challenges I face with someone outside the company. Also, I am a part of the Natwest Scale Up programme. This has provided a great network of business leaders who I can ask for advice.
Books that have helped me on my journey include The Advice Trap by Michael Bungay Stanier. This has changed the way I manage and by implementing the tools from the book as led to better conversations with my team. Work Like a Woman by Mary Portas reinforced my thinking of how to run a business.
Finally, The Emotional Capitalists helped with me understand how to effectively communicate to all employees when delivering company updates.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I see EcoVibe becoming the market leader for sustainable everyday products. We will be an international company employing people across the globe.