Inspirational female entrepreneurs making a difference

Ready to be inspired? To celebrate Women's Equality Day we're putting the spotlight on four ambitious female business women.

We're excited to introduce you to Kathryn (Wild & Stone Co-Founder), Anna (UpCircle Co-Founder), Tessa (OLIO Co-Founder) and Lucy (Frugi Co-Founder), who are changing the game with their eco-friendly businesses that we love!

We find out about their inspiring business journeys and their top entrepreneurial tips... 

Kathyrn, Wild & Stone Co-FounderKathryn co-founder of Wild & Stone

I’m Kathryn Jonas and I’m the Co-Founder and Product Director at Wild & Stone. Wild & Stone is a British brand creating easy to adopt, usable and stylish alternatives to single use plastic. Our goal is to remove the plastic and single-use culture for families by making stylish and easy to swap eco alternatives. We started 2 and a half years ago with a bamboo toothbrush and we now have an array of eco-luxe, all-natural products across household, personal care, baby weaning and fashion loved by over 100,000 happy customers.

What inspired you to set-up your business?

I always dreamed of running my own company. To be able to work when I wanted to, where I wanted to, and to fit my work around my life rather than let work dictate it. Before Wild & Stone, I was working a busy corporate job. After the birth of my second child, I wondered how it would be possible to return to the corporate world whilst raising two children. I knew I had to make a decision.

I started to think of business ideas, and eventually Wild & Stone was born because of a toothbrush I bought for my daughter. I opened a plastic box to get out a plastic toothbrush that would last a month before being thrown away and the cycle repeating. I decided to design a sustainable, plastic-free toothbrush that I would be proud to have in my home. 

I’ve never looked back and love running my own company. My friend Sarah joined me and together we set out to help rid the world of unnecessary plastics, whilst inspiring other mothers to strive for better work-life balances.

 

Wild & Stone reusable product collection

How is your business planet-friendly?

The Wild and Stone team are passionate about creating and introducing reusable products into our homes, reducing our reliance on regular plastic items. We are very committed to making sure that not just our end products, but their entire journeys, their impact on people and planet, from creation to fruition, is as sustainable as possible.

  • Materials
    Our products are only made from materials that are farmed ethically and sustainably - we only use organic textiles and we only ever use Moso bamboo. You could say that we have a bit of a love affair with this mighty plant. Not only is it hardy and naturally anti- bacterial, but as a fast-growing grass, it requires no fertiliser and self-regenerates from its own roots. This means it doesn’t need to be replanted making it naturally sustainable. All our fabric products use organic cotton and are OEKO-TEX® certified ensuring we are not participating in the use of harmful chemicals that enter our waterways and seas and hurt our environment and planet.
  • People
    We are committed to keeping our supply chains as transparent and ethical as possible. Wild & Stone have a close relationship with our suppliers and are in continual contact with our partners to ensure regulations are adhered to. We are committed to ensuring that the people who form our supply chain are paid fairly for their work, earning above a living wage. They must be treated well by their employers and should feel safe in their working environment. Our workers are of the legal age of employment and they work legal hours (no more than eight hours per day).
  • Shipping & Packaging
    Both the items our products come in and the packaging they are posted to our customers in are plastic free and fully recyclable. We have worked hard to minimise our carbon footprint by consolidating our shipments and only shipping by sea and not air. We ll all containers to maximise each shipment.

We understand that sustainability and environmental factors are constantly changing, what is good today, may not be good tomorrow and so we are committed to continuously work to improve our position, researching and taking up new solutions as they become available.

Is there an environmental fact or figure that’s shocked you and/or motivated you to live more sustainably?

Discovering that there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans and that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the oceans than fish, was a huge motivation for me.

What’s your biggest business achievement so far?

There are so many! We are delighted to have seen fantastic business growth since we started and have lots of exciting growth plans to come. We now have an array of over 80 eco-luxe, all-natural products across household, personal care, baby weaning and fashion loved by over 100,000 happy customers. We are thrilled to have been featured in Tatler, Vogue, Sunday Times Style Magazine, Country and Town House. to name just a few...

 

Day out reusable essentials

What advice would you give to want-to-be entrepreneurs?

My journey has taught me to not be afraid of being a rebel, of bucking the trend, speaking up and not feeling like you must follow a conventional path. If you have passion for what you do every day it will propel you faster and harder in your career.

If you could tackle one environmental issue, what would it be?

As a mother, I want my children to grow up in a world that is healthy and clean, and I’m dedicated to doing what I can do to support this. Sometimes it feels like a small ripple in the ocean, but every small action we take makes a difference. My main goal is to grow Wild & Stone to offer sustainable, plastic-free alternatives to families around the world, so we can all contribute to creating a better future for our planet.

What eco-friendly swap would you recommend to someone looking for an easy alternative in their daily routine?

I love using beeswax wraps instead of using cling-film, and you can get so many pretty patterns that are a joy to have on show in your picnic basket. I also love reusable straws for drinks that are fun and can brighten up a cocktail party! I have previously struggled with plastic free beauty products, but recently reusable make-up pads have grown in popularity, and we’re also working on some more personal care items that will make beauty and grooming more sustainable.

 

ANNA | Co-Founder, UpcircleAnna, CoFounder of Upcircle standing in branded jumper

My name is Anna and I am the co-founder of UpCircle Beauty, which I launched alongside my brother William in 2016. In 2019 we launched our products into more than 2000 retail doors and expanded into America. Brand founders tend to wear a lot of hats, but I would loosely describe my role within the brand as “The Story-Teller”. I came from fairly corporate background, but was left feeling ultimately unfulfilled. I wanted to start a business with a purpose beyond profit and to create products I could be proud of.

What inspired you to set-up your business?

The idea began five years ago. I asked a local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites. Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so…that was my lightbulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products?

Our repurposed ingredient portfolio now includes ten would-be waste ingredients from varied industries, including the argan, tea, juice, date, olive and wood industries. We’ve collected and transformed 350 tonnes of used coffee alone, based on our current growth rates this will rise to 1000 tonnes in the next five years.

How is your business planet-friendly?

Our brand ethos is built into everything we do and every decision we make. For example, each decision we make has to pass what we call the “win-win-win test”. Is it a win for the skin? Is it a win for UpCircle as a business (cost, availability, supply)? Is it a win for the grower (fair trade, adding value to a plant already being harvested for another purpose)? Every ingredient we upcycle answers these questions with “yes”, making them sustainable from ideation to creation. Our brand name encapsulates our core purpose: sustainability and promoting the power of the circular economy. UpCircle also hints at ‘upcycling’, the process of making something better from things that already exist. Sustainability isn’t a part of our business, it IS our business.

Not so long ago, the gold standard for beauty brands was to deliver a great product. Now brands are expected to go much further, to stand for something beyond their products. Beauty brands must prove that there is a reason for their existence, one that contributes in some way positively to the environment, to society, or to supporting individual expression. Our products are natural, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil-free, sustainable, handmade in the UK and housed in 100% recyclable packaging. We back this up with certification from Soil Association and COSMOS. We say that “natural” is the new “normal” – so let’s stand out from the crowd by going a step further.

It's also important to us that we give back. We’ve donated to One Tree Planted, Amazon Frontlines, Rainforest Alliance, Refuge, Save Elephant Foundation, and The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. We donated thousands of pamper parcels to frontline workers and gifted children’s books with ethic minority protagonists to over 100 UK schools, as a gesture of support for the BLM movement.

Our brand is sustainable and scalable but we maintain ethical, positive impact best practice.

 

Banner of Upcircle products

Is there an environmental fact or figure that’s shocked you and/or motivated you to live more sustainably?

We’re bombarded with shocking facts and figures all day every day, but sometimes I think these sorts of things can put people off even trying because the scale of the problem can seem so huge. That’s why rather than bombarding people with doom and gloom headlines about the scale of environmental issues, we focus on positive change and that we can all make a difference in small steps. Rather than saying 500,000 tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill in the UK each year, we say, each of our face scrubs rescues the equivalent of four espresso shots from being discarded. It’s tangible, it’s uplifting, it makes you feel good, it’s something to be proud to support.

Here are some other recent up to date repurposed ingredient stats which help bring our brand mission to life:

  • In June we made enough body cream to rescue the equivalent of 50,000 date seeds from being discarded
  • Our last batch of soaps was infused with 2 tonnes of brewed chai spices
  • Last month we collected 25 tonnes of coffee from cafe
  • Each face scrub is made with the equivalent of four espresso shots
  • To make 1kg of blueberry extract, which is the hero ingredient of our upcoming Night Cream, the oil of 800,000 berries which would otherwise have gone to waste, is salvaged

What’s your biggest business achievement so far?

It’s so hard to choose one! Having 3 dragons fighting over us on Dragons’ Den was certainly a high! When I won a live pitching event to Sainsbury’s buyers which led to our range being launched in their stores nationwide…that was pretty amazing too. Growing our team is also something that excites me greatly and I take great pride in overseeing the growth of each member of Team UpCircle. With each new hire we have a new wave of excitement, passion and personality. Being a good manager is one of my greatest strengths in my working life.

 

Will and Anna standing togetherWhat advice would you give to want-to-be entrepreneurs?

Ironically, to not feel obliged to take onboard everyone’s advice. No one knows your business, your personality or your life like you do, so trust your instinct. There’s no harm in listening, but you don’t have to take everyone’s advice and run with it!

I have come to believe that absorbing as much advice as possible at the start was in fact distracting, and only served to water down my ideas through fear of offending or minimising my audience. I now think you risk being pulled in too many different directions at once if you take on too many opinions. We underwent a rebrand two years into our brand journey to undo all the advice we received from people we thought knew better than us. Turns out they didn’t! Instead, be bold, have conviction and don’t be afraid to be the first to do something. The very existence of my brand, given the brand mission and model, is a demonstration of taking the lead with regards to sustainability within our industry. We’re the only brand to scale up repurposing ingredients into skincare formulations. The pioneering nature of what we do is illustrated by the extent of the opposition to our idea at the start, mentors and investors alike told us that the industry was not ready, that tackling issues of waste in the “shallow” beauty industry would not work. Our rapid growth has proven that not only is it possible, it’s in fact extremely popular. We hope our success will inspire the industry as a whole to become less wasteful - without compromising on quality or style.

If you could tackle one environmental issue, what would it be?

I guess I’ll go with the obvious, the one we tackle every day, which is the unnecessary waste of natural by-product ingredients.

What eco-friendly swap would you recommend to someone looking for an easy alternative in their daily routine?

There are lots of obvious suggestions, like bamboo rather than plastic-stemmed cotton buds, or a plastic-free safety razor rather than disposables – hemp makeup pads rather than single use cotton rounds and non-biodegradable face wipes…The list goes on!

Another suggestion I would make is to find brands who offer packaging refills. We’ve designed our packaging return scheme to be simple and streamlined. We want as many UpCirclers as possible to make use of the scheme, so we’ve ironed out any pain points! There’s a separate “Refills Collection” on our website where all prices are subject to a 20% discount vs. the usual retail price. We also automatically email a Freepost return label, so it’s as simple as could be! Circular ingredients, circular use of packaging. It just makes sense!

 

TESSA | OLIO Co-Founder & CEOTessa, co-founder of OLIO standing with Anna CoFounder of OLIO

I’m Co-Founder & CEO of OLIO. OLIO is a free app connecting neighbours with each other, and volunteers with local businesses, so that surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. It can also be used to give away other spare household items, and to buy and sell homemade food and handmade crafts.

To use OLIO you simply snap a photo of your item and add it to the app. Neighbours then receive an alert, can browse through the listings and request what they want, and then pop round to pick it up. Half of all food listings are requested in under 30 minutes, and half of all non-food listings are requested in under 4 hours. OLIO has 4 million users who have together shared over 25 million portions of food and 3 million household items.

What inspired you to set-up your business?

I’m a farmer’s daughter, and so have always hated throwing away good food. This is because I know from first-hand experience just how much hard work goes into producing it! As a result, the lightbulb moment for OLIO came when I was moving country and found myself on moving day with some good food that we hadn’t managed to eat, but that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. And so I set off on a bit of a wild goose chase to try and find someone to give it to, and I failed miserably. Through the whole process it seemed to me crazy that I should have to throw this food away when there were surely plenty of people within hundreds of metres of me who would love it, the problem was they just didn’t know about it. And so the idea of OLIO, a mobile app that connects neighbours to share food came about!

How is your business planet-friendly?

OLIO’s whole reason for existence is to try and solve the climate crisis in a way that’s inclusive and scalable, by connecting people with their neighbours so that surplus food & other household items can be given away, not thrown away. We’re also really proud of the fact that our carbon emissions as a company offset just 4% of all the carbon we save each month, making OLIO a massively carbon negative company. We’re also playing a really important role in strengthening local communities which I also think is critical to achieving a more sustainable way of living.

 

OLIO App visual on phone

Is there an environmental fact or figure that's shocked you and/or motivated you to live more sustainably?

Everything I learned about food waste shocked me. That’s because globally one third of all the food we produce each year gets thrown away which is worth over $1 trillion p.a.; meanwhile 800m people go hungry (who could be fed on a quarter of the food we waste in the West); and if food waste were to be a country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gases, after the USA and China! As we look to the future, we have another 2.2 billion people joining the planet by 2050, and in order to feed us all we need to increase global food production by 60% according to the FAO, but today, we have no idea how we will achieve this. It’s therefore completely crazy that in a country such as the UK, over half of all food waste takes place in the home!

What's your biggest business achievement so far?

Probably raising £11 million of financing for OLIO, and achieving it against the odds. That’s because less than 2% of all funding goes to female founded businesses, whereas 89% goes to male founded businesses, and the delta goes to mixed teams. Also, winning an award from the United Nations which highlighted OLIO as a “beacon” to the world was pretty amazing too!

What advice would you give to want-to-be entrepreneurs?

There are a couple of pieces of advice I’d give to future startup founders… First, when you’re starting a business it’s critical to have a learning mindset – your key objective at this stage is to experiment as quickly as possible, not to have all the answers. Second, you can de-risk massively by starting small and building from there - if you haven’t already, do read ‘The Lean Startup’, a great business building philosophy. Lots of people want to jump straight to building an app, but I strong encourage you to build your community or product on an existing platform such as Facebook or Instagram before investing in building something more. Third, given that more capital provides more runway, and more runway generally equates to a greater probability of success, make sure to carefully scrutinise every expenditure you make – it’s surprising how much you can achieve with how little when you get creative. And finally, although entrepreneurship can be the most fulfilling thing in the world, it is also an incredibly long, tough journey, so make sure to carve out some time for yourself to preserve your health and sanity! It’s time well spent :-)

 

OLIO co-founders standing together

If you could tackle one environmental issue, what would it be?

Food waste! Because according to Project Drawdown (which is a collaborative piece of work by hundreds of the world’s leading climate change scientists), reducing food waste is the #1 most important thing that humanity can do to try and solve the climate crisis – and it comes above electric cars, above solar power, and above a plant based diet!

What eco-friendly swap would you recommend to someone looking for an easy alternative in their daily routine?

I’ve been on a journey for about 4 years now to lead a more sustainable, and less wasteful life. We’ve condensed all those learnings into a really fun feature in the OLIO app called Goals, which is a bit like Tinder for sustainable living! So my one tip would be to check that out and there you’ll find plenty of inspiration and 100+ simple swaps.

 

LUCY | Frugi Co-FounderLucy Jewson co-founder of Frugi

My name is Lucy Jewson and I set up Frugi in 2004 with my husband Kurt, when we couldn’t find clothing to go over our son’s environmentally friendly washable nappy. Frugi has long been the number one organic childrenswear retailer in the UK and is now making great strides in clothing children all over the world – we also employ over 120 people in beautiful Cornwall.

What inspired you to set-up your business?

Well aside from our son’s big cloth nappie’d bottom, we wanted to prove that you could run a successful, profitable business that was totally run along green ethical lines.  Challenge the notion, that was rife back then, that you had to compromise ethics to be successful.  Being responsible was essential for long term success, not a “nice to have”.

How is your business planet-friendly?

The organic cotton that we use is far far better for biodiversity, soil health and the farmers that grow the cotton. We also use recycled bottles for things like rainwear that organic cotton doesn’t work as well for – which is far more environmentally friendly than using virgin fibres.  We ensure that all our farmers, machinists, dyers and knitters have a decent wage, access to healthcare and don’t have to work ridiculous hours to survive. We look after our own people and design clothing that is truly clever with lots of added features to make it grow with our children – the opposite of throw away fashion. I’d like to think we make the world a tiny bit more beautiful every day too! 😉

 

Girl toddler wearing a Frugi tshirt with ladybirds and floral trousers

Is there an environmental fact or figure that’s shocked you and/or motivated you to live more sustainably?

Too many to mention! I’m constantly shocked by the speed the climate is warming and how fast the glaciers are melting;  I’m devastated that biodiversity has fallen on average over 84%  globally, since humans started altering the landscape;  I’m horrified by the fact that there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the sea by 2050; and completely agog that the number of people in the world has doubled in just my lifetime. (I was born in 1972).  These are BIG facts and ones that the governments of the world need to act on fast – but that depends on the right people being in government, and here at least, that depends on us!

What’s your biggest business achievement so far?

I feel really proud that we helped lead the charge in making organic cotton fashionable and fun, which in turn made a lot more people want to wear it! When we started out in 2003/4 it was all beige, a bit scratchy and definitely a “niche” product. Our vision was to take organic cotton mainstream – if it could be just as, if not more than, as beautiful as any other clothing, why on earth would you NOT use it? It’s now available in beautiful colours and styles in hundreds of stores all over the globe and being a pioneer of that is truly humbling.

What advice would you give to want-to-be entrepreneurs?

You can’t start a business “on the side”, do it half hearted or part time. If it’s going to work, test out the idea with lots of people that aren’t your family and friends. If it is really proven to be a goer, give it absolutely everything you’ve got. Life is short and you can always get another job if it doesn’t work!

 

Babygrows & Romper Suits_Frugi

If you could tackle one environmental issue, what would it be?

That’s a really difficult question because they are all so linked to each other. Slowing down climate change or reversing nature’s decline – both absolutely vital. But if I take humans aside and think about ALL life on the planet, then I guess nature will adapt to a warmer world, it has done before – so I think if you forced me to make a choice, I’d go for reversing nature’s decline. Trying hard not to have the sole interest of the human race’s survival in mind here…

What eco-friendly swap would you recommend to someone looking for an easy alternative in their daily routine?

Consume less! I’m copying David Attenborough here – don’t waste! Let’s make do with less clothes in the wardrobes, take things to repair cafés, see if you can get your milk delivered in glass bottles, grow your own veg or get an organic veg box, use washable nappies! Basically, live like my parent’s generation did! We’ve got a lot to answer for!

 

Thank you to the amazing Kathryn, Anna, Tess and Lucy! We're definitely feeling inspired and we hope you are too!  To find out about our Bloom and Nora story, click here....Who's keen to be the next female entrepreneur?