When the nation went into lockdown on 23 March, air pollution levels in some of our busiest cities dropped significantly; a positive side-effect of the severe decrease in traffic. Environmentalists and nature lovers alike are now urging the public at large to maintain this drop in pollution levels as a catalyst for further improvements. With the ongoing sustainability shift gripping the nation, it should come as no surprise that budding entrepreneurs are looking to the eco-friendly innovators for guidance on how to maintain and increase their customer base.
One of the brands making a long-term and significant commitment to the sustainability of our planet is bamboo toilet paper retailer, The Cheeky Panda. Co-founder, Chris Forbes, has spearheaded the growth of the brand during a nationwide toilet roll shortage, which led to an undisputable increase in demand.
“Sales of our products quite literally quadrupled during the first three months of lockdown and fast-forwarded our growth by 18 months,” said Chris. “Maintaining the supply was certainly a challenge, especially taking into consideration that the majority of our team were working from home. We hired over 10 people during lockdown as we fulfilled some of national supermarket chain toilet tissue shortages.
“The Cheeky Panda is one of the fastest-growing challenger brands in the UK, achieving 200-400% year-on-year growth over the past five years. Whilst that has been challenging, building a green business has been highly satisfying. I’m a believer that it’s not government or large-scale companies that will come up with long-term solutions for a more sustainable world but the entrepreneurs and SME owners; we are the innovators and the ones that can shape a better future for our economy.”
Having capitalised on the increased demand for sustainable services, Chris feels passionately about sharing best practice with other business owners – namely establishing your USP by creating a commercial solution to a problem. Nate Bigger, founder and CEO of luxury haircare brand MONPURE, has combined his experience of managing the beauty division of one of the most successful e-commerce brands in the world with his passion for making a long-term impact on the environment.
“When I launched the brand in 2018, I knew I wanted to make a much-needed change for the haircare industry whilst also making sustainable choices. Therefore, all of our packaging is created using recycled materials wherever possible. Although this comes with quite a significant financial investment, it’s a commitment I’m willing to uphold as the brand grows.
“Our range of hair products and ecommerce site, which offers preventative solutions for hair loss and thinning, launched earlier this year, on 4 May. Despite bringing the products to market six weeks into a nationwide lockdown, consumers responded well to our ethical and quality brand positioning, and demand has been high. I’m proud of what I’ve grown in such a challenging economy, and I’m very open with other entrepreneurs about how I’ve achieved this success.”
Brands that put sustainability at the heart of operations have also made a significant impact on communities around the nation during lockdown. Food sharing app OLIO has been providing a resource for those wanting to pass on excess food to neighbours living locally.
“It’s estimated that 71% of the nation’s food waste comes from our homes, which is simply astounding,” explained co-founder, Saasha Celestial-One. “One of the best things we’ve seen to come out of 2020 is communities coming together to provide a lifeline for those that are less fortunate. In this climate, wasting less and using more has never been more crucial or timely. This has caused a considerable uplift in the demand for our services – in fact, we’ve seen more donations in the five months from March to August than in the first five years of the company.
“We’ve also been able to diversify our offerings by adding new features to the app, including an online marketplace called MADE, where our members can market their homemade wares. The concept for OLIO came from a simple idea; my business partner, Tessa Clarke, wanting to pass on uneaten food from her fridge when she relocated. But, in reality, we’ve built a whole community of like-minded individuals who respect the need for preserving our planet.”
Elite Business Live is an annual national conference, running on the 11th and 12th March, this year transforming to virtual registration to still cater for the business community despite COVID restrictions. Chris, Nate and Saasha will all be taking part, imparting their wisdom on how their knowledge and understanding of their sustainable USPs have sustained their respective businesses during the pandemic.