Shopping for attractive products that are also sustainably made isn’t hard, but it does narrow down your search, somewhat. Trendy fashion made with organic cotton might be confined to one collection in a high street store, or for cool, upcoming brands, it makes for a little more time Googling. What if we could just get excited by that necklace/handbag/lotion, knowing that its susty cred was simply a given?
Luckily, there is such a place. It’s called the ethical.market – the UK’s largest curated ethical marketplace and a self-confessed one-stop-shop for sustainable shopping. Whether the product is organic, vegan, a byproduct, or assigned a multitude of other ethical standards, shoppers can see clearly what those goods are all about. So they can spend more time judging that book by its cover – groovy.
Husband and wife duo Raquel and Michael Wallace are the ones running the joint, and Raquel is one super-cool susty crush. Just look at that shirt!
I caught up with her to learn how the ethical.market came to be, and why making products sustainably can help your brand stand out.
Raquel chats going from concept to launch in only two months, her anger at the high street’s ethical standards, and how fear is actually a totally good thing.
Hope you love it!
I spent over 10 years working in events and marketing in London. Before I started ethical.market I was an average high street shopper. In the 90s, I remember hearing about terrible working practices that some brands were being linked to. I remember purposely looking into reports and ethical standards of big high street stores so I could have some idea of where to shop guilt-free. Sadly it would seem that there was a little too much “greenwashing” that took place. As more and more reports started to come out and obviously with the tragic Rana Plaza disaster, I found myself at a bit of a loss.
I was so angry that nothing much had changed, but more upset by the lack of honesty I fell for. I just wanted somewhere to shop where I could have full transparency before buying, but found it increasingly hard as there was no one-stop-shop for all my needs. So ethical.market was born with the idea that we could support conscious shoppers but also appeal to those just wanting to buy items that are a little different that you don’t see on the high street.I think what I have learnt from starting ethical.market is that in business if you’re not scared then you’re just not pushing yourself hard enough. Fear isn’t actually a bad thing, if you get in the right headspace it’s actually quite exciting. With any new business there are lots of hills to overcome and to be honest even now we never reach a point where we think “phew that’s me done”, there is always going to be something else, some new problem or some new learning curve. But it’s that unknown challenge that makes life interesting and makes you want to push to the next level.
It’s a case of lots of planning, research and web development. We went from concept to launch in two months (I’m hoping that’s some kind of record), but we worked long hours 7 days a week to make that happen.
There are so many reasons to love running your own business, but if I had to narrow it down then I’d say it’s all the new skills you learn, you can really push yourself to new limits.
Every day is varied, most days I spend time spreading the word about how important Fairly Made goods are and shining a spotlight on our brands through social media and with journalists. Other days I am filming vlogs and writing blog posts and I spend a good portion of my time in meetings with new brands or planning our next photoshoot edit.
There are very few reasons for a new brand starting out not to create ethical products. If you’re printing designs on T-shirts for example, how do you make your brand stand out from the high street? It’s very difficult the only thing that will stand a new brand out and appeal to the new generation of ethical shoppers is their manufacturing and transparency in knowing how and where their items or components were made. For a small business having a USP is essential and this is an easy one to incorporate into your brand story, but more importantly is the only real way forward to making any conscious change for the future.
I think when you first start a project you waste a lot of time wondering about risks or fearing about the unknown. You just have to give everything a shot, never put anything off because you will honestly surprise yourself at just how well you can adapt to new situations and ultimately get through it feeling so much more confident. Our motto when we first started out was “If it was easy everyone would be doing it” I wholeheartedly believe that’s true. If you want it bad enough you have to make it happen.
I spent some time backpacking in South America and found myself taking a jewellery course in a village for a week. Aside from the silver jewellery I learnt how to braid a friendship bracelet with a lots of llama designs on it, because who doesn’t love llamas?