This is the third in the mini-series of blog posts for Responsible Business Week 2017.
In the first post I talked a little bit about what ‘Responsible Business’ means to me, and every day this week, I will be interviewing an ethical business owner, to find out what it means to them, as well as some of the challenges and rewards of running a business that looks after people and planet, as well as profit. You can read the other interviews here.
Today we’ve got another fabulous Responsible Business Owner for you – here goes…
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your business?
Hi, I’m Vix. I’m originally from Lancaster in the North West but moved to London to go to university back in ‘98, I studied International Marketing with French and spent a year working for ETSI in Cannes, not a bad location for a work placement!
After finishing my degree, I got an events job at CEDR in London and moved to Crouch End, in North London, where I lived for the following decade. I had a great time working in the creative industries – TV, Events, Advertising, Marketing, but wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on the same path for the rest of my working life.
In the mid ‘00s I was lucky enough to get an allotment at Alexandra Palace, affectionately known as Ally Pally. I shared a plot with a group of friends, we started gardening and I loved it. It reminded me of my childhood, at my grandads allotment and gave me access to much needed green, chilled space. Time spent there felt like a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it was a refreshing change and sent me on a new path. It was then that I became interested in gardening, composting, upcycling, buying less ‘stuff’ and reusing the things I already owned.
I was in my early 30s when I decided to take some time out to think about what was really important to me, what I wanted to focus on in future and what I wanted to dedicate my working life to. I quit my job and headed off to Melbourne, Australia for a year of working and travelling.
When I returned to London a year later I still had itchy feet, so I went to Portugal, on another adventure. I volunteered on organic farms and focussed on sustainable living. It was there that I decided to set up an ethical business…I returned to Blighty to launch an eco-friendly, ethical business.
I run a design and manufacturing business called Bough to Beauty Bespoke. We supply luxury eco friendly sustainable products to a variety of interesting hospitality and events clients. We design and manufacture our range of products in the UK from sustainably sourced wood from managed forests. We run a paperless office and reuse packaging wherever possible.
What does ‘Responsible Business’ mean to you?
For me being a ‘responsible business’ means taking responsibility in terms of being environmentally friendly, considerate towards colleagues, customers and society and striving to set an example that I would be proud for other businesses to follow.
As I see it, it isn’t about writing a policy and filing it away to gather dust, it’s about taking action. A responsible business should have these values ingrained in their business strategy and daily decision making and in how the business operates. It is really important to me that we manufacture our products in the UK and support the tradition of British manufacturing, quality craftsmanship and being ‘local’ to the UK.
There are some wonderful British brands who pride themselves in being British manufacturers and I’d really like Bough to Beauty Bespoke to follow in their footsteps.
What has been/is your biggest challenge as an ethical entrepreneur?
Our laser engraved solid oak products include the following which speak for themselves:
Menu boards, Name badges, Keyrings, Coasters, Beer pump clips, Door hangers, Door name plates, Signage.
In addition to these we also design completely bespoke products that are made to order based on our customers’ unique requirements.
However, our biggest challenge has been to introduce our new concept of reusable solid oak name badges or Badges For Life, to potential customers. The name badges are quite unique and our customers have often never seen anything like them when they come across our brand. We came up with the idea for a stylish alternative to plastic badges to reduce wasteful plastic disposable badges and encourage businesses to think about the small ways that they can make a huge difference by sending less corporate waste to landfill. When customers discover our badges it can take a while for the idea to sink in but once it does, most people think it’s a great step in the right direction. We all use Bags For Life, so why not use Badges For Life?
What is the best thing about running an ethical business?
I think the best thing is knowing that you’re having a positive impact, it might only be small but it all makes a difference.
It won’t happen overnight but if each week I can encourage a few more businesses and a few more individuals to support ethical brands, reduce waste and be kinder to people and planet then that’s a really good movement to be part of. I don’t buy many products on the high street and when I do want to buy something new I want to know that it was made in a responsible way, so that I can feel good about investing in it. I want my customers to have the same sense of pride or ‘feel good feeling’ when they buy products from me.
What advice would you give to others wanting to either start up an ethical business, or to re-design their existing one to be more ‘responsible’?
I was fortunate that I built my business and company values around being an ethical business, so every decision from the start was focussed on sticking to this plan. However, if you run a business that you’d like to re-design as being more ‘responsible’ try not to get overwhelmed, there are so many ways that you can make steps in this direction.
A good place to start would be to look at where you are now and what you want to change – so work out where you want to be in 12 months time. Then look at your processes and see if there are any tweaks you could make in each area to be more responsible.
Could you recycle more or switch to using recycled materials, could you reuse items around the office? Could you use fewer disposable products in the work kitchen?
Could you switch to a greener energy supplier? Make sure lights and computers are switched off when not in use?
Could you travel less or cycle/walk rather than driving to meetings?
Could you look into using local or more sustainable suppliers?
Could you introduce ethical business goals?
Could you get involved in ethical business networking groups to give you more ideas? Or if there isn’t one based in your area, maybe you could set one up?
With each area of your business you could see if there’s a better alternative and if there is, write down steps that you could take to make the switch, then take action and make it happen. Within a year you could be in a much better place. Good luck!
I am lucky enough to have worked with Vix and Bough to Beauty Bespoke, helping her to get some clarity around her goals and ambitions for the business and how to achieve them, and I know personally how passionate she is about this business. When she first told me about what she does, I was blown away by the simplicity of the idea – what a brilliant way to have a really meaningful impact on the amount of plastic being used and thrown away, and what a great opportunity for businesses to be able to display their sustainability credentials for all to see in such a beautiful way.
Thanks so much to Vix for sharing this with us – you can find Bough to Beauty Bespoke online here, and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
What was the part of Vix’s story that resonated with you, or inspired you the most? Do leave a comment below, or hop over to the #MakingGood Facebook community to carry on the conversation ?