Starting a business, especially a plastic free one, in a relatively new industry that I didn’t have any experience in, wasn’t easy.
So what have I learnt from creating KIND2, a solid shampoo brand that manufactures in the UK?
If I could boil it down to a few key points, it would be these and this is why.
- Only 9% of plastic ever made has been recycled – recycling is not the answer.
- People really do want to buy products that are plastic free but the main barriers are awareness, availability, performance and cost.
- When you are creating a product that is innovative, finding suppliers who have the capability or the motivation to support you is difficult.
- Surround yourself with experts, seek them out, ask questions, listen and learn – you will be amazed how much faster you can run when you work together.
- Working on a business with a purpose that you really believe in, doesn’t feel like work at all.
Here’s a bit more of the backstory on how I came to learn these things …
Why I created KIND2
I didn’t wake up one morning and think “I’m going to create a solid shampoo brand”. If only … in fact, it took a few years to channel my discontent in the right direction.
I was living in Hong Kong, travelling a lot and working too hard. Every time we visited the beach, a city or trekked in the countryside I couldn’t ignore what was right in front of my eyes – the blight of plastic pollution.
I even managed to convince my (reluctant) workmates to do a beach clean-up in Hong Kong. In one afternoon, we collected 90 bags of rubbish and it barely made a difference.
I watched Albatross, it was shocking and heart-breaking. My reflection was that my only contribution so far was trying to recycle plastic. It didn’t really seem like enough and now I know that it isn’t.
It would have been easier to keep working in my corporate role, pushing aside the frustrations that come with that, but I knew that was drifting along and it just wasn’t enough.
Or I could leave it all behind (gasp), pack up my bags, return to London and start something new, something that made a positive contribution to solving the crisis that is our unsustainable consumption of plastic. I just didn’t know what.
How I created a solid shampoo brand from scratch
I started months of research, podcasts, networking, trade shows and events. I was a (non-plastic) sponge.
What were the opportunities for change? What did people want? What products were out there? What were people saying about those products? My head was spinning with ideas.
Just weeks after returning to London and over a coffee with a friend we were enthusiastically talking about life and the future. As usual, he was brimming with advice and ideas … and he mentioned the Blue Ocean Strategy as a source of inspiration.
In a nutshell, it’s all about moving away from the crowded and ruthlessly competitive “red ocean” to create new markets, innovating and driving new demand into the clear blue. It’s a fascinating and thought provoking read for any business leader or aspiring entrepreneur.
Plastic pollution is what motivated me to make a change. Even if you don’t care about it as much as I do, you know it’s a problem and it’s hard to ignore.
The majority of discussions or solutions proposed in response to growing awareness and public concern, are either better (more or improved) recycling, using ocean plastic to make new things or creating bio-plastics, many of which only degrade in industrial facilities.
While all potentially better than doing absolutely nothing, I don’t feel they are enough. My Blue Ocean Shift is a response to the plastic problem by creating new products that eliminate it at source.
In one of the many Facebook groups I joined, the topic of shampoo bars was hot. Literally, every day people were asking for recommendations, talking about their (mostly negative) experiences of dry hair, waxy residue, itchy scalp and, using vinegar rinses. It’s clear that people are motivated to try plastic free shampoo but a significant number are disappointed by the results. It was my lightbulb moment.
Over the next few months, I start to read and search all the threads and articles on shampoo bars, read absolutely everything I could get my hands on, worked on understanding the ingredients, the chemistry and the hair care market. I was convinced – and still am – that is my time to shine.
Next came finding the right partners. This is not as easy as it sounds, and has been a real test of my tenacity.
There is so much to do.
Product development, manufacturing, packaging, compliance, a name, a logo, my website and all of that happens before you even have anything resembling a physical product – it’s still an idea, a concept.
Being determined to create products that are not just plastic free, but really high performing in hard water, as well as being vegan and natural, meant it was no easy task. We spent six months with multiple versions, getting the right balance of performance, fragrance, colour and texture.
I was determined to manufacture in the UK, keeping our carbon footprint down as much as possible. That wasn’t easy either, most cosmetic manufacturing in the UK is liquids into plastic bottles – in large numbers. So the biggest challenges here were around trying to create solid products in the right quantities for a start-up brand.
There is so much support available in London for new and aspiring entrepreneurs through events and classes (on everything from SEO to PR), accelerators and networking groups. Not only has this been a great way to fast track new knowledge and learn a new industry, but also a great antidote to the potential isolation of working from home. I’ve met some really inspiring people.
The KIND2 solid shampoo range
It’s been an exciting journey over the last 18 months of ideas, exploring, thinking, talking, reading and lots of hard work.
KIND2 launched in September 2019 with two solid shampoos bars: The Hydrating One and The Sensitive One plus one solid conditioner bar: The Restoring One.
And we’ve got plans for more, a Two in One, Beard & Body, Volumising Shampoo and maybe even a Dog Shampoo.
Not a week goes by without someone asking me if I miss my old life, my old job and the answer is no.
A former colleague I met up with last week recently, told me I was “shining from the inside”.
KIND2 is now available to order online. Scroll down to get your exclusive pebble discount code!