Ecoegg founder Dawn White shares her inspiration behind starting the business and how it got to where it is today, sold in over 50 countries.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
My background isn’t in chemistry, I worked as an Art Director for the BBC for many years. It was for personal reasons based on my own struggles with eczema as a child combined with my environmental values as an adult, that I began to develop the Laundry Egg back in 2008. I self-taught myself to develop the formulation with the help of a chemist and advice from the National Eczema Society.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
In my early teens at a time when I became more body conscious, combined with my love of sport, I was aware that after every sports event my eczema would flare up on my arms and legs and I’d be mortified. I thought it was just due to all the physical exercise. It would be terrible in the morning on my face, I always thought this was due to products used on my hair affecting my skin. I never once considered back then that it was the detergent in my gym kit and on my bed sheets and pillowcase that was causing the issue. It wasn’t until my late 20s, when I read an article explaining that certain ingredients found in laundry detergents caused eczema flair ups, that I realised it had been the detergent all along.
One of my first phone calls was to the National Eczema Society to find out as an eczema sufferer what I could use to wash my clothes with. This is where my journey began to develop what is now known as the Ecoegg Laundry Egg. I wanted to help others who had suffered with sensitive skin conditions for many years, as I had. The idea was also combined with my passion for diving and first-hand experience with chemical water pollution whilst diving in South East Asia and working on several conservation projects. The thought of developing a product that would also reduce chemical pollution into the water system added to my drive and passion to make this a success, even during the toughest times – and there were many!
Back in 2008 there were not any products suitable for my skin type, neither were there many products in the eco laundry sector. I recognised this gap in the market and a need for something new.
How did you achieve awareness?
In the very early days, we designed an Ecoegg branded stall and took this around all of the new product and county shows in the UK to gauge if there was a market and need for this product, and there certainly was! People would purposely come back to the stand the next day to tell us how impressed they were with the clean and spread the word to family and friends who would also then come to buy the laundry egg, so it was a sell out at every show! This gave me great confidence that I really had a product here that worked, sold well and was genuinely helping people from the lovely feedback I was receiving.
Having a media background and no experience in retail, shopping TV seemed the obvious first step and Ecoegg received its first order from QVC UK which helped to quickly spread wider awareness. Other shopping channels soon picked up on this success which is when our orders began to multiply. Taking on financial investment was the next step to grow the marketing and PR budget to help spread awareness.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Initially I self-funded the business, which was limiting for its speed and scale of growth as I was still working on BBC contracts, whilst also working throughout the night and weekends on Ecoegg. From keeping true to my original beliefs behind developing a product to help people struggling with sensitive skin and to help reduce water pollution, these green credentials were picked up by an investment company looking to invest in eco products. With Ecoegg’s proven track record of selling out at county shows and on QVC UK, in hand with being able to prove that there was a need for this product and that people loved the product, this was all vital to gaining additional funding that was critical at that time if the business was to grow.
What are the key successes?
I’m proud to say that having built our success on providing effective and kinder laundry and cleaning products to both the UK market and worldwide – Ecoegg products are now sold in over 50 countries. Here in the UK, Ecoegg is listed in Waitrose, Ocado, Robert Dyas, Lakeland, Amazon, ASDA, Tesco and Morrisons. We have this year introduced three new fragrances for our Laundry Egg range, plus we have launched a new Stain Remover product and we have lots more exciting innovation to come, so things are going from strength to strength for the brand.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
In the beginning, a challenge was receiving large orders from QVC and not having the cash-flow to fulfil them, as so much money is required upfront. When starting out as a new business, payment terms with money going out of the business to suppliers is often money upfront, then payment terms into the business from the retailers/buyers are often months after the delivery of goods. This took a long time and a lot of cash injections to manage and overcome. Taking on external investment was the only way to overcome this challenge in the early stages.
Then as the business grows, there’s the need to grow staff and premises so overheads and outgoings grow, putting more pressure on sales. As an SME this is still a complex situation as you constantly require more staff as you grow, but you’re often still not financially at that point to expand resources as the business requires. It’s a fine balance, that you just have to learn to juggle wisely.
I realised 15 years ago that there is no requirement for highly fragranced chemicals packaged in plastic to clean your clothes (other than some people’s personal preference for their clothes to smell of a strong fragrance). The Ecoegg Laundry Egg was at the start of this rebellion against the big brands. The laundry market back then was dominated by P&G and Unilever and it still is! So, without anywhere near the marketing budget of P&G, growing awareness of our products is still a constant challenge! Clever marketing campaigns and developing brand partnerships are key, keeping up to date with marketing trends and keeping a close eye on what your competitors are doing. Remaining true to the products and company ethics so you can remain transparent and true to your followers and new customers. Something not all of the larger brands can stand up and say!
What are your plans now/for the future?
It’s a remarkable story with Ecoegg! I left the business in 2015 and I’m pleased to share that recently progress was made to refocus on the three original key products I developed: the laundry egg, dryer eggs, and detox tablet. Over the past six months since my return, we have embarked on an exciting new product development journey too. We are soon launching a variety of captivating new products, all in line with Ecoegg’s unwavering commitment to ethics and sustainability.
Looking ahead, our goal is to expand the business and increase our presence in various eco market sectors as swiftly and strategically as possible. The future holds immense potential for Ecoegg, and we are dedicated to making a positive impact on the planet while delivering exceptional eco-friendly products to our valued customers.
The upcoming year, 2024, promises to be an incredibly eggciting one for Ecoegg! It will be one of the best years the company has ever seen, thanks to our innovative new ranges and the exceptional team we have here at Ecoegg.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you have that burning desire to create something new and you’re on the cusp of stepping into what often can seem like scary new territory with high risk, if it truly is a deep-down passion then go for it, or you’ll only ever look back and wish you had! Just be financially wise, do your research thoroughly, know your marketplace, your competitors and be sure there is a need for your idea.
There isn’t a course out there that prepares you for running your own business, it really has to come from your heart to make it a success, and it always remains in your heart. So, as well as feeling tremendously difficult almost impossible at times, it can also feel the most rewarding experience and the greatest achievement of fulfilment when things do go to plan! Especially when your product is helping others or the planet in some way.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
To achieve success, you need immense passion, drive, and a belief in yourself and your products, alongside a realistic approach – with tangible proof that there is a need and proven knowledge that your idea will sell. Create prototypes (if possible/relevant) to test the product out as thoroughly as possible ahead of putting all your savings into the idea!
It’s important to learn from your mistakes, making sure you put processes in place to not let these mistakes ever happen again. When they do happen, pick yourself up quickly and continue without being phased, see them as part of the learning curve, not as a negative.
Being honest, I believe this is key to being successful and will eliminate many errors and obstacles along the way. Honesty makes the journey a lot smoother and a lot more enjoyable.
For more information, visit: www.ecoegg.com
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