15 March 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Dorset-based business owner, Natasha Ray, is on a mission to help more female-owned, sustainable companies to flourish, despite the draw backs that the pandemic has thrown their way. She launched her eco-friendly website, &Keep, alongside her husband, John, in 2017 and stocks products that support people to live a plastic-free and more mindful lifestyle.
In the run up to International Women’s Day, Natasha was on the look-out for inspiring female-led brands to stock on her website and she has found just that in Milly & Sissy – a sustainable, plastic-free toiletries brand launched by two sisters in January 2020.
All Milly & Sissy products come in powder form, with customers adding their own water at home, making them a pioneering brand with a low carbon footprint. Despite launching just before the first lockdown, the two sisters, who have a background in both product management and health care, have formulated their toiletries to appeal to a wide audience. The support they have received from online platforms like &Keep has enabled their business to grow.
Speaking about Milly & Sissy, Natasha from &Keep said: “We chose to stock Milly & Sissy because they live and breathe sustainability, just like us. As well as their products looking and smelling great, they are two sisters who want to really make a difference to the world in which we live and that really appeals to what we believe in at &Keep. Launching at a time when more people were looking for cruelty and plastic-free alternatives to supermarket brands, Milly & Sissy products are also kinder to the skin – an added bonus in light of the additional hand washing we’ve become accustomed to due to the pandemic.
“I’m always keen to support female-owned businesses because I feel that there is quite a lot of under representation of women in the market and I want to redress that balance. I have a great platform from which to support more female-run eco brands. This year’s International Women’s Day’s theme is ‘Choose to challenge’, so I want to do just that – challenge the status quo by boosting some incredible women in the industry.”
Natasha and her husband, John, launched &Keep after travelling around Europe in their little red van. They realised that they could live with less and actually loved the freedom it gave them. They soon discovered that there are more environmentally friendly alternatives to most things in life and decided to seek out the brands that shared their mutual passion of protecting the planet.
In January of this year Natasha became one of the UK’s 100 most inspirational female entrepreneurs for her work as a Keep Britain Tidy Litter Hero, a public speaker on plastic pollution and an Eco Schools Green Flag Assessor, as well as an advocate for women in the workplace. &Keep currently employs 5 women who make up the overwhelming majority and the company offers accessible employment to those who need to manage childcare alongside their career.
Natasha continued: “As a mum myself, I know how difficult it can be to juggle working and parenting. Unfortunately, not many employers offer the flexibility needed to do both. It just made sense for us to offer that to our employees and it has organically led to more women applying for our roles. We actively encourage their feedback and contribution to the running of the business and we think that equality in the workplace should not be seen as a bonus, but should be a given. It’s incredibly important to us that our daughters grow up in a world where equality matters and we think that also really ties in with the ethos behind our brand.”
This thought process is exactly why International Women’s Day was launched – to accelerate women’s equality, especially in the workplace, and it is a day that Natasha, and the rest of the &Keep team, never take for granted.
Speaking about their products being stocked on &Keep, Milly from Milly & Sissy said: “Natasha is passionate to her core about sustainability and living a plastic-free life, as well as about boosting other women in the sector. &Keep isn’t just a website, it’s a community and that’s what we love about it. The eco world is one where people support each other and we’ve really appreciated that, particularly over the last year. I think that lockdown has enabled more people to make more informed choices about their buying habits and to educate themselves.
“Shopping locally has increased, as has supporting independents, so I’m really pleased that, despite the pandemic, we have done well because of people’s online searches, desire to support smaller businesses, as well as websites like &Keep enabling customers to discover us. We hope that more people will choose to go plastic-free in the future and we look forward to expanding our offering as a business.”
Green energy company, Bulb, recently reported that 37%* of the UK population has said they have lived more sustainably during lockdown due to a heightened awareness of the planet, reduced noise pollution and an appreciation of the simpler things in life. With many independent shops remaining accessible throughout the various lockdowns, more people began to shop locally for supplies. This is thought to continue long after the pandemic has ended, with many people enjoying the community spirit of shopping locally, as well as the benefits of a more circular economy.
Natasha concluded: “More people are searching for zero waste stores and plastic-free shops online so it’s clear that people are talking about environmental issues and trying to make a difference. Whilst there’s still more education needed, it is reassuring that people have taken time in lockdown to do some research and join in these eco conversations.
“We’re hopeful that whatever life after the pandemic looks like, that these new habits will stick and people will continue to look for eco-swaps and appreciate the more personal shopping experience that independents provide.”
&Keep : https://andkeep.com/
Milly & Sissy : https://millyandsissy.co.uk/
*based on a survey conducted by Bulb:https://bulb.co.uk/blog/how-lockdown-made-us-more-conscious-of-our-impact-on-the-planet/