How conscious are your shopping habits? It’s one thing to want to lead an organic and conscious life, but this is easier said and done. Unfortunately, not every business creates a model with conscious living in mind. Thankfully, there are a few businesses out there that are focused on conscious living. In fact, they could actually go on to become the green Amazon of Africa.
The Business of Conscious Shopping
In a series called The Business of Health, hosted on the Nielsen Network, Longevity Live spoke to Robyn Smith, the original co-founder of Faithful to Nature, Africa’s leading organic e-commerce retailer.
Launched almost 15 years ago by Robyn and her then-partner, the brand has garnered a reputation for being a sustainable customer-centric business. While Robyn has sold the business to investors, she is still a shareholder. As such, both her vision and passion are still very much evident in the brand.
The green market
“Fourteen years ago, I had recently returned from London, where I’d been working as an innovation consultant,” says Robyn, “I was personally very impassioned to use clean cosmetics.” She adds that the penny had dropped when she realized just how much toxicity we absorbed into our skin. As such, she’d become ardent about the integrity of ingredient labeling. At the time, there was very little integrity in regard to ingredient labeling.
Having returned to South Africa after quitting her job in London, Robyn soon embraced her entrepreneurial spirit. After seeking out clean cosmetic products, Robyn soon realized that there was a massive gap in the local market for the sale of ethical, natural, and organic products.
Tapping into the green niche
Through her research, Robyn discovered that while there were plenty of well-developed and exciting enterprises of organic skincare products, she did notice that these businesses faced issues that affected their marketing, packaging, and distribution.
“Getting a hold of these products was very difficult. Additionally, there was a misnomer that should you want to be brave enough to try natural organic skincare [at that time], then you would be rewarded with the dingiest, darkest part of the store,” says Robyn. The fact of the matter is, there was really nothing luxurious about shopping ethically.
As such, the idea came to Robyn to create some sort of ethical shopping platform. Here, ingredient integrity would be one of the primary pillars,
“I was really passionate about creating a luxurious shopping experience for those that wanted to use more natural products and that is how Faithful To Nature was born.”
Why Faithful to Nature?
While Faithful to Nature has helped to completely transform the e-commerce market in South Africa, this wasn’t initially part of Robyn’s vision.
“It’s often through challenges and innovation that amazingness springs forward,” says Robyn. She shares that, at the time, the two challenges that she faced were that (i) they had very little start-up capital and thus could only afford to create an online business and (ii) they were entering a niche market and so their customers were so dispersed across the country that they needed to be able to reach every single one of them.
The integrity of organic
Unfortunately, when some businesses reach the pinnacle of success, they often begin to disregard their founding ethos. Thankfully, Faithful to Nature is not one of those brands.
“It all pays back to the very sincere desire to create a business that puts its brand equity and, therefore, its cohort with its customers, the lifetime value as a key pillar,” says Robyn.
She adds that the Faithful to Nature brand is not in the sale of natural and organic products. Rather, they were selling transparency and honesty to their customers: “One of the things I was so impassioned by was product integrity and integrity in the labeling of ingredients.”
“The very first message that we share with our customers is that ‘you have the right to know what is in your products'”. She added that by vetting ingredients on behalf of their customers, they were doing the worrying for them. As a result of this practice, Robyn shares that it never made sense for the company to profiteer above the aforementioned pillar, as they would no longer be selling transparency and honesty.
The bottom line
“I have realized that the way we are going to save this planet is through environmental consciousness. This is a journey and that journey starts with ‘there’s something more than me’… I no longer believe that if we heal the planet, we heal the man. I now understand that we need to heal the man to heal the planet, and it’s around consciousness”
Watch The Video
The video interview contains the full dialogue of this interview, and you can watch it below.