In the frantic lead-up to Christmas we shared our love for ethical.market‘s range of nifty, classy – and most importantly – ethical gift ideas. Now that the dust has settled, we wanted to sit down and chat with the company’s co-founder and CEO: Raquel Surally.
ethical.market is about to celebrate its 5 year anniversary! It launched in February 2013 with a stable of just 10 brands; today, it is the marketplace for more than 300 ethical brands and over 8000 products!
In fact, Raquel has grown ethical.market into the largest marketplace in the UK dedicated to ethically created products.
WM: Let’s start at not quite the beginning – What led you to create your own business?
I was an events manager for a number of years. I had been thinking about setting up my own business for quite a while but it never seemed like the right time.
After the economic crisis, my husband and I realised that there would never be a perfect time, so we took advantage of the situation and put together a business plan for our marketplace.
WM: Obviously, we love your sustainable ethic, but what drew you to that? What does “sustainability” mean to you?
Originally we started the business as a creative hub for upcoming British brands, however the year we launched tragically there was a fire at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh which killed at least 1,132 factory workers and injured more than 2,500. It really changed our perspective and how we looked at consumerism.
We wanted to be the change in a growing market, by offering a viable alternative to the high street for consumers wanting to make a change. That’s why our marketplace is Fairly Made: it’s our one mandatory standard that all sellers must agree and sign-up to, in order to ensure that all manufacturing of their products including the sourcing of their components have been made with fair working practices.
At the same time that we were learning more about the Fairly Made movement, we were turned onto a great film called The True Cost. This documentary was a real gamechanger for me and had a massive impact not just on how we do business, but how we shop ourselves. I recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the impact their buying decisions make on the world.
The more we understood the impacts of our own small, every day choices, the more we wanted to promote more sustainable alternatives. That’s why, over the years since we launched, our ethical stance has expanded. We now actively promote vegan friendly materials, energy conscious work practices and sustainable design, and work to make those factors as transparent as possible for every product, to help our shoppers make informed choices.
WM: Your store has a great and unique look. How do you create the right ‘edit’ of products for your shop?
Thank you! A lot of work goes into the curation of our marketplace, we are very strict with the sellers we allow on to our marketplace.
We check through each and every application. Not everyone is accepted, but we like to think keeping this strict way of operating gives our customers a really unique shopping experience but also ensures our sellers are proud to be seen with us.
WM: How do you work with your suppliers? Do you help guide them in creating products that are right for your audience and how does that process happen?
No, we don’t have any say in design, our sellers are extremely talented and they have the most incredible products, otherwise they wouldn’t be selling with us!
We do help new brands who want to join but don’t yet match our standards. We offer guidance on choosing suppliers and what steps they might take to source more ethically.
When we first pivoted the business from being a ‘creative hub’ to the Fairly Made standard, we worked closely with some of our established sellers, helping them ensure that their offerings could be accepted onto our marketplace.
WM: The products look great, the site looks great, but nothing beats seeing these beautiful things in the flesh! Are there any stores, fairs or markets in your future where we can see a collection of your products in real life?
We don’t currently have any pop-ups planned, but watch this space! It’s definitely something we’ll be looking at in the near future!