On Starting a Plastic Free Online Shop, Promoting and Encouraging Household Changes

$3,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Elysian Fields
from Trowbridge, UK
started
$3,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
market size
$85.8B
avg revenue (monthly)
$38.3K
starting costs
$24.5K
gross margin
34%
time to build
9 months
average product price
$10
growth channels
SEO
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Instagram, SemRush, SEM Rush
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
24 Pros & Cons
tips
3 Tips
Discover what tools Jess reccommends to grow your business!
platform
shipping
social media
payments
analytics
advertising
Discover what books Jess reccommends to grow your business!
Start An Eco Friendly Retail Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! My name Jess and I am the founder of Elysian Fields, which is an online shop selling plastic-free, affordable alternatives. I sell a wide range of products, allowing plastic-free swaps to be made throughout the home, kitchen, bathroom, and homeware.

My customers are those who are eco-conscious, wanting to make swaps but (like many) find these products have a high price tag. I have done a huge amount of research and testing to ensure the products I offer to fit the ethos, work effectively and always remain affordable.

The business launched on 25th March 2021 and is something I have been pondering and mulling over through lockdowns 1 and 2, so I decided when lockdown 3 hit, this was the time to take the plunge.

on-starting-a-plastic-free-online-shop-for-household-products

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I came up with the idea of Elysian Fields in March 2020, when the first lockdown hit. I used to buy massage/lotion bars from Lush and when all the shops shut, I decided it was time to see if I could make my own. This then evolved to lip balms and bath salts too.

The pandemic has had a part to play in many businesses, in terms of shipping times and delays, being honest and upfront with customers is the most important thing, not just on this but all levels, it again adds credibility to you as a person.

I thoroughly enjoyed making them, experimenting with scents, and working with other local businesses, and sold these products via Etsy for a while and they were also stocked in some shops.

Despite enjoying this, I knew it wasn’t what I really was passionate about. My passion lies with improving awareness of making plastic-free choices and is something I am (too often) talking about. After some deliberation and after many conversations, I realized what I felt was missing in the world of eco-friendly shops, was somewhere that offered affordable choices, somewhere that allows people to make better choices, without it being more expensive. This was my light bulb moment!

For a long time now, I have been trying and testing plastic-free products to find what works and what doesn’t, allowing me to confidently talk to my customers about my products. I knew if they were products I loved that fit the business ethos, hopefully, my customers would love them.

This business is run alongside my full-time job, but I hope to open a shop alongside my online store one day.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Although I work with a lot of other businesses now, I am still actively making some of my original products, massage/lotion bars.

This took weeks to get right, getting the quantities of beeswax/soy wax and butters correct. Too soft and the bar just melted in your hands, too hard and the bar didn’t do its job properly. Finally, the correct recipe was created, but then it was time to make it look pretty. I use a lot of dried botanicals in my bars and it took me an embarrassingly long time to work out how to do this (see a before on the left and after on the right of the Serenity Massage Bar).

on-starting-a-plastic-free-online-shop-for-household-products

Describe the process of launching the business.

I launched my plastic-free website on 25/03/2021, so for me, it is still quite early days. My launch was done through social media, Instagram specifically as that is where my main presence is. I have been lucky enough to have some sales since starting, but am also very aware these things take time, work, and perseverance.

The website, I built myself (a few snaps below of the mobile version) and was possibly the longest and trickiest part of the business. It took a lot of research, reading, and trial and error, so if you have a launch date in mind for your business, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get your website right!

As an online business, I am lucky enough to not have rental or premises costs, so my main costs came from the website subscription and domain names (around £15 a month) and the trial, testing, and purchasing of stock and products to offer my customers.

I think my biggest lesson so far has been, planning. Planning social media posts, planning hashtags, planning product launches, and planning my time effectively. Especially as I work a full-time job, planning and using my time effectively has been the most important thing to help get the business going.

on-starting-a-plastic-free-online-shop-for-household-products

on-starting-a-plastic-free-online-shop-for-household-products

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I think my biggest learnings for attracting customers is, you need to work out who your ideal customer is and who you are trying to attract to your business. The ideal is for like-minded people to discover you and support you, so first, you need to figure out your worth.

I spent a lot of time undercharging myself to attract sales, which I know now is for the wrong reasons, wanting quick sales, wanting to make a sale, and then not covering my own costs. Knowing your worth in business is so important. This in turn will help attract the ideal customer.

I am in the very early stages of taking steps to increase traffic and sales, and researching google analytics, however, a lot of my research and conversation with my small business friends has shown me that Facebook and Instagram ads have the huge ability to help you reach a wider market, so this is a great starting point for many.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today, profitability is probably too soon to tell, but I am feeling positive. As previously mentioned, my big costs are the products and to keep a growing and expanding range this can to £100’s to develop.

All my sales are online, we don’t have a bricks-and-mortar store yet, but it is definitely in the pipeline for the future. We would love to work more locally with residents of the town but also smaller businesses encouraging and helping them to make plastic-free changes on a variety of levels, but that is very much a long-term goal. More immediately is to keep the range we offer expanding.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Mistakes feel hard to swallow in business, but a big one for me was not creating all my social media at the same time and then trying to add things later. Create your brand and branding across all your platforms and then you can much more easily work and coordinate how things will look.

The pandemic has had a part to play in many businesses, in terms of shipping times and delays but I think being honest and upfront with customers is the most important thing, not just on this but all levels, it again adds credibility to you as a person.

Comparisons, I struggled for a while comparing myself to other people and businesses, which isn’t a wise thing to do and I very quickly remembered and learned that I may be similar to other businesses but no one is me, and that is what makes me different. Don’t compare yourself or your journey, someone else could have been doing something for 10 years compared to you doing it for 10 months, they aren’t realistic comparisons. Just work on your own journey with clear goals and plans.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I don’t use a huge amount of tools, but the best things for me have been Squarespace for my website, obviously social media (Instagram and Facebook).

Squarespace is an amazing platform as it has a lot of analysis built-in meaning you don’t have to have 3rd party plugins on your website to obtain a business understanding.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Betsy and Francis on Instagram, (Nicole and James) are amazing, offering help support, and guidance on how to grow and plan your business - also the nicest, most genuine people.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Planning is key but also, ensure you can financially support your business (you may end up needing to fund something yourself so don’t get yourself in a tricky situation) and be consistent, consistently active, talking about products, connecting with others, sharing about you - the more you do the more people will buy into you.

It isn’t always about how much money you make, how many sales you’ve made, it’s about being passionate, genuine, and honest about you and your business. Followers, buyers, readers aren’t interested in how much money you’ve made or how many sales you have, they will be interested in genuine honest recommendations, suggestions, ideas, and knowing the person behind the business.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Jess Hoggins,   Founder of Elysian Fields

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