Special Interview with Faithful to Nature founder, Robyn Smith

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When I stared Faithful to Nature in 2007, I set out to build a transparent business anchored in integrity and serving the needs of those who wanted to live an eco-conscious lifestyle.

One of our founding principles – which remains central to the way we do business  today – was that we are passionate about the integrity of the products we sell, the way they are produced and the ingredients they contain. We soon discovered that this was as important to our customers as it was to us, and this shared interest in conscious buying decisions has helped build lifelong relationships between customer and brand over the past 11 years. We’re now able to help customers filter for ethical considerations when making purchases, from the vegan status of a product, to where it has been made, whether it contains palm oil, plastic or has been accredited, for example, ‘Cruelty Free’.

As the organic industry has grown in popularity, so too has the amount of totally unethical greenwashing, so it’s become imperative that organic-focused consumers have access to honest ingredient lists to establish genuine non-toxicity, rather than relying on marketing claims. Building a business on an ethical lifestyle compels us to operate on ethical principles, and apart from the transparency on our product lines, we also believe it’s important to give back to communities. For example, we made a donation to Saving The Survivors for every Black Friday purchase made by our customers last year, and raised around R55 000 to help save a rhino that suffered serious injury in a poaching attempt.

Robyn Smith, founder of Faithful to Nature. She believes that always putting the customer first has resulted in their successful growth.

Starting your own business is like running a marathon and there is no greater well of energy than that which comes from passion. My advice for new entrepreneurs would firstly be: follow your passion. Secondly, never underestimate the importance of a business plan that you continually revisit and build – it is key to always be very clear on what differentiates your business in this challenging retail climate. And finally, always celebrate your successes along the way, even the small ones – we women can be particularly hard on ourselves.

We also support other great grassroots initiatives like Beach Coop for beach clean-ups and Wasted Ed for the production of ecobricks, and customers can also donate their Faithful to Nature loyalty points to organisations like the Starfish Foundation and Food & Trees for Africa, at checkout. Many of the products we stock also have their own community upliftment elements: profits from African HoneyBee products go to the community in which they operate, and help build the bee population; Londa Laundry Powder donates a portion of their profits to Nazareth House; and Greenpop plants a tree for every one of their key rings we sell.

Starting your own business is like running a marathon and there is no greater well of energy than that which comes from passion. My advice for new entrepreneurs would firstly be: follow your passion. Secondly, never underestimate the importance of a business plan that you continually revisit and build – it is key to always be very clear on what differentiates your business in this challenging retail climate. And finally, always celebrate your successes along the way, even the small ones – we women can be particularly hard on ourselves. Awards (like ‘Best Female Entrepreneur in the Tech Industry’, which we won at the 2017 PriceCheck E-commerce Awards) are great and help bring visibility to the brand, but both building honest relationships with customers and helping make a genuine difference to both the people who use our products and the planet we live on, are amazingly rewarding.

I believe that Faithful to Nature has maintained its roughly 50% growth, year on year since the outset, because of the incredibly customer-centric nature of our business. We put our customers first, at all costs, which has shown us customer retention rates of around 80% – vital for sustaining growth. Many companies start by trying to raise as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, but we’ve shown that steady growth has its own rewards and we’ve managed to get some great initiatives off the ground with limited budget – including our own range of products and a refreshed offering. Our next step is opening more warehouses, so that can make the delivery of our parcels even more efficient.

We want to prove that businesses can thrive by focusing on their customers and working ethically. As the organic industry has grown, organic products become more readily available and affordable – many products are now able to compete with the prices of their conventional counterparts. And while ‘going organic’ may still – in some instances – cost more Rands than using non-organic options, we believe that the value created from these non-toxic products is high, by way of promoting good health. And if we place the value and quality of our lifestyles ahead of saving a few Rands here and there, we believe that we can all make a significant contribution towards creating a sustainable businesses that has the interests of our planet at heart.

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