Updated: Feb 2
It's estimated 183 million items of clothing for the under-threes are lying unused in people's drawers and wardrobes. In addition, more than a quarter of UK parents admit to discarding children's toys that are in perfect working order. It's statistics like this which demonstrate the usefulness of a site like babyeo -a new way to get new and second-hand baby and children's items for a fraction of the normal cost. We caught up with babyeo founder, Ashley Bartlett-Tasker, to find out about this exciting new venture.
Which came first for you - passion for business or passion for the environment?
That’s a great first question. When I was around 12 years old, I realised I had a passion for business, given the opportunities it can create and the adventures it can lead you to. I wasn’t that aware of the environmental issues until my late teenage years. Being a big believer that small businesses are simply a vehicle for a group of people to deliver their future view of the world, my husband and I started babyeo with like-minded people to do just that - reduce waste in baby and children’s clothes.
One of my favourite quotes is you can’t consume infinite resources in a finite world - so all businesses need to sustain their environment. Preserving the environment for future generations has become even closer to my heart since having a little one of my own.
What was the key motivating factor at the time you started your business?
Just the sheer cost and material waste in the baby and young children’s market. We only realised when my husband and I (Haydon) started trying for a baby. It is an undisputed fact that babies and young children outgrow clothes and play sizes quickly but I took issue with the mainstream players who had done very little to solve this environmental issue and just encouraged over consumption unnecessarily.
It’s a horrible stat but the global airline industry produces 0.9bn tonnes of carbon per year. The clothing industry blows Airlines out of the park with a whopping 1.2bn tonnes of carbon per year.
How did you finance your business?
With our own money and help from friends and family. A shout out to the kind friends and Instagram fans promoting our cause too! We will be looking for seed funding soon after one of our users said we should go and get some, so this may change!
Did you have any initial challenges and how did you overcome them?
We are a special marketplace, but a marketplace nonetheless. This means we rely on parents listing items and parents wanting to request them. The result is that we have to split our focus and limited resources on both the listing and the requesting side of babyeo - that’s essentially two jobs - and it is very hard! In the ideal world people would hear about you, share with friends and we would have parents listing and requesting thousands of items every day, but that just isn’t where we are on our growth curve. At times it can be quite a slog to get our name out there and get parents to use it - especially if you can’t afford big advertising TV campaigns to raise awareness and trust in the platform. The good news is that once parents do use babyeo they love it - so we are forever pressing onwards and upwards.
What are your main revenue streams?
As mentioned we are a special marketplace and business. We are not interested in being a Shopify or Instagram baby clothes re-seller which is traditional e-commerce. We want to change the way parents shop to help parents save money and reduce waste. So the only money we make is from the £1-5 service fee, which a parent pays when requesting items. A pram costs £5.00 a clothing bundle is £1.00 for example. That’s it. The service fee keeps the computer servers and lights on.
If you were to start from scratch, are there any changes you would make?
Yes, certainly: Engaged other green businesses at the start to have a support network to share ideas and tips. Got some help from a designer sooner on the journey - it took us a while.
Sought more formal fundraising from the outset (although this is easier said than done in the green sector).
Is it difficult to make a green business profitable?
If you are a pure play green business then yes. Mostly because your costs will be higher and your market is still quite small. If you are a more traditional business with a green angle (using sustainable goods during manufacturing as an example) you can still tap into the larger more traditional markets but probably have slightly higher costs because the sustainable goods cost more to produce and ship than the standard goods.
We are trying to rethink how we consume baby and children’s items so for us we have to create a societal shift to be profitable. That’s quite a challenge ahead but a rewarding one :) !!
What gives you the most hope for the environment?
People are still building solutions and businesses to aid the environment - people clearly care enough to dedicate lifelong passions to helping the environment and that gives me so much hope. In addition, under new leadership, the United States of America is engaging with the global conversation once again on preventing climate change and taking swift action to protect the environment.
You can read more interviews with sustainable business founders and ecopreneurs here.