Women in Business: an Interview with Hanna Pumfrey
Today, I am delighted to bring to you a conversation that I recently had with the founder of Acala, Hanna Pumfrey. Acala is a beautiful online store, offering its customers organic, natural and vegan health and beauty products. All products are packaged responsibly – not a single piece of plastic in sight!
I invited Hanna to tell us about her journey with Acala, what it is like being a ‘woman in business’, and how we can encourage the next generation of future entrepreneurs.
So, Hanna, I have read that you started Acala after a personal ‘wake-up call’, due to the excessive amount of waste in your office which inspired you to begin your own zero-waste lifestyle. Thanks to that journey, Acala now reaches out to a huge audience, making the transition to zero-waste health and beauty more open and more accessible. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the beginnings of Acala, or what inspired you?
You have it totally right, the waste I was seeing everyday through my office job in London was what inspired me to begin making changes in my own life. I found that I was able to find health and beauty products with fancy ingredients that were great for me, but were likely causing environmental damage and human rights infringements, i.e. through using oils that cause deforestation, for example. And, they were all packaged in single-use plastic. So, my goal with Acala is to provide options that are not only good for people, but for the planet too, and that stretches across everything – from the ingredients used, the manufacturing process and the packaging.
Amazing! Now, sustainability is a word that is important for many eco-friendly businesses, but it is often hard to translate what it means for ordinary people, and everyday life. What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability to me is about only taking from the earth what you really need. We do not need half of the items (well, likely more like 90%) that marketing tells us we do. On a personal level, to me sustainability means being very conscious about my consumption and my actions. I aim to tread as lightly as I can and to always give back to the earth where possible.
I love that definition! I completely agree, we have become so used to being sold, and using, a multitude of products and items, but at what cost? What I really love about your messages, is that not only are you providing customers with packaging-free options, but you actively encourage people to consider their consumption habits, and ideally, use less products. (I especially love the DIY section on the website, and your fantastic homemade recipes!)
There is encouraging growth in women-owned businesses in the UK, but women still face far greater barriers within leadership and entrepreneurship roles. What are some of the barriers you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
I completely agree with this and see examples of where women still face challenges every day. I have to be honest though and say, through the Acala journey I do not feel that I have faced any challenges purely because of my gender. My approach to everything in both life and business is very much ‘if I want to achieve it, I will achieve it’. It’s about working hard, about presenting yourself as the right person or business for the role. It is about resilience and knowing that there will be lows, but that they make you stronger and improve the way you approach things, leading to greater success in the future.
That is so true. Even if you don’t face barriers directly linked to gender, there are still bound to be highs and lows, in any industry. Resilience is such an important attribute, and helps you to really learn from those challenges, whilst using them to power you forward.
Whilst we can always hope to grow from such challenges, it is so important to surround yourself with people who support, encourage, and inspire you. Who are the women who inspire you?
There are so many inspirational women in the sustainable and ethical business space.
Some of my top inspirations are:
Sophie Benson: Ethical stylist and journalist- Sophie Benson
Elizabeth Rees: Founder of ElizaEliza
Sophie Rae: Founder of Zero Waste shop Ripple Living
Emma Ross: Zero Waste Parenting Expert – Mamalina
We’ll definitely be checking them out, we love supporting women-owned businesses! What do you think is the best way women can support each other?
Through honesty and collaboration. It is one of the biggest benefits of more women-owned businesses; stats show that women are much likely to look for opportunities of collaboration over competition, leading to stronger communities and services.
Collaboration over competition is a great concept to remember, and not just in working life. More collaborative working can surely only bring about greater success, and more diverse, inclusive outcomes. Speaking of outcomes, what are your hopes for 2019? For Acala and for the planet!
Sssh a secret, at the end of January we will be launching subscription services so that our customers can get all of their essentials when they need them, direct to their door. This means they’ll never run out of shampoo, toothpaste etc and have to run out to buy a non-natural, plastic packaged option from a nearby shop. This is the first step towards us creating a completely waste-free service for our customers, as in the next few months we will launch the options for customers to return their jars and bottles to us, for sanitisation and refill in our reusable packaging. Ultimately though, my hope is that Acala becomes obsolete… that awareness and demand for better options and ways of living continues to grow, so that the big retailers like Boots and Superdrug are forced to make a change for the better.
My hopes for the planet – that we can curb the downward spiral that we are currently on to create a planet that can happily harbour the life of all species, for generations to come.
Wow! This is very exciting, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for those refill options!
Now, thinking about our younger generations. At Bright Green Enterprise, we highlight the importance of skills such as leadership, critical thinking and public-speaking, for young people and their future. We believe these skills are not only beneficial for employment and business life, but for use in the big, wide world. Can you tell us what skill(s) you have found most valuable in your journey with Acala?
I think this is really important. I think for me there are two key skills that I have found useful through the Acala journey so far; resilience and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Starting a business is a journey. There will be highs and lows and it’s important to embrace these and to remember to enjoy the process, as well as to know your strengths and weaknesses. It’s ok to not be good at everything, the most important thing is recognising this, and then delegating this work to someone who is good at it, so that you can focus on the things that you are strong in. This will help your business move forward much faster.
Absolutely, recognising where you shine can really help to boost confidence, and broaden your potential choices. We’ve seen some incredible examples of young entrepreneurs, and really believe the next generation are the real change-makers. What do you think young people can do/are doing to help save our planet?
I completely agree with this. Young people are growing up with so much more awareness of environmental issues than older generations, and the desire to make a change. Young people are using tools like social media to campaign for changes to policy and law, and that is really huge and pretty new. I think what young people can do is what we can all do; vote with our wallets and lifestyles. I hear so often people saying ‘well they’re not going to stop making it, so what difference does it make if I buy it or don’t buy it’, or ‘well the (long haul) flight is going anyway, so what difference does it make if I buy a ticket?’ The reality is it makes a huge difference. Yes, one person cannot change the world but our individual actions, coming together as a collective, force our governments and corporations to change; to create the world and products that we demand, as ultimately that’s the only way they too can survive.
We couldn’t agree more. Whilst it is hard to see individual actions having the big impact we might hope for, the unison of collective actions is where change really comes from. We can all join together, by making individual choices, to change the way things work for the benefit of all.
Thank you so much Hanna, it has been such a pleasure getting to pick your brains, and learn more about the story behind Acala. We look forward to following your journey with Acala, and hope to see your messages spreading even further.
Make sure you head over to the Acala website, and browse all of their lovely products!