Kate Holmes, the entrepreneur championing sustainable manufacturing

Sustainable products are more than just helpful to the environment, they can be a good business model too. A recent survey by pollster Nielson found that more than half of consumers in Europe and the US are extremely or very worried about air and water pollution, and 81 percent feel strongly that companies should do more to help.

When Kate Holmes founded her home furnishings brand Kitty Holmes the environmental message was at the forefront of her thinking.

After Kate’s son fell ill a couple of years ago, the family had to change their lifestyle. “We got rid of the chemicals in our house. The bleach, the floor cleaners. Within a matter of months his health improved. I was looking for a career change, and I started to look at cushions.”

People nowadays want to know that what they buy meets their ethical standards.

“You can buy a cheap cushion cover but you don’t know what’s in it. Formaldehyde? Strange chemicals? And you don’t know who has made it or the environmental cost. People nowadays want to know that what they buy meets their ethical standards.”

So Kate dreamed up a range of cushion covers that would be both fashionable and champion the very best in sustainable manufacturing.

Her range uses non-toxic Japanese seaweed dyes for the fabrics. The packaging is carefully curated. “It looks like plastic, but it’s made from cassava root, which is 100 percent compostable. It will decompose in three months.”

Production is outsourced to Bali for the most environmentally friendly methods: “My sister had visited the factory so I knew that it fitted my criteria,” says Kate. “They treat the workers very well. It is well ventilated and the workers, mostly women, can work from home. The factory doesn’t pollute the environment. All the water gets recycled and ends up in a koi pond. The fish are very well and very much alive because everything is non-toxic.”

The result is a range of bright and photogenic cushion covers, which look gorgeous on social media. “We sell 94 per cent through Instagram,” says Kate.

The range has been so successful Kate is expanding the collection into wash-bags, napkins, and make-up bags. “I’m making them in small quantities to see how they go.”

Entrepreneurial activity is in the family!

Part of Kate’s aptitude for business comes from her family: “My dad’s had his own business for 50 years. He’s 82 and still works. My sister also runs her business. She’s fearless. Entrepreneurial activity is in the family!”

She chose Tide for her business account to keep life simple. “My sister said, ‘Just make sure your finances are separate.’ I Googled business banking and Tide came up. It is perfect for me.”

I really like the integration of Tide and Xero. It’s so seamless.

The features in Tide save her huge amounts of time: “I really like the integration of Tide and Xero. It’s so seamless. I can just send it all off to my accountant. For someone like me without an accounting background, it’s very easy.”

After just six months the cash is rolling in. “My biggest achievement? Just watching the money in my account grow. I had enough to send to Bali to make a new collection. And the other thing is building a community of repeat customers. They love it enough that they want more. That’s my favourite thing.”

Kate is proof that it’s possible to be both commercially successful, and help the planet.

Her advice for other entrepreneurs with an idea to help the environment?

“Don’t hesitate. Put pen to paper. Start a website. If you procrastinate too much it doesn’t happen. Just get going! You can just start it. Stop over thinking it!”

Visit Kitty Holmes‘ website to discover all the collections.

Interested in sustainability for your business? Read Kate’s best tips on How to make your small business more sustainable.

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