Where we see waste, Upcircle sees wonder. Having repurposed over 250 tonnes of coffee grounds into sustainable skincare, Anna and Will Brightman continue to make headlines, with the sibling duo appearing on UK's Dragon Den and featuring in publications such as VOGUE and Elle Magazine, among others. Despite their success however, things weren't always easy, with the pair choosing to quit their jobs to pursue their dream. This week we cover their journey, as well as how to organically grow an online presence, everything ethics, and the hows of maintaining balance in the early stages of getting a startup off the ground.
Natural is the new normal in skincare. With more brands going vegan and cruelty-free, it takes more to stand out.
Anna: 'You need to be doing something innovative, and looking to the future, which is why we decided to take a circular approach'.
And it seems to be working. Initially, what started out as repurposing coffee grounds from cafes across London into exfoliators and scrubs, has turned into a mission to include as many otherwise-discarded ingredients as possible, with the business now utilising fruit stones and brewed chai tea spices, transforming them into beautiful soap bars and face masks.
Anna: 'It just seems like such a huge waste for these wonderful ingredients to just be discarded. We're also looking at flower petals next, from wedding venues and florists. There really is no limit. It's always about trying to be imaginative, keeping our eyes open and staying curious.'
And a circular economy is not the only thing on the company's radar. With the cosmetics industry producing a lot of waste, packaging has been an important area of focus. Sustainability sweeps through the brand, from their 99% plastic-free and recyclable packaging, to the materials in which products are posted.
Anna: 'I think it's important to be consistent at every level. Even down to the tape we use (which is made from recycled fibres). I think what's the point of going through all of the effort to salvage ingredients and have a circular economy business model if you then wrap the final product in stuff that's just going to waste.'
Anna also shared on how to grow an organic following and consumer audience using social media, a challenge many businesses face.
Anna: 'A lot of brands put out content and that's that. Instead, we see it as a two-way channel, and are constantly engaging our follows, whether that's through questions, polls or posts. It really makes them feel like they're a part of the journey, which they are. We make decisions for our brand based on what our customers say all the time, and I think that's what keeps them coming back.'
Another thing Upcircle does that we loved, was putting the emphasis on the positive rather than the negative. With there being plenty of negative news surrounding the environment, Upcircle puts a positive spin on things, focussing on what they have accomplished for the planet, and how their consumers can consciously do so too.
Now their account is soaring with almost 46,000 followers, and mentions in magazines including VOGUE. Despite their success however, it wasn't always easy, with the sibling co-founders taking a leap and quitting their jobs to pursue their dream.
Anna: 'We both came from corporate backgrounds, we were paid well, but we were ultimately unfulfilled and we wanted to not feel like a tiny cog in a big machine. We wanted to be making a difference and to have a purpose beyond profit in our working life.'
'It's a scary time. You're waiting for orders, but nobody knows you, and you've just quit your job.'
And while there is no 'best' way to do things, it's better to research and understand your idea and the market you want to enter (easier said than done!).
1. Factor time at the start of the day to research and work on your idea
2. Be prepared to make some sacrifices, but also consider what you value and try to maintain what makes you feel good.
Anna: 'It can be quite an isolating experience, especially if you're doing it alone, so make sure to continue doing the things that make you happy, whether it's seeing your friends or working out.'
If you're like us and loved Anna's journey, then you can follow her and her team @upcirclebeauty or head to their website https://upcirclebeauty.com/. And if you're craving some chocolates to go with your skincare then feel free to head to our shop finder https://bitesociety.com/pages/shop-finder.
Otherwise, have a great weekend and remember to #biteforwhatsright!