International Women’s Day: Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow
As celebrations take place around the world for International Women’s Day, we’ve stayed close to home and caught up with some of our local women business owners on how they are building a sustainable tomorrow.
- 08 March 2022
The theme of this year’s event is #BreakTheBias, with the focus on calling out bias, rejecting inequality and dismantling stereotypes. As always, it puts the spotlight firmly on women, recognising their social, economic, cultural and political achievements and highlighting the ongoing need for gender parity, and this year views equality through the lens of sustainability and the climate crisis.
Elephant Park has had the pleasure of becoming home to many women-owned businesses who champion equality and sustainability: from restaurants like Beza, Tasty Jerk and Pot & Rice representing flavours from Ethiopia, the Caribbean and Asia; to SoLo Craft Fair, run by Rebecca and Catherine who showcase the work of local makers in their independent gift shop; to Kennington Osteopaths & Physiotherapy, set up by Andrea in 2011 to run on green power.
We caught up with some of the women behind great Elephant Park businesses and asked them what inspired them, what advice they would share with others, and what they’re doing to build a sustainable tomorrow.
Greenpoint Market sells home, health and beauty products for people who love finding everyday ways to be kinder to the planet. The last time we chatted with Lucy, she had just opened on Sayer Street South. This time, we wanted to find out more about what inspired her to start her business.
I know you should start a business to fill a gap and deliver something that people truly want and need. I didn't do that. I couldn't find anything that could hold my attention like environmentalism, slow living, and low waste. I’m happy to put hours of research into being an ethical consumer, I’m happy to sit and read a million reviews of closed-loop products. I'm happier hauling 20L jerrycans full of soap around South London than I would be working towards something I don't believe in. But I hope in some way I've reverse engineered a place that people love and need nonetheless!
I look to Stevie from skincare brand Yay for Earth, because I love her tempered, transparent, and realistic approach to sustainability, and she’s so positive and funny. I take heart from the unique way that Madeline from clothing brand Tunnel Vision, runs her business in a way that prioritises the workers. I love Mikaela Loach’s approach to activism. She does a lot of hard work organising, but brings so much joy to her message, which can be missing from the movement.
It's tough. We're battling ingrained sexism that has always asked us to be quieter, nicer and meeker, but we're standing before the widest breadth of opportunity that we've ever had. And in the mix is an uncontrollable hamster wheel of a digital media space that demands we participate and have objectively likable personalities to be successful. Here are a few things I've learned in theory but am still trying to implement in practice:
• Most businesses aren't bootstrapped. You can fundraise money for your good idea because there will be a line of men behind you with a worse idea asking for more.
• Spend an hour every day doing something that will move your business forward. We often feel like we're being productive packing orders, bookkeeping, or ordering stock, but these day-to-day tasks are just sustaining the business, and not getting it to where you want it to be.
• Pay yourself first. It can be tempting to put everything we make back into marketing or stock for the businesses we’ve worked so hard to build. However, we must show up and reward ourselves for the time and effort we put in and to protect ourselves. Even if it's just a little.
• Keep learning every day, don’t be too hard on yourself, and try to sustain the conviction to keep going.
Aside from the circular or low-waste products I sell, there are lots of small things I do with the business to make sure it aligns with my values: I don't buy new electronics, I'm paper free, I keep and reuse packaging, and I bank with an ethical bank. Looking at the type of businesses I want to emulate in the future, they're the ones that are profit-sharing, non-hierarchical, and offer a four-day work week and unlimited PTO so that people have the freedom to spend time outdoors, participate in democracy, and become active citizens.
I once went to an event with Kerry Preston of Growtality in New York and she said the following, which felt like it was directed straight at me because I'm guilty of them all:
"If you’re trying to be perfect, you’re holding yourself back. If you’re not asking for what you need, you’re holding yourself back. If you’re not building a network, you’re holding yourself back."
Visit Lucy at Greenpoint Market on Sayer Street for all your refillable items for the home and check out the other products available on her website.
Beza, whose self-named vegan Ethiopian restaurant has recently been featured in The Guardian, sits down with us to talk about the inspiration behind her Sayer Street restaurant.
As with many entrepreneurs, one of the million reasons why I started my business was passion. Since I was young, I have always wanted to have an Ethiopian restaurant; it has been my passion to inspire other people to become vegan, to be healthy, and to try Ethiopian food so it becomes more popular.
My grandma has been my number one inspiration. We were a big family, but she used to cook for us using fresh spices and ingredients – it was always a magical moment to sit down and share a large meal between the family.
• It takes time! Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take and enjoy every small step you make towards your business, and always reward yourself for every goal you achieve!
• Connect with other female entrepreneurs. See what other women are doing out there, see how they become so successful, speak to them, tell them your story, see how you relate to their journey and learn from other experienced women.
• Have confidence in yourself and your business. Never be scared of changing, improving and moving on.
• Be the face of your company. Show people what you’re made of, be the inspiration people want and need!
“If you don’t know what your passion is, realise that one reason of your existence on earth is to find it.”
Visit the Beza website and check out her amazing menu.
Check out our Instagram for some interviews with our women-owned businesses.