SUSTAINABLE SISTAS: JESSICA KIELY FOUNDER OF WANDERESS BEAUTY
SUSTAINABLE SISTAS IS A BLOG SERIES CELEBRATING WOMEN WHO RUN SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL BUSINESSES OR ARE DOING IMPORTANT WORK FOR SUSTAINABLE CAUSES. WE FIND OUT WHAT SUSTAINABILITY MEANS TO THEM, CHALLENGES THEY FACE, WHAT DRIVES THEM AND WHAT THEY HOPE SUSTAINABILITY WILL ACHIEVE. PLEASE CONTACT US HERE IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE FEATURED OR KNOW A LADY DOING AMAZING WORK.
Welcome to our interview with Jessica Kiely, founder of Wanderess Beauty, a monthly subscription box containing 100% natural, non-toxic and ethical, beauty, grooming and wellness products.
She is a huge believer in self care and compassion, which forms the ethos of Wanderess Beauty. Thinking 'green' is at the core of the business from the products to who they work with to supporting good causes like Save the Bees. It's a business with heart and soul.
I hope you enjoy the interview!
When you started Wanderess Beauty, what was your motivation and vision?
Wow, what a small question with such a big answer!
I started thinking about Wanderess Beauty as an idea around 2015 and we sold our first product in September 2017. That’s a long journey from dream to reality right!
From the initial conception of what I saw was needed, where I wanted to put my energy, and what I had the courage to do, through to all of the researching and planning it took 3 years to take an order.
I was (and still am) balancing Wanderess with being a full time mum, so the little pockets of time I get to work on it are very cramped. I have had to get ok with that. I remember during sleep times for my youngest, Tsaatchi, when she was asleep in the car I would park under the trees and pull out my laptop and work while she slept!
My initial motivation had two elements to it.
One was the environmental and health side.
When you start to do your own research and become aware of the toxicity of our environment, that we are contributing to, and that trickles down into products we are using every single day, you get alarmed and then angry. The activist inside you starts to say “this shouldn’t be like this, why doesn't everyone know this, why isn’t this illegal?”
I could start to see the potential health impacts such as fertility problems, skin irritations, autism and allergies. I’ve not been impacted by these, but the evidence is mounting. I would also often think of the workers involved in making these synthetic ingredients, and being concerned for their level of exposure. It is not fair.
The second part of my motivation was through experiencing a huge life upheaval. My marriage fell apart and I became a single mum to my two daughters who were 9 months old and 4 years old at the time.
On my road back, from the darkness, I discovered body scrubbing (in amongst many other therapeutic strategies that I used) as a ritual. It opened the door to me into the area of beauty which I had never really been a part of. I came to realise that beauty is not just about products to make you look like everyone else or to change and cover yourself up, but as a way to care for myself and my body, using the best that nature has for us. But that an awareness of ingredients is paramount to ensure my beauty is never hurting the beauty of this planet.
So it was the marrying of those two with the underpinning of refinding some confidence to actually say “I owe it to myself to give this a go”.
My vision was to inspire and help more women to make the switch to green beauty, for the love of themselves and this planet.
What’s been your biggest challenge since starting Wanderess Beauty?
Everything is a challenge!
The biggest challenge for me is keeping the faith.
You can deal with anything else that crops up in business. You can call somebody and ask a question, you can go searching for the information, and you can find someone who has done it before you. All the content, people and resources are out there for you to find.
But if you don’t believe you can do it, or if there is doubt - that’s going to stop you.
I am a big believer in watching what you are consuming, not only food but information and anything that you are letting into your environment. So I am careful about supporting my faith and belief in myself with empowering “food”. This is everything from daily meditation, to podcasts that lift and inspire me, to following people I admire and want to learn from and not those who leave me comparing or “needing” things to cure ails. I do not watch any news - I took that out of my diet years ago! And I keep a close eye on my own inner dialogue, inner thinking and inner doubts - giving them space to be, while also reprogramming them so they lift and support me daily rather than bring me down.
For me, Wanderess Beauty is not just about building a business, and having a positive impact on our planet. It is also about continuing on with my personal journey of learning, healing and joyfulness. And that gets tested and reaffirmed every…...day…….EVERY…...DAY!
I think part of ethical and sustainable living is being kind to yourself, first and foremost and this is a sentiment at the core of Wanderess Beauty’s mission. How do you unwind or practice self care?
If we are not taking care of ourselves then we can’t do anything for anyone. So often as women we say yes to everything and take on too much. And presently in our culture we are told that to be “busy” and “achieve” is the ultimate “success”. We also are so driven and passionate about helping and making the world better, that we can spend most of our time pushing, pushing, pushing to get more done, as it can often feel never “done”. There is so much noise in all of that. And in that noise, our inner Wanderess can’t be heard.
So yes, we agree that being kind to yourself, first and foremost is a BIG part of ethical and sustainable living.
What I love to do to unwind is body scrubbing, or a bath soak. It smells divine, and your skin afterwards is just like Cleopatra, smooth and glowing!
I meditate every morning. I get up before the kids and spend some time with myself. Meditation to me can mean all sorts of things, I don’t do just one style. But I’ve created a routine and ritual that makes the spaces for me to sit and meditate in my way.
Just before meditating I do the Wim Hof breathing technique. He’s an amazing Dutch adventurer whose climbed Mount Everest in shorts because he’s been able to control he’s nervous system enough to do that.
I am getting much better at how I talk to myself on the inside and giving myself permission for failure, to fall apart, to go slow, to say I’m awesome…….and this has become on of my most important sustainability techniques for myself.
Regularly I attend retreats and workshops that help with healing, learning and inner journeying. I exercise regularly with yoga or strength training. And I am part of a monthly women’s circle that is very supportive and open.
But this is just MY VERSION of self care, unwinding, connecting and loving self…..honouring spirit both its light and its dark. I don’t always get it “right” or in “balance”.....I am human…...but I have learnt to be way kinder to myself in these moments, and to find the next, best step…..for me…… It is all about finding YOUR VERSION of anything and everything, but especially when it comes to self love and self care. It can take so many forms, feelings and ways. There is no textbook on YOU. You get to write it. Every day.
Can you give any advice for anyone wanting to start their own ethical, green or sustainable business?
This question really moves me as I can forget on an everyday level that that’s what we are doing ie: “an ethical, green, sustainable business”
I can get so caught up in the day to day that I forget that infused in every one of our decision is the underlying value of having an ethical, sustainable, green business. From who is in the box, to what is the box made of, to who we reach out with and connect with…..in layers into everything I do. The people who we work with and our customers, respect and share this vision.
It all comes back to the reason why I did it. I don’t see any point doing it any other way and I do find it frustrating and feel a lot of anger when people don’t see that. A lot of people that we see in business and have huge followings aren’t so responsible. But I don't control them, I can only be a light for what is possible in a different way.
If that is truly what is singing to you to run your business on this sort of platform, then stay true to that. There will be challenges and there will be times where you might be tempted to compromise because of cost or time or efficiency. But keep coming back to your why to make your decision because it will ultimately pay off.
For example our philosophy about ingredients and what we consider to be “suspect” is quite strict compared to the rest of the market. I didn’t even realise this until I got to sit down with a naturopath. She was really impressed with the checking and looking at the ethics of the organisations that we do, and how we care about everything from where their mica is coming from to whether the palm oil being used in sustainable. There were many opportunities for me to compromise on this in the early days, and yet I stuck with my gut and stayed strict. And it has paid off, as naturopaths (who know their stuff) are now happy to recommend us, because of that strictness.
Who in sustainable and ethical business inspires you?
Another big question, because there are so many!
Alex Stuart from Low Tox Life. I really admire her commitment to spreading the word about low tox living, and her open and non-judgemental approach that she takes.
James Moody who has launched Sendle, which is a carbon-neutral parcel delivery service. We use them for all of the delivery of our boxes. It is an incredible business that truly cares about the environment in what it does.
Irene Falcone from Nourished Life inspires me for what's she’s done. She was an early adopter within the green space, and runs an amazing business.
Every one of the makers, founders, experts and lovers of green beauty that I have had the chance to meet and interview all inspire me. Internationally, Yael Alkalay from Red Flower in New York and Mordechai Alvow from Yarok Hair in New York. They both care about every single level of their business, are hands on and support their tribe. It’s not just a product on the shelf, there is way more behind it.
What does living sustainably mean to you?
Sustainable living to me is about awareness. Awareness of self, and awareness of the world around us. And not just in a fact, by fact basis. I mean at the level of connection with self and my place in the greater whole. To me, it is from this place that one first learns to truly sustain the “self”, or to truly love the “self”. From there it becomes a natural extension to then care for nature and our planet, as “sustainably” as possible.
I know that kinda sounds esoteric, but for me this is where it all started. I had always done things like recycling and buying second hand cos it was the “right” thing to do, everyone else was doing it, and it felt good. Whereas now, the desire comes from a different place and I just KNOW it is the “right” thing to do because we are nature and nature is us and we are all interconnected and sustain one another in this wildly beautiful dance. And at the moment so much of it is messed up, and we can make a difference and heal, both ourselves and this world.
I am by no means “perfect” or truly living “sustainably” within the traditional idea of it. I dont grow my own veggies. I don’t make my own beauty products. I don’t have solar panels on my roof. But I do minimise waste, recycle my soft plastics, buy second hand when I can, shop consciously, talk to my children about all of the reasons why I do it and have chosen to run an “ethical” business that truly factors eco in to its processes. I am always trying to learn more about how I can live better for myself and the planet. But at the core, I am also ultimately taking care of myself, so I am nourished, happy and sustained so I can care for others.
Do you have a personal philosophy or motto that guides you?
I am a huge Star Wars fan, especially growing up. Obsessed you could say! I could recite all the words from the original three movies, to the point that no one would watch them with me! I understand now why it sung so much to me as a child because the philosophies are timeless and very spiritual. Yoda’s “do or do not, there is no try” has always stuck with me and I still live by it. Currently what has been ringing true for me is also Yoda when he said “you must un-learn what you have learnt”.
At the moment, I love “follow the breadcrumbs”. Life can be so overwhelming at times, and I want everything to just work out or to work it out! This motto reminds me that as long as I have vision, all I need to do then in “follow the breadcrumbs” and just work out the next best step, following where each little clue takes you. Almost like Hazel and Gretel with their breadcrumbs.
I also believe there are different mottos for different times in your life.
What are your favourite resources you read, watch or listen to that has helped inform your opinion on sustainable living, inspire you or offer an interesting perspective?
I’m a big Netflix person, their documentaries are never ending! I recently watched “Before the Flood” with Leonardo DiCaprio and loved it.
I’m also a big non-fiction book reader and I am constantly seeking out the next book, I love Brene Brown and Russell Brand, to just name 2, but my bookcase is quite full. I only get to read books in small snippets, so it takes me a while to get through them.
Podcasts are super useful and convenient. I jump around a lot and listen to many, when I have a few spare moments.
I am also learning about Blockchain technology, I know that it is taking over and if I don't understand these new technologies I will be left behind. It has an opportunity to change a lot of things and create greater transparency on many levels.
What are some of your favourite quotes because everyone loves a good quote!?
"She stands, two feet firmly on Mother Earth, and feels what BEAUTY is. It dances within her, wild and free. No-one need define it".
The reason why I like it (was not because I wrote it) is because when I write these quotes I feel like I am channeling the Wanderess in all her different forms. Her light, her darkness, her love and her healing. I feel like she is using me as her medium to whisper to us all, and to guide us all to find her within. She is so wise and beautiful and is my constant reminder of why I do this, with Wanderess Beauty. I also love this one because it reminds me that “beauty” is there for ME to decide what it is, how it feels, how I experience it. It is not something that can be defined or bottled or sold to me. It dances in me. It is me. And it is YOU too.