One thing I love about blogging is the friendships I have formed. The community, particularly in the sustainability/eco niche, is very supportive. I’ve connected with so many talented and intelligent women, who inspire me, challenge me and teach me. And while I haven’t met any of these wonderful women in real life yet (this definitely will happen) I feel like I have formed long lasting friendships. One of these ladies is Kira Simpson, who started her eco-blog around the same time as Urban Granola. We have been chatting on social media for over a year - Kira is a very passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to sustainability, ethics and environmental issues. So I was very excited to hear that she was launching her own store, The Green Hub, a marketplace for ethical products. We caught up with Kira to chat about her new business. 

Urban Granola: Can you tell us a bit about your background - what were you doing before starting The Green Hub?

Kira Simpson: I spent my early working life in a management role in the hospitality industry before enrolling to university in my mid-twenties to study biological science. After many years of study and volunteer work in that field, I realised I loved learning about science so much more than I actually enjoyed doing it! 

While I was working in advertising in the organics industry, I enrolled in a Masters degree in sustainability as I’d long had an interest in environmental advocacy. Two semesters in, I came up with the idea for The Green Hub so I quit my job, deferred my studies and got to work bringing my idea to life!

UG: What was your inspiration or motivating factor behind creating The Green Hub?

KS: There were lots of reasons, but changes I was making in my lifestyle was the main driving factor behind starting The Green Hub. I was fed up with the lack of transparency in the retail and beauty industries and spent a lot of time online researching brands who were ethical, so I could buy a dress or lipstick without feeling guilty about my purchase. I was pleasantly surprised to find there are a lot of great brands out there who have an ethical supply chain and consider their impact on the environment. But, if you don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours trawling the internet, then they can be hard to find. I really wanted to create a space where you could find all these brands in one place without having to do any research. 

Like a lot of business ideas, this one came about from seeing a need and trying to come up with a solution to fill it. I thought that if I wanted something like this, then other people would too. I essentially built a store for myself to shop at!

I know that shopping is not going to solve the world’s sustainability problems but people are not going to stop buying stuff. The online retail industry is growing by a huge twenty per cent per year. But, if we can provide a place where ethical shopping is made easy, then maybe people will consider how their purchases impact on the environment and the people who make them.

 Gorgeous jewellery available from The Green Hub. 

Gorgeous jewellery available from The Green Hub. 

UG: How would you describe The Green Hub, what is your elevator pitch, so to speak, for the website? 

KS: The Green Hub is a one-stop online destination for ethically produced fashion, beauty and lifestyle products. It’s a place where eco-conscious consumers can shop without restrictions, knowing every product in store was created with ethics and sustainability in mind.

We want our customers to be fully aware of and understand the lifecycle of the items they buy. To take the time to connect with our brands and learn about the people, values and the story behind your purchases.

There is no one size fits all green lifestyle so The Green Hub is a space that offers products for people at every stage of their sustainable journey to help make positive purchasing a little easier.

The shopping experience and checkout are the same you would have on any shopping site. The difference is that, once the purchase is finalised with us, your orders are sent to our makers and creators who will ship your items directly to you. We take care of the customer service and provide you with any assistance you might need and any questions about orders will always be directed back to our site.

I chose this drop-ship inventory model because I realised that traditional methods of wholesale purchasing produces a lot of waste. Something we are trying to combat through mindful purchasing, so holding inventory that may one day need to be discarded didn't make sense. By using this system it also means that we can share more brands and products with our customers.

UG: How do you determine whether brands/products are the right fit for your online store? Do you have a specific criteria? 

KS: We have nine categories to determine if a brand/product fits our criteria. Ethically produced, Eco-friendly, Australian made, Handmade, Recycled, Organic, Natural, Cruelty-free and Fairtrade. In order to qualify, brands and products must meet a minimum of two of these. Every brand and product is assessed on case by case basis to ensure they share our ethos but also fit with our current listings. 

 Magazine rack available from The Green Hub

Magazine rack available from The Green Hub

Many of the brands currently listed are ones I had either purchased from in the past or were recommended to me. We have a number of brands who contact us via the seller enquiry form on our site, but I also spend a lot of time online looking for new items to share on the site. 

Looking for new brands is my favourite part of the job. I get a little thrill every time I find something wonderful I can share with our customers! Most of all, I like finding and promoting businesses with a social impact, people who are using their business model to create positive change in the world.  

UG: What is the biggest challenge with starting an online business in the sustainable space?

KS: The time that goes into research brands and products. When you market yourself as being a socially or environmentally conscious business, you can’t just work with any old brand.  You need to ensure the companies you work with are transparent in their dealings and be willing to part with information about where and how their products and being made. Fortunately, I found that most of the businesses I come across while researching are open and honest but it’s still an exhaustive process. 

UG: What advice would you give to those wanting to take the next step and start an online business? 

KS: Have clear goals, set your intentions and follow through. Read everything you can get your hands on but, at some point, stop researching and just take that next step to bring your ideas to fruition. You’re often going to feel as though you have no idea what you are doing. That’s ok, do it anyway. Making mistakes is inevitable and you will stuff up at some point. Turn your mistakes into a positive learning experience and move on. 

It’s also important to take care of yourself. Nourish your body with good food and exercise, and nourish your mind with things that inspire and make you feel good. Starting a business can be stressful so make sure you take the time to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. When you’re feeling your best, you can give your business your best.

UG: What’s your overall vision for The Green Hub?

KS: I want The Green Hub to teach people that every product we buy has history and a human story behind it. To show that we can still shop and have nice things without sacrificing another person's wellbeing and the environment in the process.