In 2013 I made it my personal mission to care. To care about how the products I purchased were made and where they came from. To care about the food I put into my body. To care about the products I put onto my skin. So I have been on a mission to find places that stock things I can feel confident about purchasing and know that they do right. I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon Ecobella to find that they operated right here in Brisbane!! Ecobella is a fantastic online boutique for all of your organic, fair trade, eco-friendly needs!! They stock the most gorgeous range of jewellery, home & living items, things for the little ones…. all organic or fair trade of course! So excited, I spent time with Irene Valentine, one of the founders to hear more about their wonderful story….
1. What inspired you to launch Ecobella?
We’ve always been attracted to the idea of having a little shop, selling gifts which are beautiful and high quality; but which also have eco friendly and ethical standards. Ultimately, we wanted to bring highly desirable “designer” products, which have clever and ethical use of sustainable materials to the market place in a gift shop setting.
We also wanted to challenge ourselves by opening a business. It has been its been 7 years since we first dreamt up Ecobella, and 2 years since we launched with the aim of creating a destination for women who wanted great service and did want to compromise their ‘green values’ when they shopped. We are proud that we have not wavered from these core goals and values that first inspired us to create Ecobella. It has been an amazing learning process.
2. Why Eco? What does this mean to you?
Ecobella aims to search for products that are ethical, sustainable and can be locally sourced. We are committed to reducing our footprint, and feel compelled to consider our social responsibility before making everyday decisions. It is also important that our business reflect our own personal ethics.
Elena has a great interest in environmental design, having worked designing green star commercial interior fit outs. Irene fosters a love for our environmental heritage in her students, as one of the subject areas she teaches is environmental studies. Ros still regards herself a country girl in many ways and loves home cooking with fresh produce from her organic veggie garden.
We all appreciate the natural world around us, and realize how important it is to ensure it is well cared for so that natural balances are maintained, and the natural world continues to sustain us and future generations. With young children in the family, and the prospects of more in the coming years this is especially close to our heart, and we seek out safe, and quality products which will have a minimal impact on the earth.
3. How did your team come together?
Well, we are a close family, and had been talking about starting a business for many years. With our personal interests in the environment, design, art and retail therapy, the idea of starting Ecobella was just a natural progression for us.
4. Give us a brief background on each team member and why they are passionate about Ecobella.
Ecobella is is a family business, owned by three women & mothers – Ros an artist and teacher, Irene an entrepreneur and teacher, and Elena an interior architect. We are a close-knit family, even though we are spread all over Australia. Ros and Irene are based in Brisbane but Elena is based in Perth. Despite the distance, we have embraced the challenge of living on opposite sides of the country and are truly committed to building a successful online business featuring quality sustainable goods. What binds us together is our shared vision and hope for sustainable future for our business, our families and our community.
5. What is your favourite part of running on online business?
This is a tricky one as launching a e-store has been a huge learning curve. But, as the business has evolved, each of us has found great rewards and something we love. Irene enjoys searching for products and speaking to producers who create our wonderful goods. Ros normally does the dispatches of customer orders, and she really loves wrapping the parcels (a little surprise gift wrapping) and imagining the delight of the customer when they receive the parcel. Elena loves discovering and supporting new local designers. And the work life balance and flexibility that running an online store brings is fantastic. I get to be home with my daughter most days, and that is important to me whilst she is so young.
6. Who is the Ecobella customer?
Ecobella is a destination for women who love quality and see the value of products that are made ethically and sustainably. They come from all walks of life. Sometimes, when we have a pop-up shop (in Brisbane) , we get to meet our customers face to face who come to have a look at our merchandise and drop in for a chat. It’s wonderful that our customers are so supportive of our philosophy.
Ecobella has responded to the growing awareness of ‘green and ethical issues’ in the wider community.
Ros and Irene
7. What are your must-have products for Winter?
Uimi’s range of bright geometric blankets for the home & for children.
8. What is your goal for the business in 2014?
There is a misconception out there that eco products can be dull or unfashionable – we’d like to change that. We want to put the spotlight on great design and beautiful wares, so our concept is more akin to a boutique style store. Our goal is to to promote our eco-boutique to a wider community and bring even more fabulous eco-friendly and ethically made products to our customers.
9. How does living in Brisbane impact your business?
Our business is based in Brisbane (with Elena working remotely from Perth). They are very similar in some ways. In both cities, people are quite relaxed and the sense of community is evident. Ecobella appreciates the support from our customers who love their local businesses.
10. Where is your favourite spot in Brisbane to EAT/DRINK/SHOP?
At Ecobella, we all have different likes. Irene loves local area shopping. I support the Martha Street Precinct in Camp Hill where I can have a coffee, go to dinner and browse some cute shops and support local business.
Ros enjoys Oxford St, Bulimba cafes, because it is an easy walk from where I live, but I do enjoy the occasional visit into the city, or Southbank as well.
Elena loves the wholefood cafes in Teneriffe and shopping for vintage finds in Paddington. And, recommends if you are ever in WA to hit George St in East Fremantle, and the Margaret River Wine Region.
11. Anything else you’d love our readers to know?
Ecobella prefers to stock Australian made products and support our local designers. Most of our products come from Brisbane and Melbourne. Unfortunately, some of our designers are finding it hard to manufacture within Australia, so whilst they are designed here, often products are made in India or China under strict Fair Trade agreements. We also have a couple of international brands, including 31 Bits, which supports women in Uganda, who make recycled paper jewellery to provide a sustainable income.
As a business, our vision is to align ourselves with community groups and charities which have similar ethical and environmental concerns.
As a family, we have a passion for the beach. Some of us surf, some of us swim and some of us just love to watch the ocean and its many moods.
Elena & Leighton