...on Being a Better Business
If you were following any updates over the Spring and Summer of 2020 (yep, the never ending lockdown...), you will have noticed that Paraffle had a bit of an overhaul. The craziness of lockdown - part of which was HUGE amounts of people exploring new crafty skills - meant that I spent my days scaling up, drinking excessive amounts of caffeine, staying up far too late, and (perhaps most importantly) having a serious think about the kind of business that I want Paraffle to be.
When I first started making embroidery kits, I was happy enough to be producing something that could teach people a new skill, or could give someone that little slice of meditative time out that crafting is so great at providing. Being environmentally friendly and an ethical consumer was something I (imperfectly) tried to practice in my daily life - but when it came to running Paraffle, I hadn't given it too much thought. I'd had dreams of eventually running a business that was considerate to the planet, as well as our communities... But for whatever reason, I saw this as something far off in the distant future; something to consider if the business was ever 'successful' (whatever that means).
Well, as the business began to grow (thanks to you!), the areas that needed improvement also began to weigh on me much more heavily. Actually, I think the moment which gave me a much-needed push was a very genuine message from an Etsy customer, commenting on the plastic hoops that were included in the kits (long story short, the hoops had a wood effect - which did look quite nice - but were 100% plastic - far from ideal). It's always hard to hear criticism of something you've made; and sometimes even harder when you know that that criticism is entirely valid, and that you need to act; but, I have a lot to thank that person for.
So, I want to let you all know what I've done to improve Paraffle - and rather than this being a self-congratulatory post, I want to invite your thoughts on how else I can make sure I run my business in a wholesome and sustainable way...
Charity Embroidery Kits
You might be aware of the Rainbow charity kit I launched in April 2020, which (as of September 2020) has raised more than £3000 for a local Edinburgh charity (Steps to Hope) that helps people who are homeless, and those struggling with addiction - which is an INCREDIBLE milestone to reach.
.Since the Rainbow was created, I've also released an alternative version of my sloth design, on a green background - proceeds from these kits are donated to an amazing wildlife and conservation charity in Bolivia, Inti Wara Yassi.
I intend to keep charity kit offerings as a permanent fixture, and hope to expand it to a wide range of products supporting charities in different areas. I have a special section of the website set aside just for these - and suggestions for other areas and charities are welcomed!
For postal packaging, I was previously using poly envelopes lined with bubble wrap to send out my kits - these have now been scrapped (hooray!) and replaced with rustic paper envelopes.
I'm really proud to be working with this supplier (Kite Packaging), because not only is their packaging sustainable, they are also an employee owned business - again, something which is inspiring to me!
Environmentally Friendly Materials
In the early days of Paraffle, I was using flexi plastic wood-effect hoops - which I later replaced with my lovely wooden display hoops. These wooden hoops are WAY better looking (in my opinion, at least!), and still have a hanging hook to pop them on the wall when the piece is finished, which is a feature I really love.
Each of my kits also includes a Stitch Guide booklet and instructions - which, in the early days, was printed at home on my tiny printer. No longer! I've found a local printers (Out of Hand Scotland), who can print these on sustainable forestry paper, using environmentally friendly ink.
So, the kits are now plastic free - and I'm super proud of it!
What else do I still have to change?
Well, probably a lot.
But I'd love to hear your thoughts or ideas on how Paraffle can improve even more!
Do you have experience in trying to make similar changes? What areas do small businesses tend to overlook when working to improve? What is it about a product that makes you think, 'yep, that's a responsible business'?
I'm looking forward to these conversations!
Founder & Owner of Paraffle
Sammy set up Paraffle as a side-venture in 2017 whilst she was doing her PHD at Edinburgh University. After finishing her PhD in Religious Studies (specifically Hinduisim and the New Age movement of Tantra), running Paraffle has become her full time hobby and job!