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Running a business that helps protect the planet – member of the month Natasha Ray, Founder of &Keep tells all

During a very busy summer I still managed to catchup with our wonderful August member of the month, Natasha Ray – founder of &Keep. Sustainability is more relevant than ever and Natasha’s vision and passion for planet protection is infectious. She and her family live and breathe the company’s motto ‘Creating a better Tomorrow, Today’. We chat bamboo toothbrushes, providing that personal human connection throughout your business and how her daughters are champions for our planet.

Why did you start your small business?

I started &Keep with the desire to show people there are eco-friendly, sustainable and reusable alternatives to plastic for every day items. As my husband and I travelled around Europe in our little red campervan back in 2010, we learnt to choose our possessions wisely, to value items we could ‘Keep’ forever and noticed the rise of the environmentally destructive throwaway culture. We thought long and hard about our values and what means the most to us, what we could throw our heart and soul into when founding our own small business, and &Keep was born.

What’s your best selling product, and why do you think it’s so popular?

Our best selling product is our Pack of 5 Bamboo Toothbrushes. I think it’s so popular because swapping your plastic toothbrush for a biodegradable alternative is a simple place to start living more sustainably. At just £9.95 for 5 they are great value and bring a pop of colour to your bathroom too!

What’s the nicest thing a customer has said about your business?

Oh goodness, we are so lucky to have lots of wonderful compliments from our planet-protecting customers and have won the Feefo Platinum Service Award every year for the past 5 years for our great feedback. 

It’s fantastic to hear customers recognise we go above and beyond to answer their queries or requests for amendments to orders, creating gifts, etc. We hugely appreciate that we are recognised as a low-cost, one-stop shop for all things eco. It’s more important than ever to us that eco remains affordable and doesn’t have to be cut from household’s budgets.

I spoke to a customer on the phone once who said “Oh Natasha – you’re a real person! I read all your emails and thought it was a marketing thing and Natasha did not exist.” I was so stunned. I pen every email that is sent to our subscribers and answer most customer emails and phone calls myself. I was thrilled to hear she read them!

What does the last quarter and lead up to Christmas look like for andkeep.com?

It’s been a very challenging year this year – our hardest yet. Increased costs on every level coupled with consumer nervousness to spend and eco being perceived as perhaps a luxury they cannot afford.

As much as I love Christmas and sourcing all the stock, I will be a little cautious in my ordering as the general feeling is that customers will be spending less this festive season.

We always run plenty of offers and have a huge Green (Black) Friday event so hopefully we can support our customers in being able to afford a fantastic festive season still.

There are some fantastic eco-friendly decorations, cards, wrapping, gift ideas, etc out there and I will certainly be making these as widely known as possible. People will be gifting more mindfully and thoughtfully I believe.

As recommended by andkeep.com

My daughters (now 8 and 10) have been a huge resource on so many levels, bless them! Not only have they helped out stocking shelves, picking and packing orders, bundling up gift tags and creating Chrsistmas cracker packs over nearly 6 years but they have been motivational on so many levels. When I have been utterly exhausted and wanting to hang up my hat, they said ‘you can’t do that Mummy, you’ve worked so hard and built a brilliant business’. They said they are going to take over &Keep when they grow up! I had no idea this had all been a good influence on them and has been shaping their view of careers and what women are capable of, as they go out into the world.

The company motto is ‘Creating a better Tomorrow, Today’ because I want to leave a better world behind for my daughters and future generations to come. My children chose to be ‘’Save the Oceans Girl’ on superheroes day at school, one wrote to their caretaker to ask them to change the daily disposable milk cartons for something more eco-friendly, and they often ask me to go on a litter pick! It’s fantastic to see what I do, does make a difference. I really need that sometimes!

I listened to the Hammersley Brothers podcast for a while, which gave me ideas to explore and metrics to keep an eye on in the ecommerce world.

I am also a keen follower of Holly Tucker and how she champions Small Businesses, the campaigns she creates, etc.

Michelle Ovens of Small Business Britain/f:entrepreneur has also been a fantastic resource of motivation, positivity and fostering the community spirit of small business owners through the high’s and low’s.

To find out more about &Keep on the website and Instagram page.

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