Katrina Borissova is the founder of the innovative, 80’s inspired natural soap business, Little Danube. Wanting to embrace her creative side and passion for the environment, Katrina decided the time was right to launch her own business.
Little Danube, which launched in August 2020, has made it a priority to use only vegan, natural and eco-friendly ingredients and packaging to ensure they do their part for the planet. Having the support of the Amazon Small Business Accelerator (a free online educational programme for small businesses from Amazon and Enterprise Nation) from the beginning helped Katrina kickstart her business and find the right tools to build a sustainable business.
Named after the river Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, the brand is connected to nature and the environment, something Katrina believes other small businesses should be more conscious of too. Modern customers are less likely to purchase a product if the brand isn’t sustainable and businesses must adapt to survive.
We spoke with Katrina about how she has worked to make her brand eco-friendly and what advice she would give to other small businesses to be more sustainable.
Why is being environmentally friendly so important to Little Danube?
Having spent most of my childhood summer holidays enjoying nature on my grandmother’s farm, I have always felt a closeness to natural products. My grandma did everything with her hands and showed me that you could make your own soap from natural products.
As a result, when I decided to launch the business, sustainability was always going to be top of the agenda. One of the benefits of being a start-up is that I have the capacity to adapt and make changes easily and quickly. Therefore, I can constantly review my processes to ensure my business is as sustainable as possible. It also means I can take on new initiatives to support other green businesses, an example of which being our most recent partnership with treeapp.
How do you ensure your business is sustainable while remaining efficient?
The main factors in our sustainability are our formulations and packaging.
In the manufacturing process, we have designed formulations that do not contain any additives, such as parabens, artificial fragrances or sodium lauryl sulphate (a common ingredient in soap). These can not only be irritable for people with sensitive skin but can also be harmful to the environment. Instead, we use natural, essential oils that have a myriad of beneficial properties, are sustainably sourced, and are gentle to the skin.
When it came to choosing and designing packaging for my product ranges I always asked myself “can this be done more sustainably?”. It became the forefront of our design to be more sustainable, we use eco-friendly tissue (made from acid-free paper) and print using soy-based ink. The boxes for our soaps are recyclable, and our delivery bags are fully compostable.
In one of our more recent initiatives, we have partnered with treeapp and have committed to planting a tree each time a customer spends £10 or more on our website.
We also were a part of the Amazon Small Business Accelerator when we launched the business, which gave me the tools to shape my business model to be more sustainable. It helped me make my business compliant, implement requirements (like barcodes) and optimise my supply chain.
Not only has Amazon helped me to get my business off the ground, but their commitment to being carbon neutral by 2040 has also resonated strongly with me. Being supported by one of the most innovative companies in history has been hugely inspiring, and the work they have put into sustainability, notably their work on The Climate Pledge, has helped put into perspective the difference being a sustainable business can make.
Why is it so important for small businesses to be conscious of the environment?
As statistics currently stand, around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into our oceans each year. According to the Waste Resources Action Programme, one-quarter of all waste in the UK is generated by businesses and we have a responsibility to cut down on our carbon footprint. Small businesses should strive to add value and make a difference, especially in the current climate we are in.
It is also something that customers are becoming increasingly conscious of. We get so many questions about our products sourcing, ingredients, and manufacturing process. It shows that our customers are making conscious and informed decisions and it drives huge accountability not only from us but from the whole industry.
It’s only now, with the rise of the internet and social media, that we are learning about certain toxic ingredients that we, as consumers, have used for years without knowing the long-term negative impact – both on our bodies and the environment.
What advice would you give to small businesses that want to be more sustainable?
There are three key things I would say to people that want to launch an eco-friendly business:
Stick to your mission statement – Eco-friendly products are more expensive to produce due to the product sourcing which is often organic and due to ethical practices. While the cost may be higher, it will set your brand apart, and sets a precedent for your customers of what to expect from your brand. Eco-friendly packages are 4 times more expensive than plastic, so while it might affect the overall product margin it’s also a key statement of the companies’ values and priorities. It’s the way forward.
Find the right partners: We partnered with a company called NoIssue where we source our eco-friendly/toxic-free tissue paper (that is printed with soy-based ink) and compostable bags. I love their brand culture and mission and it was very important for me to launch as a plastic-free brand and to find the right partners.
Do your research: This will not only help you find the best products, ingredients and packaging – but can also ensure you are partnering with people that best align with your brand. You will be in a better place to answer any questions you get from potential customers about sourcing.
It will also help you find the best deals when shopping around!