We had the opportunity to speak with Anna from Optiat, a brand that is very similar to us: All about sustainability and promoting a circular economy. They do this by taking ingredients that would otherwise be discarded and transforming them into their natural skincare products.
We wanted to speak with Anna after being inspired by her new food waste blog series and we are very proud to be a part of it!
Is there been anything exciting recently going on with Optiat? What have you been focussing on?
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for us recently, the run up to Christmas was a little crazy and now seems like a big blur! We only fully launched our first range of products in November 2016, so this really felt like our first proper Christmas - It’s fair to say we learnt a lot!! A major recent project that we have been focusing on was the expansion of our website. As our product ranges grow, we needed our website to reflect this, so we had exciting product photoshoots in order to get it looking beautiful. The site finally launched in mid December and we are so pleased with how it looks.
Where do you source your coffee grounds from?
We collect the coffee that we use in our coffee scrubs from a selection of independent artisan coffee shops and restaurants all over London. We now have a portfolio of about 50 different cafes and restaurants. The fact that we get the coffee from coffee shops and restaurants also means that it is the highest-quality Arabica coffee, as opposed to the lower-grade, cheaper Robusta coffee found in most coffee scrubs. If we didn’t collect the used coffee grounds from these places it would otherwise be destined for landfill - and that is what we are trying to avoid.
How is it working alongside your sibling (I’m sure you get asked this all the time!)?
We do get asked this question a lot and I can totally see why! I guess you have to be wary of mixing family life and work life, but honestly for us it works really well. There can be disagreement and the odd argument, but we are able to speak our minds freely with each other so the resolution is always speedy. The best part is that it’s so much fun, we laugh a lot and take great joy in being able to share Optiat’s success with the rest of our family.
What did you do before starting Optiat?
Before forming Optiat my brother was working in finance for a hedge fund and I was working as an area manager for a supermarket managing several stores. My brother and I have very different strengths, he’s the number cruncher and I’m more the creative, so we really compliment each other when it comes to heading up our own business.
Excited to hear that your next range of products will be soaps. Where do you manufacture all your products?
Yes! We are really excited to soon be releasing a lovely new range of soap bars made from brewed chai spices which were previously used to make chai tea. By the time the chai production process is over, the spices are no longer needed yet they still smell amazing! We have taken the chai spices and used them as the core ingredient for the new soaps range. As always, they are vegan, cruelty-free, sustainable and 100% natural.
All of our products are manufactured by hand in the UK.
What do you find are your biggest challenges?
I would say that the main difficulty has been explaining to those responsible for the repurposed ingredients why we want to take them away! For example, if there is a new member of staff at one of our coffee shops, it is critical that we explain the process of our collections. When we go in and try to explain that we don’t want a latte or a cappuccino, but actually just want to collect their used grounds, there can be some confusion! Once they realise it is in the name of sustainability people are delighted to be involved.
You’ve got a great number of stockists in the UK and Europe. How was it reaching out to the countries outside of the UK?
We made the decision to exhibit our products at trade shows outside of the UK and this was really how we began establishing relationships with retailers and customers in other countries. It was a big risk as we really had no idea whether people would respond well to us or be interested in stocking a foreign brand, but in the end we think it’s paid off!
What has been the reaction to your brand mission from customers and press?
Fundamentally we wanted our brand to be totally unique, we wanted to be doing something which no one else is doing and we wanted to prove that there can still be great value in the things that we are choosing to simply dispose of. This mission is appealing to customers as they are increasingly looking into the provenance of the ingredients of the products which they are choosing to buy. Consumers are beginning to shop in a much more conscious and critical way.
We encourage our customers to ask us what has gone into the making of our products: what is the process? What are the ingredients? Where are they from? Increased transparency for the customer about a product and its ingredients empowers them to make more informed choices about the brands they choose to buy from and the products they choose to use. We stand for beauty with a conscience, our customers don’t have to worry about what will happen when our products eventually are washed down the drains as the ingredients are natural and chemical-free.
The feedback that we have received from press about our story has been very positive. There is a greater focus on both sustainability, but also on natural and organic cosmetic products. We are trying to do something different by promoting a more environmentally conscious objective, and people are really buying into that vision.
What is your proudest achievement from 2017?
We attended Vevolution Festival at the end of 2017 where we pitched at a dragons’ den competition against five other vegan brands. We ended up being selected as the winner which was extremely exciting! It was my first experience getting to hold a giant cheque so that was a nice box to tick!
What are your plans for 2018?
There are so many wonderful natural ingredients which are unfortunately going unused. We are keen to rescue these unloved, unwanted ingredients and continue to develop more skincare products from them. We have two or three exciting ideas that are currently in their first stages of development. We are also revisiting our coffee scrubs and exploring some exciting new scents, so there’s lots to look forward to in 2018!