In our previous blog post we explained what makes a social entrepreneur different to a more traditional business entrepreneur. For this blog, we now want to introduce you to a social entrepreneur we are very proud of – our very own student Zoe Wiggins.
Zoe enrolled as a lifetime student on our ‘Social Entrepreneurship: How to Build a Social Enterprise’ online course back in August 2017. We are so proud of Zoe’s progress as a social entrepreneur as she is now a founder and business owner of her very own Social Enterprise called Vida Eco Shop, setup to help tackle the social issue of the Plastics Pollution crisis.
We caught up with Zoe to find out more about Vida Eco Shop and can you read more below to hear her social entrepreneurial journey.
Q: Can you tell us about the concept behind Vida Eco Shop?
Zoe: Vida Eco Shop is an online store selling natural, plastic free products. Our aim is to help people on their plastic free journey. We want to protect our oceans, both through the products we sell and by supporting the Marine Conservation Society, we donate 1p of every £1 sold to them.
Q: Why was tackling the plastics pollution crisis important to you?
Zoe: I have always been passionate about the environment; I have been on volunteering trips to plant trees in the jungle and volunteered for an environmental organisation in Colombia. It was while living in Colombia that I started to really see the scale of the plastic crisis. I was on an island once, where there were no cars and very little tourism, yet I found a deserted beach that was entirely covered in plastic. I started taking part in beach clean-ups, but I knew it was not enough. Then when I watched the film A Plastic Ocean, I knew I had to do something about it.
Q: What was it about the Social Enterprise business model that appealed to you?
Zoe: I took the Social Enterprise course before I had any idea what business I wanted to start. I was adamant that I wanted to create something that was purpose over profit and that had sustainability at its core. It was always going to be about making a positive impact on the environment, I just didn’t know how or what yet. As well as the environmentally friendly products we sell on the shop, and donating 1p in every £1 sold to the Marine Conservation Society, I also look for suppliers who give back too. Whether they donate to charities, plant trees, employ people in need, or support water and sanitation projects, most of my products have a story behind them.
Q: Why did you choose the charity Marine Conservation Society to support?
Zoe: I have followed the Marine Conservation Society for a long time and always been a big supporter of the work they do. They have a big impact at UK Government level and have a long history of running successful campaigns. I wanted to support a charity that I trust makes a difference.
Q: What was the idea behind the name Vida Eco Shop?
Zoe: “Vida” is the Spanish word for “life” – inspired by my time living in Colombia which was when I decided I wanted to do more in the fight against single use plastic. My name, Zoe, also means life in Greek. On top of that, by reducing our plastic waste, helping others to do the same and by donating to the Marine Conservation Society, we are also helping give life back to the oceans.
Q: If someone wanted to make changes to support a plastic-free lifestyle, what would be the top 3/4 products you would recommend starting with?
Zoe: I always recommend starting with a reusable water bottle and coffee cup. The collapsible coffee cup is my favourite as it takes up hardly any space in your bag, so it is really easy to carry around.
Zoe: A bamboo toothbrush is another really easy swap as it does not really feel any different to a plastic toothbrush.
Zoe: Bamboo cotton buds are another really easy swap and with the government ban on plastic cotton buds coming into place in April 2020, this is a good one to get used to now. Many supermarkets sell paper ones now, but I find them too weak and bendy… plus they come in plastic packaging. The bamboo ones are sturdy, just like the plastic ones, and ours come in a cardboard box so no plastic in sight.
Zoe: I would say those are the easiest swaps anyone can make right away.
Q: What inspired you to take the ‘Social Entrepreneurship: How to Build a Social Enterprise course’?
Zoe: I knew that I wanted to start a social business but I didn’t have the idea yet. I was hoping to get some inspiration and know how, which I did! I had a dream to create a social enterprise, I knew I wanted to make a difference, to have job satisfaction, to do something I cared about, but I needed direction and practical advice.
Q: Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start their own Social Enterprise, or any encouragement for someone thinking of learning about what a Social Enterprise is?
Zoe: People are much more clued up on the ethics of companies now than they used to be and many people choose brands based on their ethics. By having the overarching goal of turning the tide on plastic pollution, which is so important to me, it helps me keep moving forward and gives me the motivation every day. Work is much more rewarding when you care passionately about what you do, so I couldn’t recommend starting your own social enterprise enough. Not only will it be rewarding for you, but you will be making a difference in whatever field you go into. Of course, starting any business is hard, but it is much easier when you deeply care about the cause.
Q: What is your vision for your business in 5 years’ time?
Zoe: In the short term, I am looking to move into a bigger space as I’ve outgrown my current warehouse. In the longer term, I would like to have a small team working with me who are as passionate about reducing waste, and helping people on their plastic free journey as I am. I would also like to do some public speaking engagements to inspire people to reduce their plastic use.
Zoe’s Social Entrepreneurship journey
We hope you enjoyed reading about Zoe’s social entrepreneurial journey as a founder and a huge thank you to Zoe for taking the time to talk about her experience. The movement of replacing plastic items with more sustainable materials will help combat the devastating impact plastic pollution is having on our environment and we hope to see Vida Eco Shop grow in strength.
You can help support Zoe make a difference to the plastic pollution crisis by shopping with Vida Eco and the online shop is still open as usual during the Covid-19 pandemic. Zoe ensures that she and her family have put all measures in place to make sure they are operating as safely as possible.
As Vida Eco Shop suppliers are mainly with small UK businesses, your support as a consumer would really help them keep their businesses going.
Shop safely from home.
You can also follow Vida Eco Shop on Instagram @VidaEcoShop
Your social entrepreneurial journey awaits
If you have been inspired by Zoe’s story, check out the ‘Social Entrepreneurship: How to Build a Social Enterprise’ online course. Once you enrol you will have lifetime access and as new material gets added, you will have no further cost – giving you the best value possible.
Even if you do not feel ready to start a social entrepreneurial journey and just want to learn more about Social Enterprises in general, now is the best time to learn. We are entering a Social Enterprise revolution where the world needs more businesses that do good for society and the planet and now is the time to learn more, so you can shop ethically as a consumer.
Use coupon code ‘VIDAECO’ at checkout for 65% off which is valid for a limited time only, until May 22 2020.
Now is the time for us all to pull together for a greater good. To support a business model which will help create fairer societies in every country, across the whole world.
The Social Enterprise Revolution. In this together.
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