© Jerry James Stone via Flickr This sangría recipe was inspired by the Agua de Flor de Jamaica that I order from my neighborhood taqueria. It's so refreshing and flavorful. But like the punch bowl at a high school prom, I often find myself tempted to spike it. So I did! Enjoy....Read the full story on TreeHugger
From Yawning Lions to Buffalo-befriending Birds: Africa’s Threatened Animals in Stunning Photos (Slideshow)Photo: WildiZe For more than 10 years, the WildiZe African Conservation Foundation has been lending its support to conservation projects across Africa, from improving the relationship between locals and animals to developing sustainable farming practices. The projects, trips, and research teams that the group supports are working on a variety of issues -- community development, animal research, endangered species monitoring -- and sending back striking images of a country's animals on the edge of change. Read the full story on TreeHugger
Want organic, natural skincare products that are good for you and planet? Formulate them yourself. That’s what green entrepreneur Boris did when he founded MuLondon, a green business with a mission to create fabulous, healing skincare products that are good for the earth and your health.
Can you tell us about MuLondon? What’s it all about, and what’s behind the name?
MuLondon is a range of mild, organic skincare products created for dry and sensitive skin types. Currently five fabulous, fragrant and healing moisturisers are available, designed to address different skin issues without using any chemicals. These are NOT ordinary moisturisers – they are rich, concentrated, healing balms that are to be used sparingly. Great for face, hands and any other dry areas of the body. MuLondon moisturisers are 100% natural, made with food-grade ingredients, and absolutely no chemicals. Uniquely not diluted with water, the creams are super-concentrated and a little bit goes a long way.
A brand new line of organic cleansers has just launched to complement the moisturisers, and I am very excited about being able to share them with eco-friendly consumers. They are free from palm oil, detergents like SLS and parabens. Instead, they are packed with certified organic ingredients to soothe and clean the skin naturally, without stripping it of its natural protective oils.
The MuLondon name reflects my desire to bring some calm into the urban life, and my wish to create a skin care range that contains nothing else but the ingredients needed to make it work. All products are hand-made in London, UK with certified organic ingredients and are shipped worldwide.
What green consumer problem are you trying to solve?
I had really bad eczema many years ago. I was looking to soothe my dry skin with some kind of cream or lotion, and in the process, I learned that everything I looked at was full of chemicals, preservatives and other additives. After a lot of experimenting, I found a formula that worked and I wanted to share that with the world.
Always having believed that we can use what the nature has provided to assist us, I created MuLondon.
I understand how difficult it is trying to be all-natural these days, with many companies making bold promises but rarely delivering. Even big-brand names now have so-called “natural” ranges that are full of unpronounceable stuff, and they are still tested on animals.
I am very rigorous when buying either in a supermarket or from my suppliers – I read all the ingredients, I always check the “best-before” date, country of origin, vegan and cruelty-free certifications; I will scan the label and examine the company. I have done all the hard work in vetting my suppliers, testing the ingredients and making sure only the finest are used, so my customers can sit down, relax and enjoy MuLondon products knowing that they are doing something good not only for themselves, but also for the environment and the animals. When you purchase a MuLondon product, you are getting fantastically clean, pure and effective skincare that has been created with the utmost respect for the skin and the world we live in.
The philosophy behind MuLondon is to use only natural and certified organic ingredients, where available. No chemicals, no mineral oils, parabens, sorbates, detergents, SLS, emulsifiers or similar gunk. If you can’t pronounce it, or would not feel comfortable eating it, do not put it on your skin.
I only use reliable, time-tested ingredients such as Jojoba oil and Shea butter that are safe to use on a daily basis, and natural fragrances such as Lavender, Rose, and Marigold that won’t irritate even the most sensitive skin.
My cruelty-free commitment is proven by the fact that MuLondon is registered by both The Vegan Society and PETA. No animal ingredients and no animal testing. Not now, not ever. Being a registered Humane Corporation means I do not support any charities that fund or conduct animal testing
MuLondon is one of only 250 fully compliant signers of EWG’s “The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics“, which works to eliminate harmful chemicals from personal care products.
I know exactly what goes in every jar and bottle of my skincare range, and I work hard to make sure that each of my customers gets to use first-class products and is treated like a star.
What methods for advertising do you find work the best?
Word of mouth has always worked for me. When people buy something they love, they will tell their friends. Make-up artists love MuLondon products and they will tell each other about them – so my organic creations were used on the set of the 2010 Hollywood blockbuster “Clash of the Titans” and a few more recent movies that I can not name yet, as they are being filmed!
When you are starting out and do not have a huge – or any – marketing budget, you need to be a bit creative.
I have worked with some fantastic beauty bloggers, magazines and online publications. Some have approached me, some I got in touch with. By arranging reviews and giveaways, it benefits everyone – I get publicity, the publication gets more readers and the customer gets to hear about my all-natural skincare range, or even try it for free. This usually costs less and produces better results than advertising.
In addition to that, I have listed my products on a few wholesale websites, and have received orders via them. Being listed in relevant online directories also helps to boost your search engine rankings.
If you are running any kind of business and you’re not on Facebook and Twitter – you are missing out! Social networks are an amazing and completely free way to have a two-way communication with people who have chosen to follow your updates.
I now have customers from all over the world – USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Poland – you name it! I absolutely love getting and order from a place I have never heard of before, knowing that someone there is enjoying MuLondon products.
What principles do you use to select the ingredients for your products?
All ingredients for MuLondon products come from UK and European suppliers that have been thoroughly vetted, showing dedication to sustainability and fair labour practices throughout the whole manufacturing process.
MuLondon is a full and proud business member of Green America. Green America’s Seal of Approval recognizes companies showing deep commitments to people and the planet in their policies, practices and products. To receive the Seal, companies complete a rigorous screening process to verify their commitments to social and environmental responsibility.
I also require all my suppliers to demonstrate that their ingredients I buy are certified organic, that they do not conduct animal testing on them, and that they are free from genetically modified substances.
Do you warehouse your merchandise, or do you dropship? Do you do anything to minimize the footprint of your shipping?
MuLondon organic skincare products are exclusively shipped from our London, UK headquarters, and I do not dropship at the moment. I have several different sizes of cardboard boxes that I use for shipping, so that depending on the number and the size of products purchased, the carbon footprint is as small as possible. The bubble-wrap I use is always biodegradable, and I will recycle and re-use packaging materials from my suppliers where appropriate. Keeping the size and the weight of the packaging as small as possible not only helps to minimise our environmental impact, but also allows MuLondon to offer some of the most affordable international shipping rates of any online company.
What platform did you choose to power your eCommerce website?
MuLondon runs on a modified Magento cart solution. By being open-source and having a modular architecture, it allows me to take what I need from it and create a simple and usable website that is easy to navigate and use. The custom template has been specifically created to be clean and unique.
What advice would you have for other aspiring green and social entrepreneurs?
I felt like I wanted to do it all by myself – which is an impossible task!
Have others do stuff for you, outsource what you can and find people you can trust that you can rely on – but remember to have a written contract for EVERYTHING!
Have backups of all that is important – your website, database, images. Have backup suppliers – some will go out of business, some will raise their prices, some will be out of stock at times.
Plan ahead, be consistent and find time to relax and enjoy being your own boss!
Are you profitable? If not, when do you hope to be profitable?
MuLondon has been profitable from the very beginning. I avoided taking loans and investing large amounts in advertising; instead I decided that I wanted to grow slowly, in a pace that I can manage, retaining full ownership of the company. I’m exciting watching MuLondon grow more every day, and I look forward to expanding the company and its organic skincare range even more in 2012. I’m bursting with ideas for a new range of products already!