Did you know that over 400 million sponges are tossed away in the UK every year? 80% of those are made from plastic. Shocked by these statistics, Laura Harnett set up Seep, a sustainable, everyday household essentials brand. Every Seep product is either recyclable, plastic-free or compostable.
Hi Laura! You started Seep after you couldn’t easily find eco-friendly cleaning tools such as cloths, sponges, rubber gloves and bin liners. How did you go about launching the business once you had the idea?
Laura Harnett: I had the idea nearly two years before I started Seep. I am always on the lookout for ways I can reduce my environmental impact. But whenever I came to the dreaded cleaning aisle when doing my supermarket shopping, I was swamped in plastic. Half the aisle had some eco options, such as cleaning sprays and laundry detergent, but the tools and essentials we use with them, such as sponges and cloths, had no eco alternatives at all.
I wanted to create gorgeous-looking household essentials that weren’t made of plastic and genuinely worked as well as traditional products, which are usually made from virgin plastic and polyester that can’t be recycled. During the pandemic, I knew this was the time to start.
I rang up one of my closest friends, who is now part of the Seep team, and explained my idea. We then created a survey, which I sent out to all of my friends and family, to understand what people were using and what eco brands they used/liked. I then launched Seep off the back of that – it’s been a whirlwind ever since!
When did you launch and how has it grown and been developed since?
Laura Harnett: We officially launched in November 2020 (we are very overdue a launch party!) with two products, our best-selling loofah scourer sponge and our natural cloths. The business consisted of me and Jean. Now we have ten products (lots of lovely bundles too) and our team is six. We have grown Seep through our own website, plus on Amazon, and we are super excited to be in Selfridges and Bower Collective. Soon we will also be stocked on The Modern Milkman.
What is your best-selling product?
Laura Harnett: Our gorgeous, 100% plastic-free, 100% compostable Loofah scourer with a cellulose sponge. They are the closest eco alternative to the green-topped plastic scourer sponges that are universally used and hated. Ours look great as well as being better for the planet.
Your products are all 100% compostable and fully biodegradable. Can you tell us the difference between biodegradable and compostable and why biodegradable doesn’t always mean better for the planet?
Laura Harnett: A product described as biodegradable means it can be broken down by natural processes and organisms but the problem with products labelled as biodegradable is that, technically, everything is biodegradable given enough time.
So, just because a material biodegrades doesn’t mean they aren’t harmful to the environment. On the other hand, composting is the breakdown of organic matter to soil that has high organic content.
Materials labelled as compostable are certified to break down completely and quickly, posing no harm to the environment if disposed of properly. Composting is a much faster process and can be done from your garden or kitchen too!
How do you develop new products?
Laura Harnett: We always ask our community what products they want to see next. We do this through surveys and also our Seep Suite, our ultimate fans that are like an extension of the team. Based on the feedback we get, we try to find the best out there in terms of sustainability and where that doesn’t exist we create it from scratch. For example, our amazing bin liners are created for us in a factory, which is run on 100% renewable energy.
How do you ensure manufacturers/suppliers have the ethical and green credentials you expect?
Laura Harnett: There are certain accreditations that we look for, such as FSC and Fair Trade. We conduct factory audits and look for social and environmental accreditations. We send out a questionnaire to our suppliers about their credentials and check they are up to scratch and can be evidenced.
More and more retailers are wanting this kind of information so it’s an added bonus that we have it to hand. We are a certified B-Corp, which is the best sustainability standard in the world, and that really holds us to account!
You describe yourself as eco-conscious rather than an eco-warrior. Can you expand on that and what started you on your environmental journey?
Laura Harnett: I grew up next to the sea in South Wales and I have always loved the outdoors. When I was growing up, I was taught to never ever waste things, so it’s always been a big part of my life. Plus, now I have two children and I want to bring them up to do the right thing for other people and the planet.
I never want Seep to be preachy, I want everyone to feel like living sustainably is something you can do easily and in small ways. I like to think we have got the balance between education and fun just right.
Can you tell us more about your career before launching Seep? How has it influenced and shaped your approach to having your own business?
Laura Harnett: I worked for some of the biggest brands, such as Coca Cola and IKEA, for 20 years before I launched Seep. I was a strategy consultant and then a director, most recently for Selfridges where I was heading up their digital projects. This experience means that I know what it takes to build and maintain a great brand and how to manage teams. It’s also helped me build a great network. I’ve learned so much over the years and I think that is really helping me now.
I am now building a team of like-minded people to create a brand I want to shop from. The best thing is that we can work at a pace I was never able to in larger businesses. We want something to happen and it happens that week rather than next year.
What are your future growth plans? Are any new products or ranges coming out in 2022?
Laura Harnett: We are working on a few new products, one of which was developed with a grant from the Mayor of London’s New Green Deal. The first new product launch will be in May. We will be expanding into more retailers, we’ve just launched with Modern Milkman and have a couple more in the works. So, watch this space!
Follow SEEP on Instagram at @theseepcompany for regular updates from them!