When I set up our farm sanctuary I held the utopian idea that I could create a for purpose business that would support the sanctuary. I didn't want to divert precious resources away from other valuable charities, so decided that instead people could support our sanctuary whilst buying some awesome, ethically made products for themselves and their loved ones. It seemed like a great idea.
And so I poured my heart and soul in to creating a unique range of products with the highest ethical standards. I quickly realised that sticking to my ethical standards was not going to leave much of a profit margin though and at times did explore the cheaper options of drop shipping and printing on demand etc. But every time I almost followed that path, it didn't feel right in my heart. I either stayed true to my integrity and values and it would work or it wouldn't. Sadly it seems the latter is true.
I personally visited most of my suppliers to verify standards and ensure that all my products were ethically made. I painted or designed all of my designs myself but then paid a designer to put them in to a user ready format. I ensured all my t shirts were certified organic and printed with eco inks. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on earth and I wanted to be part of the movement away from that, moving towards planet friendly fashion.
Latterly I switched to producing everything locally here in Australia, supporting local business. But it meant an even higher price hike. Then my products became carbon neutral, with every possible certification available including from the fair wear foundation and GOTS.
Simultaneously however, there was a flurry of companies taking advantage of the plant based and climate crisis movement. Their companies all asserted that their products were ethically made and that a percentage of profits went back to charities. However, you didn't have to dig very far to realise neither was true. If you looked a little deeper in to these companies, best case scenario they were just huge drop shipping companies, creating all types of t shirts, including ones that ran contrary to the positive messages of the plant based or climate change movement. They would simply create a new page for their 'vegan range', but their company would have multiple different pages for multiple different ranges, most of which have nothing to do with anything ethical at all. Worst case scenario, they are just scammers and when you order you never receive your purchases.
It seemed 'ethical t shirt' companies were popping up like mushrooms on my social media feeds. But I recognised all of their products from the huge Chinese drop shipping company "Oberlo'. On Oberlo you can set up an account that you integrate in to your website. You choose your product range and upload them on to your site. Then for anyone who buys your product from your site, the order will be automatically sent to Oberlo who fulfil the order. You as the seller have not created any of the products yourself, or indeed ever handled them. T shirts on Oberlo normally sell wholesale at an average of $3-$5 and are sent using free shipping. Great for get rich quick schemes. But not great for the genuine companies who are trying to do things right.
And yet all of these companies claimed to be 'ethically made'. You don't need to know much about the industry to know that any t shirt that costs $3 wholesale can never be ethically made, or organic or eco. And yet this buzz phrase is thrown around with zero accountability.
I'm sure by now you are getting the picture. My t shirts cost me close to 8 times more to produce and yet I've been competing against companies who fraudulently claim to be doing the same thing I am and can obviously keep their costs lower. So how is a consumer supposed to know the difference? It's exactly that, that has been my biggest problem.
And so I have decided to discontinue my shop. I am selling my t shirts off cost price to try and recoup some money. This does not even include the money I spent on the graphic designer or the initial photo shoot that I invested in to launch my range. So yes, even if I sell every last t shirt off, I have lost money. This has been frustrating when I struggle to find the money to feed my animals, as I could have saved a lot of time and money by simply putting the money I invested in to my shop in to my sanctuary account to cover costs.
But there have been valuable lessons learnt. I have been blessed to recently to receive the gift of business coaching from a good friend. He has helped me realise my strengths and weaknesses and I have now devised a plan that plays only to my strength and passions.
I have to realistic and smart with my time management. As a soon to be mother of 4 I need to prioritise certain projects so that I'm not losing time and energy over things that don't work for me. So going forward I shall be playing exclusively to my strengths and passions.
This means my time from now on will be dedicated to what really makes my heart sing, which is my sanctuary, my art and my retreats which we are currently launching. I'm feeling excited that through the retreats I can share my passions and learnings over the years of trying to live an eco lifestyle and my years teaching Yoga. I feel blessed to be creating a platform to support other on their own journeys of healing themselves and creating a more harmonious relationship with our Mother Earth. And I don't want my focus diluted away from ensuring they will be curated to the highest standards to ensure everyone who joins us, will have an amazing experience. So it's time to let go of other projects that are not working.
In the meantime, grab yourself a t shirt at cost price whilst you can! Once these stocks have finished, I shall not be creating any more in future.
To finish I would like to say that there are a handful of companies who do do things right. So before you buy, ask questions, dig through their website, check their reviews, to make sure your money is going where you think it is. If like me, you want to see a shift towards ethical and eco production then be sure to support the companies that really do adhere to these standards and not the ones who falsely claim they do.
I would also like to thank those who trusted in me and supported my shop.
Be The Love ~ Live Kindly.