Good Joe sells British-made clothing for men, currently T-shirts and Polo shirts. Their retail online and operate a Buy One, Give One model where for each shirt purchased, they donate a new item of clothing to someone in need here in the UK. Margaret recently left corporate life and has worked across a number of operational and strategic functions in large organisations.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Well, of course, nobody has a problem buying a T-shirt. They’re ubiquitous at all price points which in one sense is great, but when looked at from a different perspective plays a part in what I’d call the rise of ‘unconscious consumerism’.
Regardless of whether you believe that it’s demand driven supply or the other way around, there are cheap clothes out there and shoppers consume and discard them in great quantities without a second thought.
Even if they were to think about it, the issues of labour practice, ethics and sustainability in the fashion business are complex and in all honesty, could blow your mind. It’s not always easy for shoppers to know what’s good and bad.
What are your key activities towards solving this problem?
We build social conscience into our business and product on behalf of our shoppers to make it easy for them to buy what they want at accessible prices knowing their purchase is also benefitting others.
By offering something that is transparently made here in the UK, it provides reassurance on two fronts – that their money is supporting the local economy, and that there is some standard of ethical practice in how their clothes are made.
The second thing we’re trying to do is to move them towards more overtly thoughtful shopping with Buy One, Give One. Providing a simple mechanism for people to give back as they buy.
But we also recognise that this is just a starting point. We neither claim to have tackled sustainability throughout the whole of our supply chain nor do we think that clothing donations will resolve the issues of poverty. At this stage, we can only do the easier things and make incremental steps towards more sustainable change.
Would you recommend starting a company with a co-founder?
I started the company by myself but I can see benefits to having a like-minded partner to share the workload, the stress (and the joy!) of setting up a new business. I’m lucky to have a lot of supportive family, friends and ex-colleagues who not only offer moral support but also have skills and expertise I can tap into where mine is lacking.
How did you onboard your first 5 customers?
We did a soft launch of the website to a close network to get feedback and iron out any technical problems before starting to market the business. That’s where we made our first sales and some of those have turned into repeat customers.
Do you have any numbers on your impact?
In a practical sense, we can say that we made our first donation of 60 shirts at Christmas to a local Leeds charity, which helps rough sleepers. They told us that often people come to them straight from the hospital without any clothing at all. As it was Christmas they were putting together a gift bag of essentials and treats for their residents and our gifts were added to those. They were delighted to receive brand new clothing. And that was down to our customers.
In the sense of trying to move people towards thoughtful buying, we’ve grown our social media community from a standing start and have attracted other socially conscious businesses that we’ve joined with to get the message out there.
How did you find partners that believe in the same ethical standards as you?
It hasn’t always been easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to find partners that can deliver on quality, let alone have the same values. Inevitably we’ve parted ways with some. But since we’ve gone live, we haven’t just had to rely on us finding them, because they’ve found us.
Tell us a bit about your future plans and projects.
At this very early stage, we’re learning and we’re prepared to be fluid in how we evolve.
Remaining true to our core concepts of keeping it local and giving back, we could take the model and land it in different countries, or we could extend the concept to sectors other than clothing here in the UK.
In time we’d like to evolve into a commercial enterprise that makes a lasting and real contribution to overcoming challenging social problems.
To have that opportunity, we need to offer something that people see as valuable as well as galvanising support for a more socially conscious way of doing business.
What’s the best advice you ever took?
Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs when facing adversity?
That really depends on what sort of adversity they’re facing. Taking a step back, breaking them down and tackling them bit by bit can overcome most problems. If you feel overwhelmed and can’t see the wood for the trees, then don’t be reticent in asking someone you trust to help.
Who inspires you?
I’ve been inspired by many people through my life. Some in a personal or work context, others are public figures. When I was working with the Body Shop back in the early 1990s John Bird, together with Gordon Roddick (his wife Anita founded the Body Shop) set up the Big Issue. Going through some very challenging times in his own youth, John recognised that the important element in helping the homeless problem was to provide a means of getting out of poverty. His approach to tackling the problem at the roots and having a ‘hand-up, not a hand-out’ philosophy remains at the core of the Big Issue’s success.
What’s a book you always recommend and why?
I recently sent a book to a friend who’s increasingly unfulfilled by his work in a corporate role and would love to do his own thing. Of course, he’s finding lots of reasons why it’s too difficult to make the move. The book’s called ‘The Escape Manifesto’ written by guys who have gone through the same process. It’s and easy read and practical as well as motivational.
What are your top three tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs?
1. Be clear and honest about what your core values are and try to build those into all areas of your business
2. Be realistic. Life is full of compromise and no matter how you see the world, others will see it differently and it’s simply not possible to change everything and achieve what you want overnight
3. Look after the business. Yes, it’s possible that wearing your lucky socks along with determination and passion for your cause will see you through. Regardless of whether you’re working on a not for profit, or profit making project, operating the business efficiently is key to success.