Discover Julie Mathers purpose-driven journey & top lifestyle tips, as she grows a conscious, cruelty-free & eco-friendly business.
If you’re yet to have met Julie Mathers, Julie is the founder of Flora & Fauna – Australia’s largest cruelty free & vegan shop with exclusive eco-friendly products. Julie is kindly gifting you the chance to win a $50 Flora & Fauna gift voucher. There’s 3 to be won and entry details are at the end of this interview. I hope you enjoy this particular read and would love to hear what you think – pop your comments in the section below.
Julie, what inspired you to build a cruelty-free & eco-friendly online shop and when did that journey begin?
I’ve worked in retail for a very long time and love product, love the customer and am a passionate retailer. But I felt we could all do a better job and I felt I could do a much better job when it came to being an ethical, responsible retailer and offering customers solutions to problems they didn’t even realise they had. I’ve worked with businesses on their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) plans for the last ten years but when you have your own business, and you truly believe in the purpose, you can infuse it throughout your business.
I have always been a passionate environmentalist and animal lover. At Uni (24 years ago – gulp!) I went off to Spain to build solar cookers and then went to Kenya to help teach in a remote school. I’m a dedicated vegan and believe we shouldn’t be using and abusing animals, which we do, and we should be preserving and protecting our planet. So, put all of my experience and values in a pot and out pops Flora & Fauna. We launched in November 2014 and it has been the best decision I ever made.
Do you know what level of impact floraandfauna.com.au has had on the world, to date?
Something we can quantify is the amount of plastic we haven’t used. Very early on we stopped using plastic satchels to ship our goods and only used locally sourced boxes. Given we have now sent over 100,000 parcels,
We’ve saved a few tonnes of plastic plus we buy our boxes locally so a huge amount of carbon miles.
I think the biggest impact we’ve actually had though is education and awareness. When we help people make even a small change that has a knock on effect as they tell people and it’s a domino effect, then we see real change.
You’ve created a one-stop shop where we can make everyday purchases knowing that our consumerism and living habits are having as little negative impact as possible. How do you choose / accept new brands to list that meet these standards?
We have our base standards so everything needs to be vegan, cruelty free and ethically sourced and we look for environmentally friendly packaging. But then we look for the X Factor. What is the purpose of the brand, what are their values and what is their point of difference. We look for brands with staying power too. Many come and go and we try to avoid those because we invest so much into them as a business.
What are your all-time favourite cruelty-free, vegan and eco-friendly products of all time, in the following categories:
- Home: So hard to pick one but I’ll pick my Ettitude bamboo lyocell sheets. When I first tried them I was blown away with how luxuriously soft they are. They are beautiful and also cruelty free. Huge fan at the end of a long day. Be warned though if you have cats they like to knead them, and therefore destroy them, because they love them too!
- Food: Avocado – we don’t sell it but I love it and being vegan, it is a pretty crucial staple.
- Fashion: My Etiko Thongs. The most comfortable thongs you will ever wear. I wore mine for a year, loved them so talked to Nick at Etiko and now we stock them.
- Beauty: My face oil I use day and night. It’s the one thing I’ve absolutely adopted with age and my top tip for everyone. Use it even if your skin is oily, I know it sounds crazy but it’s brilliant for feeding our skin so I use two different oils, a really nourishing one at night and a lighter one during the day. I’m currently in love with Eco By Sonya’s Glory Oil; it’s absolutely gorgeous and I’m convinced my skin has improved on the back of it. Plus I love Ere Perez’s Green Booster Serum for during the day. It’s light and like you’re putting a green smoothie on your face.
- Health: Botani’s Natural Antifungal Cream – this is a tube of wonder. I always have one around and travel with it. It’s great for bites and stings and for some reason mozzies love me so I use it a lot but also good for thrush, nappy rash, cuts, wounds, athletes foot. Just an amazing cream so wholly recommended.
- Lifestyle: Water Bottle. I carry my reusable bottle everywhere; it’s so important.
What are the best changes people can make in their home and life to have the biggest impact in being more eco-friendly?
My best advice is to ditch single use plastic.
- Stop using plastic bags for shopping – use reusable shopping bags, produce bags, bulk bags and anything reusable.
- Ditch plastic bottles and single use coffee cups – reusable coffee cups and water bottles are a simple switch for the whole family.
- Get rid of single use cling wrap – choose alternatives such as reusable vegan wraps that are completely biodegradable and reusable silicone wraps (my husband loves these).
- Bin and garbage bags – there are compostable bin and garbage bags so try them instead. That goes for dog poop too.
- Stop using plastic straws – go without or use a reusable bamboo or stainless steel straw. Our oceans are full of straws and rubbish so we need to stop adding to the problem.
And a bonus two: Grow a veggie patch or get some herbs on your windowsill. I love growing and eating my own vegetables. You know where they have come from and it makes you appreciate what you have when you eat them so grow your own. On the other side of that, compost in some way or another so a compost bin or heap. Keep things moving and regenerating.
What are the best changes people can make in their home and life to have the biggest impact in living a cruelty-free life?
This is my one proper plug and a long answer as I am very passionate about this. Shop at Flora & Fauna. I say that quite seriously.
The reason being is that we are vegan and cruelty free and do a proper review of what is truly cruelty free and we make no exceptions. We look at ingredients along with the finished product. So, to give you an example, where you may see band aids being sold on cruelty-free websites they aren’t actually cruelty free because the ingredients have to be tested on animals because they are a medical device.
This is one area that really annoys me and we dig deep on this and are very transparent around this hence we don’t sell them. Another example is that many lipsticks contain carmine and they are viewed as cruelty free yet carmine is crushed insects; that’s not cruelty free to me. We are very strict on this and being vegan so that we are truly cruelty free.
You can also shop for brands with the PETA logo or Choose Cruelty Free logo and you’ll find amazing brands. However there are also brands that don’t have a PETA seal or CCF seal for no other reason than they are small, haven’t done it or can’t afford the accreditation fees. We look at every brand as an individual to assess their cruelty-free status.
For the entrepreneurs reading this, what are the key steps you recommend they take to creating a conscious, ethical and sustainable business?
Know your brand, your purpose and your vision. Who are and you and what are you trying to do. Then ask yourself if you really believe it and are you prepared to live it 7 days a week and all your waking hours? That’s the reality check. I work 100+ hours a week and that’s where we are at with our business and that is what it has taken to get here. I’ve seen many businesses come and go because they don’t believe and live their vision and because they aren’t prepared to put in the hard yards. Therefore be honest with yourself about who you are and can you do this. It’s ok if you decide it’s not for you.
Lastly, what’s next for Flora & Fauna?
We’re growing at speed so we are moving to a new warehouse later this year and we are all very excited about it because we are busting at the seams. We need space. That’s a huge focus for us now as we grow.
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P.S. For your chance to win a $50 Flora & Fauna gift voucher (there’s 3 to be won!), simply leave a comment below filling in the blanks in this sentence: I’d love to buy ____ from Flora & Fauna because ____. See full comp details here.
P.P.S Who do you know that would enjoy reading this interview with the inspiring Julie Mathers? Share it with them now – they’ll thank you later!