Alex Stewart: Hello, and welcome to our first episode of the purpose podcast. I'm Alex, the founder of OneNine5. We are a London based startup that designs eco-conscious and unisex travel goods. We launched the purpose podcast so you can get to know the people, stories and challenges to behind some of the most exciting brands that have a purpose at the heart of their business. If you've got aspirations or plans to launch your own business and make a positive impact, then you're in the right place for insights and advice. Today's guests are Josie and Ryan, the founders of Neat launched in 2020.
Neat are on a mission to revolutionise that cupboard under the kitchen sink with their range of incredible smelling cleaning products that help us to reduce waste in the home. In the short time, since they've launched Josie and Ryan have made a big impact in the industry with Neat nominated as one of the UK's most innovative startups, they have received the backing and investment from a highly respected investor and their products are already on supermarket shelves. There is loads to cover what I'm particularly interested to understand how they balance the consideration for both profits and purpose and the environmental impact of their competitors, adding water in cleaning products; so if that in mind, Josie and Ryan, welcome to The Purpose Podcast.
Ryan McSorley: Thank you very much, great intro.
Alex Stewart: Thanks a lot.
Josie Harfield: Hi, thanks.
Ryan McSorley: Good to be here.
Alex Stewart: How are you both?
Ryan McSorley: Pretty well busy, but you know, in a good way.
Josie Harfield: Yeah, really good.
Alex Stewart: What's keeping you busy at the moment? What you working on?
Ryan McSorley: Ah, what's keeping us busy? A bunch of things I mean, everything from getting ready for some pretty exciting new customer listings, which is probably the thing that's keeping us most busy it is safe to say who knew that was gonna be so complicated. And then, looking at a whole bunch of new and exciting NPD that we're building for next year.
Alex Stewart: Nice and just so MPD, being new product development, right
Ryan McSorley: New product development, sorry a little industry term there, yes but yeah, new products that we are building for next year; guess we're pretty excited about, yeah.
Alex Stewart: Very cool, well, I'm looking forward to seeing what's to come next and how do you both work? So obviously we are speaking right now virtually and you are in separate locations, so what's the set up for you guys?
Josie Harfield: Yeah, we're working virtually too, and we have been since the first lockdown, so Ryan's based in Northern Ireland and I'm just outside of Oxford; and yes we haven't actually had that many chances to see each other face to face over the last year and a half. So hopefully a bit more of that to come which doesn't mean Ryan needs to kind of come over here a little bit maybe once a month or so going forward. But virtual it's working,
Ryan McSorly: Yeah.
Josie Harfield: So you know no plans to change that for now.
Alex Stewart: Nice, I guess again when did you actually launch Neat? What was the date?
Ryan McSorley: Yeah we launched April 2020, so we were getting ready for a significant launch in Southfield, actually, which is supposed to be a physical in-store situation along with their project earth initiative; and it was like literally, I think two weeks before that was also supposed to happen, that everything went into lockdown. So, you know, that was definitely a bit of a bit of a bummer, but I think we have managed to kind of build our way back from it and learn loads in the process. But I think like a lot of people, including yourselves, we launched the brand just as we went into lockdown. So we were building everything ahead of that and it made it more challenging, I would say, than we expected but built a fair bit of adversity or through adversity we built a fair bit of character I would say from that experience.But it was I mean, launching a cleaning brand, was not the worst brand to be launching at the time, obviously, because people were very much aware of cleaning their homes and, cleaning everything more than usual. But, but we would really focused on kind of a retailer strategy trying to get our products into stores because that's where we see the biggest problem and that's the problem that we are trying to solve. So it felt like the right thing to focus our energy on. We didn't have a huge amount of experience in DTC [Direct To Consumer] or ecommerce at that point. So that's definitely been a steep learning curve for us; so yeah a challenging year, but probably to say that we are here still.
Alex Stewart: Good, I am glad to say I have kind of been admiring and watching you guys from a far and I think what you're doing is incredible; and I'm of the opinion that if you can still grow and, thrive during this period, then everything else will be a breeze from this point forward.
Ryan McSorley: Let’s hope so, right.
Alex Stewart: I hope so too, anyway I want to jump in and start to get to know you two a bit more, and a bit more about the story behind Neat. So starting right at the top as we do in this podcast really keen to understand what sparked that purpose to launch Neat and ultimately try to inspire that switch to reusables in a way from single use plastics.
Ryan McSorley: Sure. I think it's fair to say that one of the biggest motivating factors was our background, you know, Josie and I have worked for, for pretty, pretty large cleaning brands in the past. That's actually how Josie and I knew each other, I was working in design there and Josie in the commercial side of the business. It was fair to say we both had an entrepreneurial outlook and understood quite quickly that a lot of the products that we were involved with were majority water. So they were diluted and then packaged in kind of single use plastics. So I left that job and we always wanted to start something of my own and obviously worked with Josie and we did a great working relationship. We complement each other well in terms of the experience that we had and what we could bring to starting a new business.
Not that we knew how to do that, but we felt like we had enough conviction and passion to take on the challenge, but it was really that insight around most of those cleaning products or actually most cleaning products in the market in fact, being 90% water that was the starting point for Neat; we thought, you know that just doesn't seem well it's not good for people or the planet at this point and if we were to rethink how that's done we could really solve a massive problem for the planet really. So that's where it started, that was in summer 2019. I had some ideas of how we could do that from a product perspective. And I knew that if I was gonna do this, I would need the help of Josie in order to create a business that was more than just a really nice product. Something that we could actually build into a, you know, sustainable business. So spoke to Josie slash convinced her to join me on this journey and yeah that's kind of how kicked off Neat.
Alex Stewart: Nice so did you both just kind of, did you walk away from the full-time roles? What did that look like for you?
Ryan McSorley: It was a little bit staggered; I had quit my job at that point and moved with my husband to Germany which had given me the chance to kind of look at doing something on my own. Josie was at the time working for a different business, a really great business and on this side was therefore helping me work on Neat or to build this business as we were, it was all that classic scrappy situation where we didn't know what was, what at that point, but we were just going after it with all the time and energy that we could.
Josie Harfield: Yeah. So it took a little bit of time to decide, well not to tell you to decide, but like Ryan said, I was helping on the side and at the same time also had a baby, got pregnant. So I was helping on the side, had a full time job and had a baby. But after my maternity leave kind of was coming towards the end it was, I think, it was quite an easy decision at that point. It had had such amazing potential and so much to go after that it really needed a bit more than me helping on the side. So Ryan did an amazing job, all in between all of that balancing, all of this business with me kind of available at random hours of the day, which sometimes I meant in the middle of the night being like the time I am like God, I'm going to have to message him now, I'm going to have to message him now, but we have managed yeah, so yes its full-time now.
Alex Stewart: Very cool and Josie have you found then that making that switch from the sort of the full-time in a role into Neat has given you better balance in terms of personal life? Or is that; was that kind of one of the primary drivers alongside having a baby?
Josie Harfield: It's made me so well, the baby was you know, we tried for a long time, it was a long awaited very much loved rainbow baby that's come along. So, you know, couldn't plan it time wise for love nor money but in terms of how it's worked out now yeah like I think, I feel really passionate about trying to create a business. It allows flexibility for parents and actually just general working life, like the realities of a nine to five job and a startup, don't really exist. As you all know, Ryan and kind of our other investors have been really supportive of like one giving me space as a new mom to be able to be there and like all the demands that takes in the first year. But still have that flexibility now so yeah, my son's downstairs; you may hear him at some point he's always 15 months old but yeah, feel really passionate about like having that balance and actually we have a new mum joining us soon in November into the team and someone else who's just joined us about to come a parent for the first time in January; so hopefully can continue to support that flexibility.
Alex Stewart: Amazing, oh and congratulations on that as well.
Josie Harfield: Thanks, we've done all sorts of meetings. So I had baby in the sling. It was really easy in the beginning; I say really easy because he just slept all the time. Now he's [inaudible 09:57] and not quite so quiet wants to smash the keyboard, but yeah, Ryan's fully experienced that, he's the third parent in my house.
Ryan McSorley: Oh yeah.
Alex Stewart: I love that.
Ryan McSorley: I love it and like if there's ever a chance for Jo to be like, sorry, guy's gonna be in this meeting, but I do need to breastfeed. I was like, please do that because it's really that people understand, this may need to be the case, you know, this is what women running business looks like and I think we should be, we should all get more and more comfortable with that so like the more we can challenge that reality, the better.
Alex Stewart: Yeah love that real life, right absolutely.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Alex Stewart: But I want to go back to your other baby being Neat because and something that you actually sort of mentioned before Ryan was around the concept of either bottling water or shipping water. Because I think this is something that a lot of people probably aren't really aware of or consider when they come to, you know, grabbing cleaning products off the shelf. I think we are now mindful, we are aware of the impact of single use plastics, but probably not shipping water or this aspect. So what does that actually mean from an environmental perspective? What are the harms, what's the problem of that?
Ryan McSorley: I guess probably the most obvious problem is just the bulk and weight of things that you're shipping. So you end up with a lot more carbon associated with transporting all of those goods around because you've got 90% water in most of them, which equates to a lot of weight. What it also does then is if you take those products that are, that are being presented on the shelf that are 90% water, they have to be packaged in something and if that product is intended to be used once, then the packaging that's associated with it is all single use. And in the case of cleaning products, you know, the bottles are one thing, the bigger problem is probably the trigger sprays that are attached to them, which you know, in often cases they're fixed to the bottle.
So you can't remove them even if they can be recycled, they tend to have multiple materials in there, metal, plastic, different types of plastics and that thing is being used once and thrown away, and it's the majority of the plastic weight in most of those products that there's a bunch of facets to this, which is winds from a sustainability perspective. But when you take away that unnecessary water you're left with a concentrate that you can only mix with tap water at home; so in the case of Neat, we have a 31 to concentrate, it's in a glass bottle with an aluminium lid; you mix that with tap water in our aluminium reusable spray bottle. So you are no longer throwing away that device or that product that you use for dispensing your product. And then the packaging that we're delivering the actual cleaner in which is now 30 mills instead of 500 mills, that is packaged entirely in readily recyclable packaging.
Alex Stewart: So no plastic.
Ryan McSorley: So yeah, the winds there are both carbon and material saving by taking away that water we have been able to redesign the way cleaning products are used and how we, how we use them in our homes and now we're adding the tap water at home or adding water at home from our taps rather than shipping it around, which means we have really been able to like just take apart the whole system and then redesign it to be something fundamentally more sustainable. But also we hope more enjoyable because we have spent a lot of time making sure that the products that we do bring are as nice or as good, if not better than what exists
Alex Stewart: We spoke before right, I can vouch for you there; so I am a big of the pink grapefruit, and I left you a rave review online.
Ryan McSorley: Brilliant.
Alex Stewart: No, I am a big, big fan and you're right, you've definitely given so much more care and attention to this than the kind of the usual stuff that you do see on the supermarket shelf.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah
Alex Stewart: I'm keen to almost pick up on this point as well because I know that with your background as an industrial designer, I'm sure there's lots of consideration and decisions gone into this, but I wanted to ask you specifically about the aluminium bottle. So, I've seen it out there are other options in terms of like glass and plastics for reusable purposes, but was there, was there a particular reason or decision behind aluminium over another option?
Ryan McSorley: There really is yeah we spent a lot of time looking at, I guess the kind of three options that we have, well, there could be four of you add stainless steel as well. Stainless steel glass, a plastic option, and then aluminium, we tested all of them. It took us a lot of time to lock in what we decided to go with and we wanted it to be something that we knew would work with the lifestyle most people have and in the case of cleaning products, they are something that is used frequently and often in busy scenarios and sitting on countertops in surfaces that are conducive to things breaking easily. So like tile floors, and granite and these things; so we want to make sure that if these bottles do get used frequently and could fall over that they're not going to break.
Also, weight is really important so if you're cleaning a lot of space in a day and you are a busy household with maybe multiple kids, you can be covering a lot of surface. The fatigue you can get when you're using the likes of glass is significant. So for that reason, we thought while glass is great from sustainability point of view, we thought for a refills totally appropriate. But for the reusable spray bottle, not so much. And then with plastic, there's a couple of reasons there, you know, the materials that are really good from a recyclability point of view for plastic are the likes of PET, when it comes to bottles, PT as a material tends to be more of a single use material it will degrade pretty quickly; it will leach potentially with the products that we are putting in so we did not feel good about creating a reusable product that had that reality attached to it.
So great for recycling but not going to great for long term use; and then the materials that you could use potentially like Tritan or some other materials that you often find in water bottles, if they do ever meet the end of their life, then recycling those in a circular reality becomes quite difficult. And similarly for stainless steel which is also quite heavy. So therefore we settled an aluminium because of its, recyclability, it can be recycled easily, it's lightweight, which was also really significant when it comes to just the use scenario. You know, it meant that it could take a bit of a knock in the kitchen and it's not going to be, be breaking or shattering instantly, which could be a bit of a safety issue. So that was one of the reasons and then to be honest, it also just looks really nice. I think this kind of opaque reality in the kitchen, if you look at what normally sits around in our kitchens, in terms of, objects or appliances; opaque as a visual, it's quite nice and it gives you more of a, I don't know more of an iconic look against what is expected in the cleaning category. And that felt kind of right, the language feels more like a reusable water bottle or some sort of device or object that you have in your home rather than a plastic packaging that you used to sing on a supermarket shelf.
Alex Stewart: And true I actually maybe I did you a disservice at the start by saying in the, in the cupboard, under the kitchen sink, because actually our Neat bottle does sit on top in the kitchen; it is it's there and proud. It's not it isn't under there with the rest of the cleaning products. So, you know, you're definitely right there it does, it looks nice and rightly, or wrongly, that is definitely part of the process as well when it comes to, aligning to a company or wanting to buy a new product.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah well, I think especially in the world of reusable things, you know, these are things that you're going to be, you are going to have around for a while and their purpose therefore is less about convincing you to use it once. It's about convincing you to keep it and care for it and therefore even though the choice of coats that we've put in the outside of the bottle are all there to be easily cleaned. The silicone base you can remove so that you can give the full bottle of complete, refresh and it will Stand the test of time, you know, that's kind of something that we really built in and there's a perceived value with that. So you won't treat it like other single use things. We definitely don't want people to be throwing these things away quickly, the key is to keep them reuse them and treat them differently.
Alex Stewart: Yeah and it is funny, even though we're sort of coming at this from a different angle to you, we can definitely still relate in the world of textile. So there's often a debate that, any kind of material you put out there, isn't going to be eco-friendly, but ultimately from our stance as well, it's how can we sort of source and use materials that are the most durable and the most long-lasting so yeah, definitely relate to that, to that sort of priority.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Alex Stewart: I'm curious to go back on the topic of competitors and this aspect of cleaning products being made up of 90% water. Now that you're saying it all sounds really obvious, but why, why is no competitor or, or one of the big FMCG brands ever done this before?
Josie Harfield: Well, I always remember someone saying that once you are a big business and you are making, all your money and your profit off of a certain way of doing things, it's quite hard. I guess all they can do at that point is become slightly less bad. We've started off, this is our mission from the very beginning, but if you can imagine the profits that are there when you are selling stuff, that's made up of 90% water and in plastic bottles, which is fairly cheap, like changing this, you know changing to this method of doing things can be quite hard for them to achieve. And I don't know if you've ever worked in any kind of medium or big business, but also really slow. So I'm sure a lot of them have these things on their agenda and their innovation pipelines and, you know, certainly places, they'll definitely have these things on their list of things to do; his is going to take them a long time to do it and that's the role of challenger brands. I think like, we've got the ability to come in and do things quickly and hopefully in the process also encourage all of those other businesses to catch us up. You know we will hopefully we'll always be one step ahead and we'll move that bit quicker. But yeah, I just think it's very difficult for big businesses to kind of revert back from how they've always been doing stuff.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah I think a good example from what we learned in starting, I also thought it would be in some ways easier than it was for us to even build a product like this. One thing that was so funny, everybody who mostly makes cleaning products are so used to packaging them in plastic for us to even bring a small, first of all, it was small and second it was a glass bottle. Most of the companies that we would look to help us fill these products just couldn't do it because everything they had was built around larger plastic containers. So they were just telling me, oh yeah we work with clean products all the time, but there's no way that we can fill the bottle that size it's just too small. So I think you know, for our us with no comparison and no established business, we were creating a supply chain. So while it was challenging we were up for that challenge. I think if you've got an established business, those kind of discussions become, a lot more complex when you're thinking about, okay, we've got this very established business with, ways of doing things that we've done for years and all of a sudden, something as simple as being like, okay now we're going to be filling small glass bottles instead of big containers. Everything is impacted by that; the size of the trucks you need, the size of the spaces you need. It really would impact so many things, so it's a challenge for bigger companies to make that switch.
Alex Stewart: I would have always assumed that this was always a benefit because what you're doing is bringing a smaller product. So from a supermarket's perspective on the shelf, you're taking up less space on the shelf. It's requiring less transportation; it all sounds like a benefit to me, but ultimately it's not what you're saying. Josie is it always profit that would come first before this essentially major benefit, really environmental benefit.
Josie Harfield: Often, not always I mean there are some amazing big businesses out there, especially like Certified B Corps. Who yeah true, have got people planet profit, kind of along the, the same, but yeah, I guess the challenges that the bigger you are or who your shareholders or all of those types of things, play a role in like how easy it is for you to make those decisions or how quick you can make those decisions too. You know even just decision making in a big business can take a lot longer, right? Because it's not just Ryan and I having a quick WhatsApp chat to, shall we do this? Shall we not yet, that's a good idea, you know, it has to go through, monthly cycles and processes, and then go up to this level and that level, and therefore, before you know, it, you've got six months or 12 months down the line, you're still talking about an idea that's not come to fruition.
Alex Stewart: You you've certainly achieved a hell of a lot in a very short space of time, so those WhatsApp conversations were obviously working in your favour.
Josie Harfield: And when people ask us how we built the business, or how, kind of what you been to build business, or I am like WhatsApp. So one said, what forecast, what forecasting model we could use? And we like WhatsApp.
Alex Stewart: Trusty, WhatsApp.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah he was like, you guys got Slack? We are like, nope still just WhatsApp.
Josie Harfield: We are getting better, we are getting better.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Alex Stewart: No why something overly complicated if it's working for you right now?
Ryan McSorley: This is true; if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Alex Stewart: Yes, yes I'm keen to, I mean, we sort of touched on this point around the whole aspect of balancing profits and purpose, and we're of the opinion, I'm of the opinion that you are allowed to make profit and still have a purpose at the heart of your business, and that you can still do good now in your world I have seen that there are other sort of consumables that are maybe accused of promoting over consumption with things like a forever release of a new range or a limited edition product. So are you mindful of that or sort of what's your approach with needs in this world?
Josie Harfield: Yeah like, well, first we agree with you like profit and purpose don't they can go hand in hand and been really lucky to work first, some businesses that, instilled some of those values I've seeing how you can do it. And also sometimes where that friction can come when balancing the two, when it comes to things like, because I think it's really interesting that you point you, you talked about limited editions as an example. I think they can play in a really important role; so like very mindful of not selling things that people don't need and actually we've thought about that from the very beginning with Neat and I think that's one of the benefits of having Ryan as a designer you know, and that's just how his brain works. Like if it doesn't have a purpose, then he's kind of like, why would it be there? But when it comes to things like limited editions, I think that they have the potential to reach an audience that perhaps maybe your core range, wouldn't allow you to reach. So I think like if done, well, they can help you fulfill your purpose on a wider scale. And that’s not to say that they can also be done really badly; like you said, where you people are pushing products for the sake of pushing them and all of a sudden you have like, you know, 10 Neat multi surface sprays at home, when actually all you needed was two. So yeah, it's not about that for us, but if we were to do anything along the lines of limited editions, it would definitely be about how do we use those to either yeah; I guess, reach more people and do more good.
Ryan McSorley: I would just add to that I think we, we spent a lot of time in the beginning of setting up Neat, to get a clear understanding of what it is, why we were doing this essentially and the true purpose and mission behind the brand. I think it was something that we did way before we even started to putting, numbers into Excel sheets or anything was to define the, the kind of mission and the values that we were going to commit as a business and a company and as people. So with that in mind, you know that our mission to eliminate single use plastic was really clear from the beginning. You know, that is what we're here for and it's kind baked into not only the way we have developed our products, but even just in the name in terms of us being about, Neat products, because they are concentrated, but also a Neat planet.
Because we're living in some of the mess that exists in it; and even about Neat business of how we can build a business that has values that reflect a neater way of doing business. So I think when you've got that clear kind of purpose and mission behind what you do, it really gives you the focus to go, okay where can we point our efforts? And for us, it's really like, okay, if there's a lot of plastic waste in this part of the category, then it's kind of our job to go and solve that problem now in a way that Neat would solve it. So I think it gives us license to do those things, because we've made the, we've made the, the problems that we're solving really clear from the beginning. And also that gives us, you know, a lot of exciting opportunities for the future of where we could take the brand and we've built it to be able to go hopefully into a whole bunch of different parts of our, lives and, and solve some of these problems.
But yeah, we want to make sure that anything we do put out there is a really great product. I think also our role; a lot of sustainable brands might rely heavily on the sustainability piece. I think we, we know we were gonna do that super well. That was gonna be like, almost like so core to the brand that wasn't something we were gonna overly shout about, because it was just going be a given, you know it's kind of like a non-negotiable. So then the question becomes if that's true, then what is it that people need from us as a brand, in order for them to be, to engage with this? Cause sometimes you can do the most, you know the most sustainably focused thing, but if you don't still give people that little bit of, delight and joy when it comes to either your brand or your product and they really love using it' and they love how you, how you talk and how you show up and the products that they use they may or may not engage with it.
So we were quite clear from the beginning, we wanted the product to be as good, if not better than what exists. And we believe that in doing so, we would be able to take as many people on this journey and to help them make that small change that can make a big impact with switching to Neat. So yeah, I think we are conscious that what we're doing is good. We feel confident than that and therefore the quicker we can scale it, the quicker we can make as big an impact on, the reality of single use plastic and some of the environmental issues that we face, that's kind of the mission and therefore the drive that's behind what we do.
Alex Stewart: I like and you sort of, you where you mentioned about actually scaling Neat, and growing Neat it kind of led nicely on to another thing that I really wanted to explore. Because I read that earlier this year you had investments into Neat, to really start to help you to growth, which is amazing. So big congratulations for doing that; but again I'm really sort of curious to understand the sort of the inner workings of a startup with external investments. So you have got really strong values and a purpose at the heart of what you do. But when you bring somebody external into the business, and ultimately I guess the external view would be that, you know, investors are there to eventually make money from that investment, which is understandable, but for the, both of you now, how do you start to manage that balance really, or that aspect between investment and, and ultimately a return on that investment versus, you know, the ultimate mission and the reason why you started need in the first place?
Josie Harfield: I think we've been, well you know, I have got no other experience to base this on, we have been incredibly lucky with the investors that we have. So I think you they have all invested in us because they're really passionate about the mission and what we're trying to do as a business. And it's fair to say that I know that won't be the case for all investors; and then I don't say we have been lucky about who we can choose as our investor or not but the people that we have surrounded ourselves with yeah, are already passionate about like exactly all the things that Ryan has talked about; and that's made it a lot easier for us, you know, even to the point where we did our last round of fundraising, you know, most of the conversation was on the sustainability, and the environmental piece rather than when are we gonna get a return on our investment and challenging us on, you know, our cogs or, you know, our three year numbers.
I know that's a very fortunate position for us to be in, and that may not be the case as we, scale and get bigger amounts of money in, but so far yeah, I think there is plenty of investors out there or kind of from our experience, that want to invest in businesses that again deliver against this triple bottom line, we have been able to look at, you know, look at some of the other brands they've invested in. And a lot of B Corp brands kind of shows you that they have got this mindset, that it's not just about yeah making money. I guess in a lot of ways they are people that are there just to purely make money, probably wouldn't be looking at businesses like ours at this stage. So yeah we have been really lucky. I mean, I don't know what your experiences with investors are or what that's like. It certainly feels like when Ryan and I talk about this sometimes, like we know we're lucky because they all care about what we're doing and not just about the profit we're making
Alex Stewart: Nice. Yeah, I think probably it's the sign of the times, right? Because I guess if we were recording this podcast a couple of years ago, I guess that wouldn't be the case and it is a positive movement within that world towards investment in businesses that are doing good and don't you know, give a shit really.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah, if anything, it must be, must be really tough these days to have a pitch deck that hasn't at some point, or even from the beginning, I would say authentically thought about what it is from a sustainability point of view user business they are gonna stand for. Because I think like you said, sustainability is thankfully it's finally equally, good business, because this is what, this is what people want and need at this point. And therefore investors are starting to look for businesses that have a clear point of view and are solving at some level, probably solving a problem beyond just profit. I personally cannot imagine ever being in a business like that, it's just beyond my understanding how somebody could put something out there these days and not feel obliged to have thought about you know, the environment that we all live in and how, what they're putting out is going to definitely not make it worse.
But hopefully is going improve on the situation that we are in. So I would be terrified to think about doing a pitch deck, and never thought through your, what are you going do for the planet at this point. I mean, truly everybody's asking that question I would hope and has a good answer for it. I mean I don't know I do about you guys, but I feel like, as business owners and entrepreneurs these days, people are voting with their spend these days. And you know if you can bring something that people are going to get behind from a sustainability point of view, I think it's kind of a requirement; it's almost your spend is your vote these days. At least that's how I see it, I would rather be doing this than politics, but if you're going to try and make a change in the world, you can change a lot by starting a business that's going to solve a problem.
Alex Stewart: Yeah I totally agree, yeah we are the same I think in that we often sort of, I mean, we refer to ourselves as being eco conscious and we sort of do that quite carefully in the sense that we're not trying to tell people that we are perfect right now, but we're trying to, I think Josie, you mentioned before like trying to bring a community along with you so that you almost feel, they can come along for the growth as well, but yeah you know we are not perfect, but we're trying and we are always trying to get better. I think that is part to try and communicate that transparency and that trust way.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah I mean, I think that's a massive, a massive, well that is a really good attitude to take we have said this from the beginning that it's about progress and not perfection otherwise, where do you start and how do you get going, but start somewhere and feel good about it, and you can always evolve as you go when you have more information.
Alex Stewart: Progress, not perfection I like that a lot.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Alex Stewart: That's a good one, that's a good sound bite for a podcast.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Josie Harfield: But we would still be trying to find, you know, the perfect solution and actually what we have created is something that allows people to make a small change you know, relatively easy change for them, but it's, it's definitely better than what exists; so yeah otherwise you wouldn't do anything.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Alex Stewart: Very true, I've got a couple more questions I want to get to know about you guys in the back story. And then really keen to jump in and ask you a couple more sort of practical questions to offer some advice back for anybody listening. So this one's a little bit more, I don't know it's not maybe not quite as deep as other questions, but like I mentioned, big, big fan of the scents of your products. So Ali and I were saying that this could almost be home fragrance rather than cleaning products, especially virtually as well. What does the process look like to develop your amazing scents?
Ryan McSorley: I'm so glad you guys say that, because that is exactly what we wanted you to feel when you used them, is that they feel more like a home scent rather than cleaning scent. You know, fragrance in cleaning is a really interesting space; a lot of people rely on the fragrance to communicate clean for them. That is how you will measure whether or not it feels clean, right? Because we are not necessarily swabbing surfaces, and doing tests on them; so the fragrance is really key and we knew from the beginning that it's one of the things that most people will love a product for, it is kind of what you come back to when you're like, oh I just really love the smell of that. So we spent a lot of time developing those fragrances, looking for something that would deliver a piece of efficacy in a fragrance so that it feels like its going do a good job.
It's cleaning my home, that feels appropriate, but that would not be like a, you know, we're never going to call something sunny citrus or, you know, we definitely did not want to start with a classic lemony smell because that's what most people think equals clean and definitely not towards the, you know bleach which equals something very different. But yeah, we really wanted the products to have that more of a lifestyle fragrance than, a cleaning fragrance. So something that was appropriate for your home, but also for appropriate for you caring for your home; so that would work and that they would be distinct in the category. So it wasn't something that maybe we have seen much of, but they would have a bit of a different perspective in terms of being subtle, feeling clean, but also just feeling modern and appropriate for like you know, just home care essentially. We use the word home care a lot, I really like home care because it feels like more of a lifestyle rather than a category. Obviously that's the category we're in at this point is, cleaning products. But I like to think about it more about caring for your home rather than just cleaning it. Because it's part of making sure that spaces are healthy, they are clean and they are good for life, so it's just pretty like a functional situation.
Josie Harfield: It is definitely a fun part of the process too, basically involves like me giving part of my opinion on something, and Ryan overruling it in the end; I thought which fragrance I like the most, I'm like, no I like this one the most and he is like, yeah, but you are not like everyone else and I am like ok fine.
Ryan McSorley: But it gets pretty obsessive I mean, there is like when we were developing these products, I mean, there was definitely points when I was going quite nose blind. And even at that point it was like; we really can't get COVID because if we lose our sense of smell this point like how I'm going to finish this process. Because we are in the middle of developing fragrances; so it was yeah, definitely a bit of shielding around the time of fragrance development. It was, it's quite obsessive because you know, you have got to use it multiple times a day because your smell behaviour can really change depending on what you have just eaten, what is been used in your kitchen, but also there is the Neat to reality of it. So somebody's got to smell it Neat, and then you have got to make sure that when it's diluted, it still delivers that same fragrance experience and then you have got them spraying it, what it does and then you've got it when it is drying on a surface and when it's already dry, how does it linger? Like it's, I mean I love it, it is like a really nice kind of obsessive part of the development process, but I am glad to be able to do it now because in the past other people did this part of the job and I now I get to do it, which is quite fun.
Josie Harfield: You are given far too much control.
Alex Stewart: You've nailed that aim, they do smell incredible, and it is funny you use the word obsessive because I think we can relate in a different sense where we, before we launch OneNine5, we were looking at the colour grey.
Ryan McSorley: Oh yeah.
Alex Stewart: We were debating colour to the point where we were falling out; and I think if you told anybody about this externally that this is what we're falling out over, it would be laughable. And it's just these minor things that I think when you are in startup mode, you are so passionate about something you are almost like down this rabbit hole. I'm thinking dammit, let's just step back, this is the most minute different shade of grey here that we can't agree upon, but probably the same for you guys when it comes to those real sort of like final agreements on that scent.
Ryan McSorley: Oh yeah, I mean I'm with you on grey by the way; the cool greys, to the warm greys, yeah. I would love to get debate about grey. But when it comes to cleaning, it was also like streaking. I think that was one of the things like on stainless steel, on glass, but especially on black glass, like mostly kitchen cupboards when they are that black glass, it's the most unforgiving. And then depending on if you have got a light above your cooker and also time of day, if there's sunlight heading it, all of that was taken into consideration. There was probably a point where we had to be like, we probably need to just step back from this and you know, start to see the forest for the trees again, but yeah. But I think it's good to go down that rabbit hole and always be able to come back up again.
Alex Stewart: Yeah agree just get yourself out of it fairly quickly.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Alex Stewart: One last question about Neat and then we will get on to some practical stuff, but you have sort of hinted already about plans for the future, I think in your reference to home care and some new products coming your way. But if I was to sort of put you on the spot and say, what is the purpose for Neat going forward? How would you both sort of answer that?
Josie Harfield: I think Ryan touched on it earlier actually when he was talking, but like I see our responsibility as brand is looking at, you know, like where where's the problem. And how can Neat go and solve that problem and like where is the most appropriate place for us to do that next. So we absolutely have plans in kind of other categories some probably more obvious than others. But you know, that's kind of what I see our purposes, you know, we have got a really clear mission. We want to eliminate single use plastic; we have got a really great solution to do that. We can apply that to multiple places throughout the supermarket that for me is like that's what we need to keep doing going forward. And if we keep applying that, then we'll stay true to what we started to do and also what fits our brand offer on best.
I mean I could echo all of that, I guess just to build on it would be we have had this quote also; we have thrown around for a bit. I think actually we have printed it inside some of our packaging, but that it's better, many of us doing small things better than a few of us doing everything perfectly. And I think we've, we see our role as a brand to be to inspire people, to be able to engage with these things. I think sustainability can be really heavy. It can feel quite political, it can feel, I don't know quite negative at points and not bombarding people with information maybe that they already know and feel quite what's the word like that they are overwhelmed by, you know some of these stats and these images it's having stuff which it should be, because it is a heavy topic and it's important and we have all got to do what we can, but I think we have always wanted the brand to be a real positive voice in the space that people maybe who often feel, oh but I'm not that sustainable, can all of a sudden feel like oh, actually I can be, because I can just engage with this and do this small thing by doing so I'm getting to make a big impact collectively. So I think, you know how we bring that tone of voice and that positioning as a brand to maybe other parts of our category, other categories, you know whatever it might be, even just in terms of content that we create and giving people reassurance that it's doable all together, we can solve this thing, and we have all just got to do what we can; yeah, I see that as also part of our role.
Alex Stewart: I love that like a small but positive step is still a positive step.
Ryan McSorley: Absolutely, yeah.
Alex Stewart: I totally agree with that, that's great, right; on to the practical side of things now and bits of advice. So if anybody's listening and they have got an idea, and they have got this aspiration, this dream to see their product on the supermarket shelf, what's the advice because, you know, I think we often take for granted, we walk down, you know, almost on autopilot, we walk through a supermarket and take for granted what's there, how it got there, the story behind it. So what's your advice, what's your top tips in terms of taking from like an idea through, to as I did with you guys, I've walked into Booth Supermarket a couple of months back when I was back visiting family in the Northwest than I saw your products proudly on the end of one of the aisles; so how do you go about that process?
Josie Harfield: I think, well so luckily that's what I spent my whole career doing so I have had a lot of experience of doing that. I think first of all like you have to believe in what you're selling and have a passion, and that is a lot easier if you're selling something that has got purpose. So you're not just selling a product to make some cash because people buy into it and buyers are human and they also have things that they care about. And if you can tap into those things, that makes the sale a lot easier. So the fact that, you know Neat has a really strong mission and the product itself is amazing, it works and it speaks for itself. So you know, those two things make that a lot easier like that's one thing, right? You might have the world's best product, actually getting time and engagement and a response from a retailer can be a whole other thing.
You have to find different ways to, to get them to listen and to give you a chance and you know, luckily our product's done a lot of that talking, so if you can, if you've got a great product, it's got a great story like we've been able to get that in front of people and, it sparked up great conversations, but you just have to not give up. You have to appreciate these people are super busy as well. They're dealing with like sometimes hundreds of suppliers, some huge ones are worth millions for them and some that are worth very little, but still take a lot of times, have to be conscious of that, but find ways you know, to keep reminding you; my little sister kind of laugh and she's like, wow, like you have to be really, you know, you have to really persevere with these people, don't you? And I'm like, yeah, you have to give up and have no shame. Be like hi, it's me again, I know you have ignored my last five emails, but I would really love to talk to you. And yeah, I think if you have got something you're really passionate and you believe in, like that makes all of that a lot easier,
Alex Stewart: Is persistence the key in this case, I have often heard of like, people being quite innovative, so they'll send in these different, like packages to retail buyers. Is there anything that you have ever seen or experienced in that sense as well?
Josie Harfield: Yeah, I have definitely seen that work sometimes, again like you know, I think it still comes down to, like if you have a product that truly is offering them something different than what they already have, like it makes things a lot easier if you have just got another me-too product, like it's going to be a challenge. And even it's like finding that angle and you have to find the benefit to them too, right? Like, why should they listen to you? Why should they sell your product? Like, what's the benefit to their shopper for you being there? And find a commercial case too, because at the end of the day they have big targets, they've got to hit. So showing it's, that two-pronged approach that we said like, balancing profit and purpose and show them that they can do that, they can do both. But yeah, I mean, I've seen some really cool examples as well where that's worked, I've seen one, I've tried once as well, where you think that this is an amazing idea, this is definitely going to get them to reply still then you just have to keep trying
Alex Stewart: I'm intrigued to see what you have tried that's failed in the past when it's come to like interesting ways to capture a buyer's attention.
Josie Harfield: Well, I have got a good one, this actually was not one that I did, but when I worked somewhere where we were trying to get a product into booths you know, to get their attention and, had tried and try that ignored, hadn't got any or like, you know, maybe had a few emails back and forth, but never, never really got any engagement. So the team ended up buying some Wellington Boots and then filled the boots with product, and then send it to them in this like beautiful package and said, just wanted to show you what our products would look like in boots.
Alex Stewart: Bravo, very smart.
Josie Harfield: I think it was really creative and they did end up getting listing so it worked.
Alex Stewart: I had no idea where that was going, but then the penny dropped when you started to talk about filling the booze. Yeah, very cool I like it.
Ryan McSorley: I think also you know when it comes to product development, a lot of people these days, which we didn't necessarily do. We had retail in mind from the beginning or more of an Omni channel approach, essentially; but if you do want to think about an Omni-channel approach, there's some basic things that you'll need to do to make sure that you're able to be in a supermarket retail environment. So for example, maybe the case count that you are thinking of, build your stock in cases of six or twelve or whatever it might be appropriate for the type of product that you're building, but also making sure there's a barcode on there because these are just things that you need. And I think for most people that jumped straight online, it's a lot of stuff maybe you don't need and you don't think about maybe some of the regulations that might be applicable to your product.
If you're going to put it into a mass or a retail environment at all, stuff that you might want to consider upfront and you can get away with anything I mean, I often think the, the, the Internet's a bit of a wild west when it comes to selling things, whereas things are pretty regulated and there are some, real parameters to getting things into a regional environment. So if that's something you're considering, I would say, just kind of do that due diligence to make sure that you've ticked the key fundamental boxes of a product, being able to be sold by somebody else, which I think is a great idea for any business, to be honest. But yeah, a lot of people, when they look just like a website or a Shopify selling something, yeah you can, it's a bit of a free for all, but if you, if you do want to get it into the likes of booths, there's going to be some, some stuff that you need to, you need to do to make sure that they are able to resell your products.
Alex Stewart: Very cool so kind of a combination of practicality, persistence and better creativity if required.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah.
Josie Harfield: Yeah, just don't give up if you've got a good product, and it deserves to be be on the supermarket shelf then it most likely will be at some point.
Alex Stewart: Good point, okay. Well, last question for you, so I know that we sort of mentioned it slightly earlier around you, your sort of investment earlier this year. And then Ryan, you also mentioned about the pitch deck as well. So I think for a lot of people that maybe have an aspirations to launch a business, they probably know that it needs a significant amount of investment or funding to get it off the ground or, or if not to get it off the ground, at least to scale it. But quite often, people maybe don't have that network into the world of investment and finance, if that was the case, what does it look like as those first steps to identify the right person to your point earlier, Josie and ultimately to, you know, sell the business to them and get them on your side?
Ryan McSorley: I think we didn't have a lot of experience in this space when we started out; this was definitely a gap for us, which we were aware of. So I think, I guess this is just good life advice, but like, know what you're good at, know what you're not good at, and then bring alongside you people who, are good at those things or these better than you who can hopefully help if not point you in the right direction, that gave you some pretty good sound advice and connect you with the right people that you might need. I think getting clear on there for what you're good at will help you also to figure out what you can do quite quickly to try and maybe prove your business case. So for somebody who is going to be really good at business analysis or understanding a market, you could articulate that and bring that to life and then know that, okay, you're going to have to add maybe the product execution or the branding leader or bring somebody alongside as a co-founder who can do that part for you.
I think it's been great to have a co-founder who compliments and offset some of the stuff that I can't do well, has this been incredible, it's given us a lot of ability to, to move quicker and also just with more enjoyment because you get somebody to spar with and talk to, and un-reliant on and journey with together. I think there's a lot to be said for having a great co-founder, but yeah specifically on the investment, then I think I would have a device and this is something that we didn't necessarily do, but it would have been good because we had a quick learning curve that has we can looking for investment is start to work on your pitch deck as you go, you know, really start to get the story clear as you're moving. It doesn't need to be perfect at the beginning, but at least you start to put that structure of it together in terms of what problem are you solving? And then what is the opportunity? And then hire you bringing a solution for both of those things. I then just keeping that quite simple, but starting to work on it at the beginning is helpful because then you can kind of have a, I guess a working document that it becomes less intense to pull it together when you need to.
Josie Harfield: Again, we were also really lucky that we, got approached pretty quickly after putting the brand out there by people. But in terms of if you don't have that scenario or how do even get begin to like, find a network of investors or people that you might go speak to. I think, speak to other founders like, I think the one thing that we've been really lucky is, you know, we've created a bit of network and again, using your strength and like, you know, how can you help other founders who, say, for example, with my experience in working with supermarkets, I've offered to help various different founders with talking about margins or different things they need to consider. And then likewise, you kind of build this network of people who also have other investors and it's actually quite a small world, like you know, any of these types of things at once you kind of get involved. Yeah, so like built, but doesn't have to be building up a network of investors to begin with, build up a network of other founders and, you know, that could open up a world of investors too.
Alex Stewart: Love that, yeah, we've seen exactly the same thing. So much of kind of our plans, I think growth at the moment has been based upon who else we know, and who else is willing to help. And actually, I think 90% of the time people want to help and want to see you succeed. That's something that we, and especially within our space as well, when you know, it doesn't just benefit us, but it benefits the wider environment, the planet as well. So we found that it's been a really, really positive response to us.
Ryan McSorley: Yeah, I think we've had the same, other brands that are doing similar things in different places. I mean, you want to try and lift each other up as much as you can, right. And then help each other with anything, we always say like opening the bank account is one of the most annoying processes I have ever went through'. Who knew this would be one of those difficult things to do, or at least they would have been prepared for it. Probably the fact that I thought it would be easy and it wasn't, begin to do these small things that you think, oh, that that could be easy, but if somebody has gone through it before, it's great just to have somebody going, oh, you should speak to this person or check out this website or this company that do this and you'll save yourself a wealth of pain, it's always good to, to build that network.
Alex Stewart: Awesome, I appreciate that one thing back over to you in terms of last plug. So if anybody wants to make that switch to your products, which they definitely should, if they want to connect with you, if they want to find out more about Neat, over to you to let us know how we can do all of the above.
Ryan McSorley: So on Instagram, we are, weareneat, so you can definitely check us out there, we also have our own website, neatclean.com, where you can buy all of our products and also some really great bundles of those products. We're also on Ocado, are in Selfridges, we are in Booths, as you mentioned, we are on Farmdrop. These are all on our website by the way; we're also in a bunch of smaller independents and for those, you probably best to check out our stockist link on our website any others, Josie that I'm missing?
Josie Harfield: No major ones, but we have got a few more coming up so watch this space, keep looking at the website because we will have there a store finder that you will see too.
Alex Stewart: Awesome thank you so much, thanks so much for your time; really appreciate it, and I will definitely be looking out for these new products and these new stockits very soon.
Josie Harfield: Great, thanks so much.
Ryan McSorley: Thanks a million bye, bye.
Alex Stewart: Thanks both appreciate it, have a good day. If you're still with me, thanks for taking the time to listen to The Purpose Podcast. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting if you did and you're listening to this on apple podcasts massively appreciate if you could take a minute to leave us a positive review, and if there's a friend or family member that might enjoy or benefit from listening to this, please share a link with them on either Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you're curious to learn more about our eco-conscious travel goods, give us a follow on Instagram, which is @onenine5, or head to oneninefive.com, or you can also get 10% off your first purchase when you sign up to our newsletter. And for each weekly podcast, you will also find a blog post, and some highlights and learning’s from the episode, along with a full written transcript; thanks again, we'll speak soon.