MEET THE FOUNDER OF EKOLOGI
If you’re living in Cardiff, you might already be familiar with EKOLOGI. Since opening mid lockdown in March of this year, this sustainable living store owned by Lewis Reid has provided essential items to the local community. In this Q&A we asked Lewis how they got to where they are today and to share any of his own tips with young entrepreneurs. Here’s what he had to say…
Tell us about your business?
EKOLOGI began life as a small riverside workshop in South Wales, building rustic furniture from old reclaimed pallets. The business made its mark selling rustic spice racks and later started to focus on it’s most popular line, shelving. Years later in 2018, we found a store-front for the business on Whitchurch road, Cardiff and made the decision to re-brand as a ‘sustainable living’ shop. The aim was to provide a zero-waste refill service for wholefoods, loose teas and cleaning products. Since opening, we found a niche for flour, as well as other baking goods, and have vastly expanded our product ranges to include local fresh produce, milk refills, freshly made oat milk, ready-to-eat snacks, local arts & crafts and much more!
What was the driving force for you to start your business?
EKOLOGI was founded on the principle of sustainability — both from an economic perspective, a logistical perspective and also, perhaps most importantly, the necessity for greater choices in ethical shopping. When we first started in 2011, there was an increasing amount of awareness surrounding environmental issues and somewhat of a response from big-business to make an effort. However, there was still little in the way of choices when buying products and people were still warming up to the idea of changing purchasing habits.
The initial kick start to the business was when I noticed that a great deal of the materials used in industry had an overwhelming wastage rate. Pallets, for example, are often used once, thrown on a pile and end up in an incinerator. To me this represented everything I stood against and showed me there was plenty of room in fact, for new business to arise.
What are your business’ core values?/What are the key values that motivate you?
At EKOLOGI we are aiming to provide a chance for more choices on the market, which we feel have less of a negative impact on the environment and personal health. As such, we don’t have a core system of values but rather aim to encourage and facilitate sustainable living. Wherever possible, we aim for: waste reduction, plastic-free shopping, healthy food choices, local products, organically produced products, hand made items and the usage of recycled or sustainably sourced materials!
How do you overcome setbacks?
For all of us here at EKOLOGI, setbacks have become an integral part of day-to-day business. For times present and perhaps years to come, we’ll all likely be facing many challenges that throw a spanner in the works and the only answer is that we must be adaptable. There is no answer-for-all, for overcoming setbacks. However, one thing we always have the choice to do, is to side-step our hurdles. If the race is your own, you may not need to jump impossible heights.
One example, with reference to EKOLOGI, is the change we had to make to be able to operate safely during the height of the pandemic. We had planned on utilising self-service dispensers, much like the vast majority of zero-waste shops in the UK. However, it became clear that setting up in the traditional manner wouldn’t be a wise decision. To improve safety and hygiene we went with the decision to operate much like an old fashioned weigh and pay, or sweet shop. Consequently, we haven’t been able to provide as fast a service as initially hoped, but the local community took to it very well and enjoyed the ‘community’ element of interaction with a local retailer. We didn’t just offer a food dispensary, but also a chance for people during lockdown to have a moment of normality through conversation and a bit of banter!
If you had one piece of advice for students setting out their own business, what would it be?
The most important thing I would suggest is a full commitment to what you are doing. Diligence, hard work and sacrifice are all but practice, without the commitment to see it through to success or failure! To use an old expression ‘it is easy to talk of fasting while the belly is full’. Various skills or traits will help you overcome many obstacles but some will come as a huge wall. It is only through commitment that you’ll be able to overcome them — and this [commitment] is something all of us can do!
Are there any other brands outside your sector that you are following at the moment?
To be honest, much of our time looking at other brands or businesses is done through the scope of the business. Be it through collaboration or partnership in business, we work closely with and follow many local businesses that share a similar ethos or line of work. Some of our partnerships include Made BY Land, KIN & ILK and more recently, Fusion Students, who we’ll be working more closely with in the future to provide sustainability workshops and student offers.
What has your biggest achievement been so far?
EKOLOGI’s biggest achievement was probably having opened up the shop during lockdown. We’d planned months in advance to open in March, so there wasn’t any turning back. The future was uncertain but we had a good selection of 12 types of flour to offer, which just happened to be in short supply in the supermarkets during the sourdough-boom! And what’s more, we didn’t run out of bread flour, once!
59 Whitchurch Rd, Cardiff CF14 3JP
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