Founder focus: Beth Noy of Plastic Freedom
After trying to go plastic-free, and struggling to find products that were totally free from plastic, Beth Noy decided to take things into her own hands. It was then that the brilliant Plastic Freedom, a totally plastic-free online store, was founded.
Beth started Plastic Freedom from her spare room and invested £300 in a bunch of plastic-free toothbrushes to sell. Now, she has her own warehouse loaded with products from her favourite beauty brands, as well as clothing, holiday paraphernalia, and outdoor gear. “My range has expanded so much in the last year as I’ve managed to source so many new plastic free products that I think will surprise people to know are even an option,” she says. “I now stock recycled kitchen pans, a whole painting DIY range, reusable portable bbqs (to stop the issue with disposable bbqs on beaches), surfboards, paddleboards, bellyboards and loads more.”
Beth tells BALANCE how she became inspired, and how she built the business on her own from the ground up.
What was your eureka moment?
It had to be when I ordered a safety razor online and it arrived wrapped in plastic with a plastic travel case included too. It made me realise that no matter how hard I tried to make plastic-free swaps, companies were not transparent enough online about their products and the packaging when sending out their orders.
It was then that I decided I wanted to offer plastic-free products and a plastic-free person to every single person who was struggling too and Plastic Freedom was born.
What was your elevator pitch?
I wanted to show myself, who I was and be 100% transparent with everything I was buying/selling so people knew exactly what to expect: zero plastic. I knew that if I could find and offer alternatives in one place it would not only help smaller brands committed to supplying products plastic free but it would also help people make plastic-free changes without extensive research and hassle.
How did you test your idea?
I started off small, with about 10 products from some of my favourite brands. I built up the launch of the site and I sold out within the first weekend of launching!
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business on their own?
DO IT! But, be totally prepared for a long, hard slog with little downtime. It takes a lot of time away from your life because you’re always thinking about it, even when you aren’t working. This is all worth it though in the end and feels great when you achieve something.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
My dad is my ultimate inspiration and mentor; he started his own business from nothing 38 years ago and through all of the demands a business has on you, he has stayed true to who he is, what he believes and always takes time to enjoy life. He gives the best advice, so whenever I am stressed or a little overworked, speaking to Dad (who is still running around the warehouse floor at 5am every day) means we can laugh about all the craziness and get ready to crack on.
I now think that I am a mentor to those around me as people are constantly saying I’ve helped inspire and change their lives by seeing what I’m doing on a daily basis. The fact that I don’t really have any ‘skills’ (I didn’t go to college or university) but an unrelenting desire to learn as I go I think shows people that no matter what, you can achieve whatever you want in life if you’re willing to put in the work.
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made?
Time and energy 100% – this can be the hardest thing to balance and also get back once it’s gone but without putting in those hours and enthusiasm you will not see results. After all you could have all the money in the world but without the time and dedication needed to grow a business, it won’t happen just because you have some money in the bank.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Giving too much information about my business, future plans/ideas etc to those who weren’t close enough to me for it to go no further. I am seriously an open book about everything in my life, so this is a hard lesson to learn as to what parts I should share and what I should hold back; I just get too excited!
If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would that be?
I would have quit my job, moved to a bigger space and employed staff sooner. Honestly, it’s what has helped grow the business the most, given me some sanity back and it was down to fear that I didn’t make the leap sooner.
What’s your plan B?
Say the world was perfect tomorrow and the demand for plastic-free swaps was to be no more, I would love to be a mentor to those starting a business, specifically eco businesses or female business owners who aren’t sure where to begin. It’s a huge passion of mine and something I’m asked about on a regular basis. I also get so excited about social media for business and would look at doing something down that road.
What piece of industry advice do you often hear that you disagree with and why?
That you can’t be friends with your staff. Honestly, my staff are my world and the fact they respect me as a friend, as well as their boss, makes every single day a joy to come to work. I don’t expect people to work for me forever, but if I can teach them some new skills while they help me get through the crazy workload and we can have a laugh whilst doing it, then I see that as the best balance.
What are your plans for the future of Plastic Freedom?
I have so many plans for Plastic Freedom going forward including my own product lines, expansion into other countries and also a way that individuals can become Plastic Freedom Fighters and feel like they are making a difference in their own towns.
A few of Beth’s favourite plastic-free products
Zero Waste Club Rose Gold Stainless Steel Razor + 10 Blades, £25