Founder Focus: Sophie Lavabre-Barrow of KINN
Launched in 2017 by mother and daughter duo, Marie Lavabre and Sophie Lavabre-Barrow, KINN Living produces eco-friendly, vegan and natural cleaning and body care products fit for today’s clean-living values. Big on transparency when it comes to what we put on our skin and use in our homes, KINN products use natural recipes passed on from Marie’s California-based uncle, Marcel – a pioneer in formulating aromatherapy blends, and founder of the Aromatherapy Association of America.
A massive success, the UK-made brand’s cleaning, laundry and organic body care products stocked in Ocado and Waitrose, and they’re gearing up to launch plastic-saving refill subscriptions this year.
We caught up with co-founder Sophie Lavabre-Barrow all about KINN – the company that’s seen her rightfully earn a spot on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Retail and E-commerce.
What was your eureka moment?
KINN in its modern-day form was born from a realisation that despite how much effort we as a family were putting into what we ate and used on our skin there was little awareness as to what we were using in our homes. We realised that it was all very well and good to eat and choose organic products but it seemed a little ridiculous to then spray our homes down with harsh chemicals? The idea of a lovely soak in an organic bath oil was less appealing when we thought of the bath having been washed down in bleach!
So we looked at the cleaning products in our cupboards and wondered why not use our family knowledge of aromatherapy to combine science and essential oils to make a truly vegan and natural cleaning range that worked!
What is your elevator pitch?
KINN is a truly 360 degree brand that makes natural, vegan and where possible certified organic products for you, your family and your home. It takes the guesswork out of shopping, and provides the family and home with products that you know are safe to use, and won’t cost the earth. KINN Living makes eco-friendly, natural and vegan everyday essentials as accessible to as many people as possible.
How did you test your idea?
We tested the idea amongst friends and family as well as through research and questionnaires. From there we spent a long time researching on our own to create products that stood up to the high standards we wanted to achieve. By talking to friends and family it became clear that many didn’t know about some of the harsh chemicals found in “normal” everyday cleaning and household products, but when they did find out they were very interested to be able to switch to a product that was what it said it was and wasn’t just a big practise in Green Washing!
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
Don’t overthink it! If I had imagined every little step, detail, thing that could go wrong or right I don’t think I would have taken the leap. I would also advise to find mentors and people around you with a positive and “can do” mindset. There is a saying that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so I recommend making sure they are great people who inspire you and encourage you to develop, grow and learn!
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
We have a few people who I would consider mentors from family friends through to those who came along from the outside and now help us with the business. I am not a mentor, however with a little more growth and experience I certainly would love to be able to help someone the way I have been helped.
What’s your plan B?
To make sure Plan A works! Eventually I would love to encourage more young women to pursue their own goals and dreams, and if I could ever help in a financial capacity (as an Angel Investor) I would certainly love to. The road into funding is narrow and requires good contacts so helping others would be a dream! And if all else fails… I did originally study Interior Design!
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made?
I would say customer relationships. I am so pleased that I have been able to invest time into talking to our customers and understanding what they love and in some cases what they don’t love. Without the time spent on this I don’t think I would be able to understand what KINN can grow into. It’s so important to take the time to understand the good feedback and bad feedback, and also to understand that sometimes neither is important.
Secondly, I would say that investing in courses was a great push for me. For a while I got so stuck in the day-to-day that I found myself dwindling creatively, so I took some courses in marketing, blogging, and creative writing, and it really helped me to refocus.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
I had this idea that I was going to go into interior design and eventually make my way to property development, but instead, part way through my studies I landed on the idea of KINN with my co-founder and I am glad that I “failed” to follow through on the previous dream otherwise I wouldn’t be on this journey now!
What is coming up for KINN?
We have some pretty exciting ideas in the pipeline to do with refills – things we have been working on for quite some time, but due to one reason or another, just couldn’t get ready to launch and bring to market.
At KINN we don’t just want to jump on the bandwagon, which is why we don’t just release “solutions” to problems in a slapdash manner without thinking through all the implications (positive and negative) the idea could have. I am really excited as to where we are now, and also very excited that we have just launched our hand sanitiser!
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield. Not just a self-help book, it seriously helped me to set goals and plans that I have so far managed to stick to!
How do you find balance in your daily life?
For me it’s daily exercise that helps me to refocus my mind and stop myself from binge eating at the desk all day! I love to get outside and be in nature – whether that’s by running, swimming or hiking. Living in a warm climate is my dream, as then it means I can be outside all year round!