Ms Natasha Woods, Founder – Eco Conscious (Fiji).
Twenty-eight year old Natasha Woods is the Founder of Eco Conscious (Fiji) doing her business online and at popular public markets in Suva, Fiji. We interviewed Ms Woods to find out what are her innovative ecological products and what drives her in this green business.
1. Story telling is an important business tool and there’s a story behind every entrepreneurial endeavour that needs to be told. What is yours and Eco-Conscious Fiji’s?
I’ve always wanted to start my own little business and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually made it my absolute goal.
I worked as an Environmental Planner for the past three years which was quite exciting but it never felt like something I wholeheartedly wanted to do. However, I gained a lot of experience and as a natural Environmentalist, I am passionate about our Planet and concerned about how our actions, as Human Beings, impact it.
After a lot of anxiety, nerves, excitement, lots of doubt and some indecisiveness, I finally made the choice to do something I was more passionate about. I took the next step and chapter of my life to follow my passions. In October 2018, I officially opened the online business ‘’Eco Conscious (Fiji)’’ in the hopes of helping people reduce their plastic waste by providing better alternatives to some of the everyday plastic and single-use plastic that we use. It was a huge move for me, but I felt that I needed to do something that kept me happy and content at the same time. Another huge reason I decided to start an online business is because I get to spend more time to take care of my grandmother at home who has taken care of me for the last 28 years.
I also started doing pop ups at our local markets. I am now working full time with my Eco Conscious (Fiji) online business and I hope that I can soon scale up and introduce more eco-products that can be offered or even produced here in Fiji.
I have always wondered what it meant when people say we must live a life of purpose, and now as I pursue this path, I am more aware that the true essence of this lies in what I am currently doing.
2. Ideas are one thing – but making them a reality often comes with barriers and obstacles. What were some that you faced, or are still currently facing?
Eco Conscious (Fiji) has grown significantly since its inception in October last year. As with any other startup, you will face challenges in which ever form. But with the right attitude, you can see these challenges as tests rather than barriers. Right now, my main issue is having to deliver my goods to customers. I don’t own a private vehicle for transport so it does get a little difficult at times. I have a couple of helping hands but I’d like to build a bigger team once we expand. But at the same time, I don’t necessarily want to use a vehicle for short runs, I’ll be delivering orders in a more planned and organised manner so as to reduce my own carbon footprint. So, at present, meeting clients in cities and markets or event at home to deliver isn’t such a bad thing because I do enjoy meeting my customers in person and ensuring they are satisfied.
Cost of doing business – as a small local business that imports products, the main challenge I face is paying the relatively high customs duty taxes. I hope that in the very near future, some eco-friendly products can be exempted from these taxes, especially given Fiji is moving towards sustainability and reducing its single-use plastic footprint. Whilst I do commend the initiatives our leaders are doing in the international fora, I think its equally important to extend the same attention to MSMEs who make the backbone of Fiji.
3. What products do you currently sell and what others have you been considering providing an alternative for?
Eco Conscious (Fiji) initially started by selling metal straws which helps reduce the impact of plastic straws. We now have a few other products such as bamboo toothbrushes which have 100% biodegradable handles, cotton mesh bags and organic produce bags. Another product we offer are Bees wax food wraps which are made from pure beeswax and some natural ingredients, these are great for replacing plastic cling wraps and can be reused or repurposed too.
We have quite a few product ideas that are always suggested through our social media accounts by followers and we will definitely try our best to help meet their wants and needs to protect our environment.
We hope to expand into more eco-friendly products such as reusable diapers, pads, menstrual cups and bamboo cutlery and bamboo straws. I understand some of these products will be harder to penetrate into the Fijian market, but that’s why I constantly use our social media channels to not only sell, but to educate people.
4. How responsive were the public-at-large towards your products and how did you garner their attention and interest?
In launching Eco conscious (Fiji), it was absolutely overwhelming. Our first batch sold out very quickly and that’s when I became much more aware of how conscious a lot of people are about what they purchase. It wasn’t what I expected so I was extremely happy that a lot of people are environmentally conscious and are very keen to purchase eco-friendly products.
Our online business is based on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. We also took advantage of the affordable online advertising to market our products through Instagram and Facebook which are the biggest platforms used by Fijians. That way, we were able to reach a much wider audience of different age groups.
My clients also include some of my friends who understand my business so assist through word of mouth where possible. I also get interest from the expatriate market in Suva, especially at markets who often purchase products as gifts to others, including some of the prominent members of Parliament who are also advocates of change.
5. Sharing your mission and vision is vital, we believe. Finances aside, what are three things that you wish you had with you at this moment that would help grow your business and share your vision?
I currently work from within my home and I have space for what I am currently supplying, but if I wanted to expand, I definitely would need to acquire a bigger workshop, and hire a few hands to help me grow and expand our business.
Eco Conscious (Fiji) is mainly based on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram but we plan to create a website to make it easier for people to view and buy our products and have it delivered to their doorstep. E-commerce is growing and I’d eventually like to tap into the international market through my website. I try to give every product a Fijian touch so that’s an added advantage.
6. A plastic bag in Fiji costs $0.20. Do you think a similar sort of surcharge on plastic straws will chip away the “use-and-throw” attitude of most people?
No, I believe that it is important to start at the root of the problem. There are tons of alternatives to plastic straws such as silicone straws, paper straws, bamboo straws and of course metal straws.
We need to eliminate plastic straws and do the same for every other single-use plastic product. And all this needs to be done simultaneously with educating people every day on the implications of their actions, no matter how little.
Note: If you enjoyed reading this Exec Interview you may also enjoy reading our other previous interviews. You can find them here.