Green Pioneer have been a wonderful client for a number of years now. We have really enjoyed working on various projects with Charity and Will and recently re-deigned and developed their new Prestashop site.
One of our early projects with them (and one of or favourites) was the branding for reSpiin. When this brand started up, recycling fabrics and textiles was a pretty new thing! It was fantastic to see that recycled and renewable textiles could also look fabulous as well as being practical, hard wearing and ethical in the way they are produced.
In this article Charity lets us in on the story of Green Pioneer and how it all started. We love to hear all about our clients successes and we are very proud of the part we play in it, no matter how small it might be.
Green Pioneer tell us more about their business…
Green Pioneer was actually born out of my retail business, Green Tulip, that I came up with whilst still working at John Lewis in London many many years ago! At the time eco and ethical products were very much of the ‘hemp slipper’ variety and recycling and reuse were something quite new. I decided I wanted to start up my own retail business and selling items that were positive environmentally, or products that had been made in a fair way, was really important to me. At the same time I wanted to show that you didn’t need to compromise your sense of style to be able to shop ethically. So we launched our www.greentulip.co.uk site in 2007 and also opened a little gift shop in Wiltshire the same year.
Green Pioneer came about through one of those chance conversations – it certainly wasn’t our plan to start up a European distribution business! One of the American brands I had been selling on Green Tulip – bambu – was being distributed by a UK company and it seems they weren’t doing a very good job of it. I went to place another order with them in early 2008, and realised they were no longer selling the bambu range. So I contacted bambu directly and they told me they were looking for a new distributor in the UK and did we know anyone….! Cue a lot of discussions/planning/spreadsheets – and a fun trip out to the Housewares show in Chicago – and my husband Will and I were the new UK distributor for bambu. We came up with the name Green Pioneer, had a quick logo done and a Joomla one page website, and we were off!
After a tough first year (2008 wasn’t the ideal time to launch a business that purchased stock in US dollars!), we slowly started picking up new retailers and in particular new retailers from around Europe who we sold to in the absence of any distributor in mainland Europe. Retailers in countries like The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Germany were much more interested in beautiful organic products than retailers in the UK at that time. As time went by we were approached by other US and Canadian brands and slowly added more to our assortment, all with a focus of sustainable living and design. Our Joomla website continued to do an OK job, but we were managing orders on excel spreadsheets and pdf catalogues which got more and more difficult as our range grew.
As a retailer I had begun to see B2B sites pop up among my suppliers and it certainly made things easier for me as a retailer – it meant I could find all the info in one place, see what was in stock, and place the order knowing that I would actually get what I had ordered. That led us to thinking about getting our own B2B site set up for our retailers, so with a bit of research and a Business Link course (remember them?!), we identified Prestashop as a good platform for us. It seemed robust enough to cope with a complex multi currency/multi language website, but not as daunting as working with Magento. After speaking with a few agencies we decided to work with Teapot as they offered a lot of experience with the platform, a good size team, but weren’t too big that we would be just a number to them. The fact that they are based in a rural location like us was lovely too.
Our first site launched back in 2015 and it has transformed how we run our business, and has allowed us to grow quickly whilst keeping a small team (and I guess David Attenborough does need a little credit for our growth too!). Our customer base is now spread across 23 countries and we represent 12 brands and have two of our own label ranges too (A Slice of Green and ReSpiin). A business review in 2018 showed us just how much of our business comes through our website so we’ve decided to stop doing any UK trade shows, and will only attend one trade show a year now – Ambiente in Frankfurt. The rest of our ‘marketing’ focus is our website and we’ve actually just relaunched our new look site with Teapot – making a lot of improvements we didn’t even know we needed the first time and introducing new features too.
It’s exciting to be part of a movement that is getting so much press and is growing so fast but it’s also a challenging time with so much competition on board (and rather a lot of greenwashing out there). We’re excited to see what the rest of 2019 will bring…