RUNNING A SLOW BUSINESS
I look at the world around me and I see change. I see a civilisation waking up to itself and truly beginning to consider the impact of its actions. Both on an individual level (joggers, vegetarians and mindfulness practitioners seem to be multiplying) but also on a societal level. More than ever before we seem to be interested in the impact we are having on ourselves, other people and the wider world around us. These subtle shifts in attitude and behaviour are starting to filter into our collective unconscious, influencing us in ways we are not even aware of yet.
I think about these things a lot. Since running a business that inevitably impacts more people than I can as an individual, I think about them even more. I think about the impact of the decisions I make and how I can align that impact with the kind of world I want to be a part of in future. And I ask questions. Constantly. What does it mean to run a business mindfully? How does what we do impact our customers and the wider ecosystem we operate in? Can ‘slow business’ exist? And can a ‘slow business’ thrive?
This idea of running a business slowly and mindfully consumes me. For me ‘slow business’ is about striving to balance the realities of operating (and surviving) within a capitalist economy with values that guide decision-making that are not profit driven. It’s a business that chooses not to focus solely on increasing revenue, but instead creates some space for additional measures of success not necessarily reflected in profit.
The way this ideal translates into practice within the way we run ILDN is reflected in two guiding principals that impact everything we do. The first and most important one is striving to add value. Primarily for our customers but also for anyone who comes into contact with our business. The second is choosing slow organic growth that is conducive to the kind of business we want to be. ILDN is run without any outside investment and grows only through your (our customers) support. There are some disadvantages to this choice: not being able to sign up every supplier we want to, not being able to have the full range of products we want to, and it means saying no to lots of interesting opportunities. However, the big advantage is that we are not accountable to anyone but you.
But the first point, how we can add value, is what I spend most of my time thinking about and is the primary reason I define INGREDIENTS LDN as a ‘slow business’. So I wanted to share some thoughts on where I see the value in what we do: Here are some of the ways we try to make a positive contribution whether that is for our customers, our community or the wider world we operate in:
- Every product in our store passes through our hands. We know our products intimately. We use them on a daily basis. This experience is what guides our decision making about what to keep selling and what to discontinue.
- How our products feel when in use and the experiences they facilitate are just as important to us as how they look. We want every single product to feel wonderful in hand whether that is selecting the softest cotton and linen or thinking about the difference between sipping coffee from a handmade ceramic mug versus a mass-produced one. Both the materials and the products we select encourage those who use them to slow down, savour and enjoy the present moment.
- What materials our product are made from is very important to me. We select products made from natural materials like linen, cotton, wood and clay. These natural materials can go back to the earth once they are no longer in use and do not stay in our eco-systems in the way that plastic does.
- We think a lot about environmental factors. We seek out suppliers who strive to implement sustainable production methods (such as using only sustainably harvested raw materials, working on a smaller scale and producing in small batches, use natural dyes without chemicals, etc.). In addition, all of our print materials are printed on recycled paper and we use recycled paper packaging (except in cases where we re-use what our suppliers package our goods in).
- We work with ethical suppliers. This means primarily working with individual artisans who by the very nature of their production methods manufacture in an ethical and sustainable way. When we do work with slightly larger companies we often choose family-run businesses and carefully select companies committed to ethical and sustainable practices. This is given the most consideration when we work with suppliers who manufacture out-with the European Union where we only consider suppliers who are highly committed to ethical practices, fair wages and improving the standard of living for the people they work with.
- We share the stories behind the products in our range. These are the stories of both process and maker. I believe that these stories are what breathes life into the objects we surround ourselves with making them unique and distinguishing them from mass-produced objects.
- We invest time in sharing our personal thoughts, ideas and vision with you. We share images and ideas on how to style and use our products in different ways, how to consider signs of ageing and use not as imperfections but as part of what makes an object lived in and valuable, and most of all we spend time creating images and writing down thoughts that we hope will inspire you.
All of this is an iterative process. We are continuously learning and striving to improve our knowledge and understanding, our product selection, and the ways in which we serve you. These ideas and practices are not static, they evolve and change with us as we learn and grow. And while each one of these points is small, they can add up to more than the sum of their parts. Together they define what running a slow business looks like for us.
I’ve noticed an increasing number of businesses engaging in this discussion. Though most pronounced within small or privately owned businesses where the people who make decisions don’t need to answer to shareholders, it’s a growing number none-the-less. And just like the small parts that contribute to making ILDN a slow business, I am convinced that this new generation of business owners will add up to have more impact than the sum of each individual contributor. But all of this is only possible because of the growing number of smart, informed consumers who truly care. People who care enough to spend time asking themselves where the products they buy come from and what impact their purchasing power has. Thoughtful people who strive to make conscious informed decisions that are in-line with their values. Because thoughtfully run businesses are only ever as good as the customers who enable them to thrive.
The images above show our Copper Kettle, Simple Ceramic Mug in matte white, Tea Strainer in matte white, Pinch Bowl in matte white, Simple Matte White Vase and Short Simple Matte White Vase, Natural Trivet (large), Botanical Dyed Linen Napkin in rusty pink, Eggshell Plates in large and small, Tall Simple Pitcher, Blackline Cutting Boards in large and small and Maple Wood Cutting Boards in large and small.