I love to hear stories. That's why interviewing each ethical business founder we work with is a significant part of what we do. We've had stories of inspiration, heartbreak and sometimes simple coincidence, being in the right place at the right time.
It's a good feeling to know who you buy from. It's also a lot easier to tell another person's story than your own.
I would like to say a sincere thank you to all the lovely people who have subscribed to us so far and, so you can get to know who's packing your boxes, I wanted to share with you a little of my story - the five steps that brought me here.
1. April 2017 - A conversation
It was the beginning of the end of seven wonderful years studying and working in Edinburgh.
A single conversation had completely changed my outlook.
Do you know what it's like when you're having a normal conversation, and it veers off towards something special? Speaking to a colleague over coffee, one drizzly morning, the conversation strayed right onto the question of purpose.
Simply - what are you in this world to do?
He had really thought it out - "Once you have a sense of purpose," he said, "then think of it radiating out with you at the centre. If you meet someone whose purpose is in the same direction, then you can work together for a while. The worst thing you can do is gravitate around another person's sense of purpose, without your own to tell you why you're there."
I went home that night and thought hard. I was probably in the last category at the time, simply working to 'do well' in other's eyes and climb a career ladder, even if it was perhaps laid against the wrong wall.
I've always volunteered with different charities and feel happy when I can see the benefit I do for others. Starting in financial services had been a lucky break from the post-university job hunt and, while we were helping people save into their pensions, in my heart I knew this wasn't for me. I wanted to feel connected to the people I was helping.
I just didn't know how.
2. September - January 2017-18 - Peru
One place I'd felt truly connected to the people I'd helped was volunteering in the Amazon in Peru in 2014. There, I'd taught English and swum in the local rivers with the children each weekend.
It was impulsive, and I don't tend to do things in halves. I planned returning to Peru to volunteer again and finally resigned from work at the end of August. Luckily my partner Daniel decided to come too for the adventure.
My grandparents are Peruvian and live in Lima, so that was our base to get started. And from there we travelled on to Iquitos, back to the charity where I had worked before.
Living and working in the village of Santo Tomas, it's hard to even picture places as different as the UK. The first scent that hits you when you land at the airport is pure leafiness. The river water is hot as a bath and the dolphins are pink and blue. There are myths there that pink dolphins are gringos (foreign men) in disguise who will come onto land and seduce local women.
The children we worked with were affectionate and playful - we eventually managed to learn all forty names. They lived in a hard environment, though, in tiny houses made of corrugated tin and wood and in families where domestic violence was so common that quite a few children thought it was acceptable.
Living in the Amazon rainforest, 'the lungs of the Earth', what most shocked me was that many of the children didn't know that trees or plants were living creatures. Wood was purely functional there - for houses, to burn land for clearing or to build the buses even.
Many people living in poverty today don't have the means, or the education, to think about the environment. This is despite the fact that they often use less than us, and waste less than us, because they don't have that luxury.
3. January 2018 - Building
I went home with a keen sense of that difference and the privilege we have in the UK. We have the education to tell us that we need to protect our environment and the resources to do so. We're also highly wasteful, compared to people in the developing world. This means we can have the biggest impact overall if we make an effort to change our lifestyle to protect the world.
What goes up, must come down. Another of life's truths would seem to be, when you go really far away, you end up going straight back home. In this case, it was my parents' house, with all our belongings in suitcases.
But I had an idea for the business I wanted to create, and spent those snowy days of winter with icicles on the window pane, researching away into eco-friendly homes.
Initially, I wanted to build tiny homes - homes that were affordable, easy to build and that let the residents live with a low impact. I thought these would make a wonderful alternative retirement village. I still wish someone would build a place like this for me to retire in one day!
4. March 2018 - Sustainable living directory
What I realised after a month of research, though, was that tiny homes were a movement already across the USA, and that they were slowly reaching the UK already through Tiny House UK and The Wee House Company who could build you a little home from scratch for £20,000 and £75,000 respectively.
The problem was of course the planning permission and the fact that only people like me, stacked up in their research, had heard about them.
So, when the Authentic House website first launched in March, it was to tell the stories of these people - the architects, designers and craftspeople in South Wales, who were helping people create low-energy, eco-friendly homes.
I travelled and spoke to some amazing people in this time. Looking back, a sustainable living directory was probably not the easiest idea to set up, but it was an education into all the small ways we can look at our lifestyle and our home to lower our impact on the planet and even do something good for our local economy.
You can still read the interviews if you scroll back to our earlier blog posts.
5. May 2018 - Today
By May, a couple of the interviews in particular had stuck in my head. These were with people like Debbie from Tabitha Eve Co and Shaun from Hive Homeware. Instead of focusing on the home itself, they looked at the small details of sustainable living - our everyday activities, from the washing up to brushing our teeth.
The result of this new perspective were some really clever, simple new products being created by them and other ethical companies. Made without plastic, these were items you could reuse again and again. It was a chance to buy less, but better.
And we definitely need to reduce our plastic. I learned that a shocking 40% of plastic is packaging and that only 9% of it is ever recycled. 8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year.
Simple as they were then, items like beeswax wraps, wooden brushes and cotton grocery bags could have an enormous impact if more of us used them, and if they could turn the tide on the way we live now and the destruction it's wreaking on our wildlife and our planet.
As I made some changes to my own lifestyle, I found two things:
One was that it was really difficult to change everything at once. I still had stores of plastic sponges, cling film, tupperwares... the fruit I bought every week was wrapped all over in plastic. My clothes were made out of it too. I hadn't realised till then how much I relied on this everlasting material for everyday uses... or how much of it I put in the bin and the recycling.
The other was that, where I made a change, it felt really good. I now use solid soap at home, beeswax wraps, reusable sanitary products. We now buy fruit and veg loose from a vendor instead of at the supermarket. When you take away the plastic, it's as if you add beauty to everyday moments. Unlike cling film, a beeswax wrap is made with care, selected for its beautiful colours, and is there to use and appreciate again and again. Fruit looks tastier when it sits in a bowl. There's a really good feeling when you go through a period and leave no waste at all.
So there was an idea in my head. Sustainable living through everyday habits is growing into a movement as more and more people aim for 'zero-waste'.
But if you're starting out, like I was, you probably wouldn't know exactly what changes to make in your life, whether to do it all at once or bit by bit, or what reusable items you'd need to replace your disposables. And, you might feel better if you weren't making all these changes on your own, if you had a community to go along with you.
Sustainable living can make us happy, I've certainly discovered that. And that's where I realised Authentic House could be there to make sustainable living easy, to help people enjoy all the benefits of this new way of living that is out there.
Just like that April, I went for it and launched a subscription box in just two months! Here I am at my launch event last June. I was really nervous at the time, but it felt momentous. I'd arrived at an idea that I was excited to develop and which I'm working on now.
Running a business is definitely hard, harder than I'd have ever thought when I considered it back in Edinburgh last year. I'm lucky though to have my partner and my family in Cardiff all helping out as we go - whether that's giving their opinion or helping me set up a stall or a photo shoot. So when I speak about Authentic House as 'we', these are the people I'm referring to.
I said from the beginning that I always loved to feel connected to the people I can help. That's been the best thing about Authentic House - it's getting to meet you and taking those steps to sustainable living together. People I've met when starting this business have been so supportive for what I'm setting out to do and full of advice and ideas. You'll see some of those ideas come into reality soon!
Most of all though, I hope the posts we send, the blogs we write and the boxes we create do help you as you start to use less, reduce waste and buy ethically. I hope that when a box arrives, it's a treat and something you can enjoy in the month.
If that's so, then I'm truly happy that a year of exploration came to this.