Beauty Without Compromise – A more sustainable shopping experience for eco-conscious consumers
Wendy Martin is the Founder of Counter Culture, the new sustainable retail destination for beauty consumers.
What we love, is that Wendy is not just growing her own business, but also championing and platforming lots of other female-founded brands too. 98% of the brands stocked on Counter Culture are female-founded and this is no coincidence as Wendy actively scouts and recruits said brands to help champion women in business – and female founders – as much as she possibly can.
Women Talking looks deeper into the ethics behind this sustainable beauty site and how it began.
How did Counter Culture begin?
Co-founders, Wendy Martin & Mark Wisniewski, are new to the beauty and wellbeing industry. Wendy’s career was at Visa, where she held a variety of senior sales, marketing, and strategy roles. She left corporate life for the world of start-ups in 2017. Similarly, Mark spent much of his career working in renewable energy before he too became involved in several start-ups. Wendy and Mark met through a mutual connection and discovered a shared passion for founding a business that supported the shift to more sustainable alternatives. The beauty industry came into sharp focus when their research highlighted the average consumer uses 12-16 products a day and the industry produces some 120bn units of packaging every year, much of which is not recyclable.
Does the passion lie in beauty or is it around supporting start-ups?
“Our passion lies in our desire to make a difference and in championing sustainable and ethical business and driving consumer change. That said, we have both grown to love and appreciate the beauty and wellness industry, albeit we have so much more to learn, both in terms of the sector itself and what it takes to build a brand within it”.
What’s the vision for the brand?
“We want to make it easier for people to discover, shop and switch to more sustainable alternatives and to empower them to shop in line with their values, whether that be vegan, cruelty-free, plastic-free, refillable, multi-purpose, upcycled, etc. Our vision is both B2C and B2B. Our e-commerce platform enables consumers to shop from over 100 brands, from B Corps to small, indie brands. Whilst our B2B strategy offers sustainable options to corporate and business clients who reward and incentivise consumers and employees. It’s a great way to accelerate the switch to more sustainable alternatives, and often B2B2C rewards and incentives don’t include too many sustainable options”.
What’s the brand’s USP?
“We focused on building a community of like-minded people – be those conscious consumers, brands, or businesses. We are always looking for ways to help connect consumers and businesses with our brands and our products. Whether that’s by offering discounts and rewards for sustainable living activities, such as recycling pre-loved clothes in return for a £5 Counter Culture Store voucher or by offering discounts via partners for food waste or recycling activities”.
“Of course, we stock some of the best-known sustainable beauty and wellbeing brands, but we also stock smaller, indie brands making it easier for people to discover and switch to new, upcoming brands”.
How important is it to support female founders in the beauty industry?
“It’s essential female founders get more support in every sector, including beauty. Research shows all female-founded businesses secured less than 2p in every £1 of VC investment, even though female-founded companies continue to outperform the broader market. Within our broader vision, we aspire to help support emerging, female-founded businesses to get investment and retail ready. But right now, recognising we are still very early in our own journey, we’re focused on championing as many female founders as we can. Over 85% of the brands on our site are female-founded”.
What beauty brands do you think are killing it in the sector right now and why?
“Well so many! But if I had to name a few, then here goes. I’m a fan of brands that are focused on “anti-stress” beauty. Great examples include Faace, with their period and menopause masks, and Centred & Abyssian with their focus on the scalp as well as hair health. I’m also a fan of multi-use products, like Seeds of Colour with their make-up balm that’s perfect for lips, cheeks, and eyes, and Dr. Lipp with their stripped-back, multi-use products. Some products that I think are really killing it, and our personal favourites, include Medik8’s Press & Glow & Crystal Retinal and Juice Beauty’s Prebiotix Freshly Squeezed Glow”.