Tell us why you set up Hevea?
Up until I had my first child Augusta, I did not pay any real attention to my lifestyle. I was vaguely aware of issues but I was not focused on it in any way That includes everything from what I was putting on my skin, or using in my home, to the food I was eating. I don't think I had even heard of an ingredients listing whether it was on the back of a food packet, or a moisturiser. But, then that is no different I don’t think to many teenagers.
Then when I was pregnant with my first child, Augusta – she is now 4 - there was a national campaign by Green Peace, testing various celebrities in Denmark for the level of toxins in their blood.
The then-pregnant Danish radio and TV presenter Andrea Rudolph was found to have 18 out of 44 toxins in her blood/body. They found that most of this was due to her make up and other beauty products. This really scared me and was my eureka moment.
My own pregnancy, the Green Peace campaign, the arrival of Augusta and the loss of my own mother, which came 10 days after Augusta’s birth! – all of this were life-changing events that happened in such a short space of time. So, my whole life and as a consequence my attitudes to life and how we live it were altered for ever I think!
Thinking about how to make changes, I educated myself on how to make more responsible choices for my family and in our home. I became much more aware of the importance of our responsibilities, our legacy. All this ultimately led me to create my own brand . And, because of what I was learning, I wanted to be a safe and sustainable and people and environmentally-friendly business.
To discover how many chemicals and preservatives go into what we use everyday was an incredible eye-opener, especially as I was breastfeeding. In Denmark we all breastfeed for at least 6 months, often for 1 year. Realising that the milk, too, got the toxins from my blood, my reaction was to start checking everything and most especially what I was giving to and using for my baby. Of course, I was obsessed – as a new mother especially so - and it was shocking to me what I discovered. I was partly shocked, too, that I knew so little about this.
And then when to came to choosing a pacifier for her I couldn't find anything that did not have chemicals or colours. I decided that just wasn’t good enough and decided to go about making my own 100% natural pacifiers which is how I came to create Hevea By Hoffihearts.
What’s been your response from customers ?
The response has been great. It’s fantastic that we are in so widely available. As well as in Denmark and the UK, Hevea is now in more than 20 countries. For instance, France, Germany, Holland, Australia, Canada, US, Norway, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Republic of Kazakhstan. .
I wasn’t sure when I started how successful it could be, so it has been very nice to realise that we were right in our belief that there is a market for products like Hevea. We strived from the beginning to create something that was attractive, that was safe for the baby and, of course, that they would like. They are our core customer after all! But we wanted to be socially responsible too. So in that way they are good for baby because they are comfortable and safe and are comforting for them, but for mum, too, because she knows they are sustainably and ethically produced and have no additives or chemicals and synthetics.
We have testimonials from customers through our website, facebook and twitter telling us that their babies love the products – both pacifiers and Panda teether. What is interesting too, is that because of the texture of the rubber, they are very tactile and babies are very attracted to it. Also, since the pacifiers have a more natural feeling the baby seems to respond to this, and it seems to give them extra comfort.
Recently, we’ve been fortunate enough to have Orlando Bloom pictured by the paparazzi with a Hevea Pacifier and his young baby. Since he and his wife the model Miranda Kerr are very socially conscious this has been very exciting.
In fact, It is a very exciting time for Hevea as we are now just launching our new range of raw rubber bath toys, too.
How are you enjoying running your own show?
I love it. Apparently, when I was only 4 years old, I told my mother that I wanted to become a director one day. I don’t think anyone would ever have thought that it could be of my own business, as there are no entrepreneurs in the family apart from me.
The flexibility of being the one in charge is actually great when having a family, as you can work outside normal hours, take a day of if the kids are ill and so on.
I also love the fact that I can actually make a difference by offering a sustainable choice to families and that I can donate money to WWF. Hevea sponsors the WWF in Denmark and donates the equivalent of £1 from every sale of the Panda to the WWF. In August, this extends to the US, Canada and the UK.
I really enjoy also that I have had so many opportunities to visit and work with people from around the world and experience different cultures.. It means that every day is a great chance to learn. It can be anything from production processes, to logistics, to cultural differences and that is fun – but it’s also very inspiring.
When I first went to Malaysia to meet with our natural rubber supplier it was so different – a culture shock as I had never been anywhere like it even on holiday. We were checking with them that they were operating to our high ethical expectations. It was a wonderful experience and we liked them very much.
What really stood out and I actually loved was the visit we paid to the packaging room there. It was mostly ladies. As we arrived at the room, with the owner, I might have expected them to
be working really hard since we were potentially new clients. And they were working, but some were talking amongst themselves and when we came in with the owner it was relaxed and they obviously had good working relationships. Working in a packaging factory might not be perceived as the most interesting job in the world, but they were there, talking on the factory floor, on a break and they seemed to be enjoying very much what they do. it is very inspiring.
What has been the most rewarding moment?
There are so many, it is hard to pick one. But I guess that the partnership with WWF is one of the greatest achievements. For a small company to be accepted as business partner, that is so great.
What would be your advice to other women thinking of doing their own venture?
Do it. I hope, that I can be a good example for women to start good stable businesses. Without preaching I think it is important to try to help makes a difference to the world – it doesn’t have to be a great big gesture. It’s an effort to live in a positive way but it is ultimately more rewarding. I think it’s important for women and for men too – tobe able to do what they are passionate about.
But remember it is hard work, loads of hours and you really need to have a supportive family. My husband has been so great through all of this. Finally, do have you’re business skills and sense of humour at the ready!