Naomi Andersson Interview – Green Hands Founder & Next Generation Anita Roddick
Website & Places you can find my work online
Blog: Organic Care for hands
Facebook Green Hands
Blog posts: Grown your own, naturally!
Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I am a country bumpkin at heart, born and brought up in rural Herefordshire, I escaped the ‘shire’ as it is affectionately known, to the City (London) at 18 and didn’t return for more than a weekend break for the next 15 years. I’ve lived in Holland, worked all over Europe and until I started my business I was a Product Manager for a software company in Windsor. My childhood was spent up a field with a dog, cat and friends building dens and getting muddy!
I have been involved in Neals Yard remedies, Kings Road, London. I worked with them to develop an organic/natural hand treatment along the lines of a Green Hands Manicure.
Where are you located?
I have since moved back to my home town of Leominster, on the Welsh border, if you put a pin in the map between Manchester and Cardiff you’d be close!
How did you first become involved in the industry?
I LOVED having my own nails done, in the days when I worked in an office, also when I lived in Holland, my nail tech was a Dutch award winning champion nail tech. My oldest bestie from Uni went into nails and tanning after having children and encouraged me during my ‘I don’t want to work 9-5 with 2 babies crisis’. I took the NVQ3 Nail Tech course at my local tech college where I met Jackie and Sean of Naughty Nails who are the most brilliant trainers, so supportive, loads of advice and they gave me the confidence to do MY thing, once I was qualified.
What made you start your own ‘green’ business?
I’ve always been a bit of a Greenie, I studied Environmental Science at degree level, I am into common sense green issues, less waste, spend less, use less junk and don’t leave a mess behind you type initiatives. I also have a sensitive skin, so I had been looking into what was on the ingredient list in my bathroom cabinet, I realised that there was a HUGE gap in the market (this was 2003) and spent hours on google searching for natural alternatives for nail care, the fact that I found nothing until page 57 of google one night spurred me on!
You pride yourselves on a holistic approach to client care, which extends to your order processing, dispatch and returns policies. Tell us a little about this.
We tend to apply the same philosophy to everything we do, you have to walk the walk, there is far too much greenwash about, we use recycled paper, compostable towels are my latest test, I love them! We work around family friendly hours, which means we stop to collect the kids from school and start again in the evenings. It works for us. Our customers are our best advocates and if they aren’t happy we’ll do something about it!
Green Hands was founded in 2005 and has already won many impressive awards. Finalists in HSBC Start Up Stars in 2007 and this year they’re also a 2010 Smarta 100 winner.
The Green Hands Organic Cuticle and Nail Oil came out top in The Green Beauty Bible Awards 2009 (Jo Fairley and Sarah Stacey) and it is also short-listed for the Soil Association’s 2010 awards for ‘Organic Bodycare Product’ category.
What is it you enjoy most about these type of award events?
It’s funny, I’ve not actually been to a single award event, all of these are announced by email, but they do have you jumping up and down on your swivel chair! Having testers tell you your product is the best they’ve used is wonderful validation on why you invented it in the first place, and having a Smarta100 has got us a lot of PR, it also confirms what we do is different, quirky but working in the eyes of really experienced business people. It has made us more confident to continue in our own way and to question the ‘expected’ path of a small business. It has spurred me on to pick up the phone to those larger outlets and magazines and get in their face!
Where do you see Green Hands in five years time?
Ooo best paid deckchair attendant on a hot sunny beach, working by remote weblink to a robotic fullfillment warehouse, posting the odd blog and …..er no, the kids will still be in school! I plan to have launched at least 3 more products by then, our oil took 3 years to get out of the door in its proper labelling. I am working towards having my products available through more outlets, and educating more people about how to care for natural nails.
You are very passionate about the environment and are an active member of the community, how do you support others with similar eco-friendly principles?
I get involved at the local school, where I am their Eco Governor, we are working to the Eco-Schools Silver award. I started Freecycle locally which has taken off brilliantly, and I campaign regularly if I see something I don’t like, I write to my MP, challenge teachers outside the litter strewn Secondary School and generally make a noise if I think things should be different. If I am met with apathy I call the local radio and make more noise until the local councillors come on and promise to do something about it! It all makes me sounds like I’m a bit stroppy but it can all be done in a nice way!! I support new initiatives like the allotment group, transition town, cycle groups, walk to school.
I think my strength is my marketing background, I tend to broadcast the info about these locally and ensure those that are interested about it get to hear about it.
What is your definition of ‘non-toxic’?
Something that doesn’t harm the user, the technician or the environment. My clientelle are brilliant at informing me of their various allergies and sensitivities. We all have different levels of tollerance to these ingredients too. For me, for it to be non-toxic it has to check some boxes, I admit, for some people what I consider to be non-toxic, will be toxic for them. I respect that.
There are some harsh ingredients in a lot of nail care products; formaldehyde, toluene, DBP and ethyl acetate in nail hardeners and polishes, methacrylic acid in primers to name a few – why should these be avoided?
I hope there is no DBP, its been banned for years now! (Within the EU) But yes, these ingredients do appear in nail products. Anyone wishing to understand more about these ingredients and the potential dangers should take a look at The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Databse it has a handy ratings system for products too. [Shopper’s guide to safe cosmetics pdf download] I’d avoid these on health grounds personally, but again, some people just aren’t as sensitive as others.
What changes would you like to see in the Nail Industry?
I love the way indy brands are working their way through to the mainstream, with the advent of blogging we all get SO much brilliant information so quickly and news travels fast. I’d like to see a natural nail awards that didn’t involve sitting in a hall with L&P and Gel Techs all around you, I couldn’t walk in there, I’d be ill, I am so allergic to it all after over exposure during my NVQ training. So, that means I can’t show the industry what can be achieved….
Why is it important to source local goods and do you have any advice for people who want to do this but don’t know where to start?
It is important to me because I have some AMAZING suppliers like Herbfarmacy and Earthbound Organics on the doorstep, companies that go above and beyond to make a really functional product, right back to growing the herbs themselves.
Why should I import a product from New Zealand, it may be great, it may have the latest superingredient in it, but I can get one from 15 miles away that really works.
I do go further afield if I find something exceptional (like Poppy Organic) or Suncoat.
What effect do you think the Internet will have on nails?
I hope that it means anyone with concerns about their nails, or wishes to improve their nails will be able to find the information they need easily. Importantly I’d hope that they’d find the info without making the problem worse by following poor advice.
How do you use the Internet in conjunction with your business?
I research, research, research, daily, I twitter, facebook, keep contact with clients, talk to lots of people in the industry and make sure I have the best information to hand.
What products do you have in your bathroom cabinet?
Apart from lots of half empty testers from the studio! I have a new REN cleanser for my face which I love, I use Suncoat Cosmetics, I use Urtekram Shampoo, I was given Weleda body wash for Mothers Day which I love, I use a thai stone deodorant, I prefer Aloe Dent Toothpaste, herbfarmacy beauty balm as an occasional night cream. I have a Neal’s Yard Geranium and Orange hand cream that I was given when I did some work for them last year and it’s lasted forever. I have a bottle of Green Hands Nail Oil and Glass File by the bed! Oh and I wear Gucci perfume… I haven’t found a natural one that I like enough to pass that up yet!
If you were a superhero, which one would you be?
Catwoman – I believe she is a pretty good catch if you are playing Top Trumps!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
If someone presents you with a need, and then someone else does, and another and another and you know they all have the same issue. You HAVE to investigate and work on it until it becomes a solution.
Talking to others and attending workshops for the business like those run by Business Link really help you to form and mould what you want for your business. That and chasing my aspirations -back to that deck chair attendants job!
Thanks to Naomi for answering our questions & sharing a little more about Green Hands & herself. We wish her good luck for this years Natural & Organic Beauty Awards. Stay tuned for more interesting interviews with other fun & fearless members of the nail industry.