When you fan bam on some snazzy online ladies and love their blog, store and website it's a good moment when they agree to be interviewed to feature as playful people on this lil ol blog.
I first discovered Rose and Tanya of Ecolosophy back in early 2014, long before I knew I'd one day be living down the road from them both and I loved them straight away, I got to love them a little more when I spoke to them all about ecolosophy, their journey to where they are now, their challenges along the way and of course suss out how they play!
So what is ecolosophy? Well to make it easy for you, here is a link to this snazzy little store. In summary it's an online eco store with a heart...a big heart. Here is a snippet straight from their about page that kinda gives you the idea:
'We wanted to curate a collection of gorgeous and interesting wares that in one way or another, make our world a better place. .. There are so many clever and motivated folk crafting and creating wonderful things from the everyday to the unusual and we wanted to provide a place where you can indulge yourself in something that not only makes you feel good but is also doing some good, giving you an opportunity to make a better choice for yourself, your family, the planet and the generations to come.'
I met with Rose and Tanya and Tanya's place...AKA the Ecolosphy patch. We sat outside in the warm sunshine overlooking the Ecolosophy patch and the beautiful Lake Warden, which also is the main location that the business operates from. The 'warehouse' lives upstairs and the office is often out in the garden whilst Tanya's kids play in the sand pit or with the chooks and frogs on the property.
Make sure you read to the end... it's a long read but it's worth it!
Can you tell us a bit about Ecolospohy and how it came to be?
Rose: Essentially we wanted to do something that would help to change our worlds…small change around our passions of eco products, sharing our stories about wat we do and what other people who we admire do. We weren’t sure at first what that was really but we knew we wanted to work together on something. It actually grew out of an opportunity that was put to us that fell through and we thought well we could have a go at doing a shop online instead.
Tanya: We didn’t actually have a clue what we were doing :) hahahaha we didn’t even shop online ourselves, I didn’t even have a mobile phone at the time let alone a computer but we thought ‘Yeh, sure, why not, we can have an online shop…no worries!’
Rose : We wanted to do something different and we knew the retail market is changing, Esperance is a small place and having something in town would have locked us into 9-5.
Tanya: Also the romantic ideal of an online store made sense as well, we knew it was something that would fit well with needing to slot in around family and work and that sort of thing.
Rose: I was coming of the back off a career as an urban planner. I was trained in building community and environment was a big part of my training but the reality of that when you get out into the workplace, especially in a small town you can’t really apply or use those skills, the opportunities are sort of limited in reality. So I was feeling like I wanted to find a way of being involved in things I love and have trained to do, using those skills that were going to make a difference for us but for the community as well. Coming from the UK, sustainability and the environment was immeshed in the community and I haven’t found it to be really like that in Western Australia yet, it is changing I think. I have always had a love of the environment and a passion for sustainability. I’ve been here 10 years in Esperance and didn’t have a car for the first 4 years, I just used to ride my bike about and always tried to make sustainable choices so I guess this work was an extension of that and also I guess the creation of an opportunity for me to be able to do the things that I am unable to do through my paid work.
Tanya: Well, I studied natural medicine and herbal medicine and I have worked as a horticulturist. We lived in Melbourne for about 8 years before we travelled around Australia and then moved to Esperance. There are so many beautiful things about Esperance that are just so pure and wholesome but I really struggled to satisfy any eco instincts that I have :) hahaha! Shopping organic is nearly impossible here in town. To actually try to shop and buy eco in a town that is essentially industrial and agricultural I found a little bit challenging. So when we were looking at or had that urge to do something it seemed a natural choice to provide something for people like us who were out of an urban environment....strangely enough our business seems to have struck a cord with people in country areas in Queensland and NSW too. I was already writing for Earth Garden so to add the a blog in wasn’t a stretch to fit with our business either
Rose: Definitely not being able to source things ourselves was a motivator. Actually Esperance was one of the places was plastic bag free, which was great so the environmental considerations are here but it has been tricky to find it on an ongoing basis and source the products we loved.
About two years before we started the business we knew there was a demand, we knew what was going on in bigger urban areas like Melbourne and other big cities, we knew people were growing their own or sourcing local produce and eco products, we knew that trend was growing. We had a growers market and worked with IGA to get that up and running. I was selling produce that I had grown on my block and Tanya would come down to buy...
Tanya: Yes, I was desperate to be a consumer because in Melbourne you’d go to the markets, spend just $90 and come home with a weeks worth of organic produce. It was really easy. We used to live across form the Veg Out community gardens right behind Lunar Park. Its the only community garden that actually makes money, it is so beautifully run, our landlord ran it so we were quite heavily involved in that kind of movement. It was all a really happening thing and then to come to a town like Esperance it felt a bit odd because you almost expected that kind of thing to already be here, it seems so obvious that it would be here in a big way, but it was tricky to find.
Rose: I’ve never really discovered why that hasn’t happened here.... so yeh, the growers markets were really popular and there was a definite demand, people wanted to know things and ask what you were doing in your garden, simple things, and we were all just reconnecting and coming together over food. It is happening in other places I am from a similar background, from a city back ground and that connection to environment felt pretty normal in that environment so I wanted to be part of that here as well.
Tanya: To have such a connection to the land and the earth and growing produce in the city but not in a country town felt a bit odd, we really think the pieces of the puzzle are here and waned to be part of that process her in this beautiful town. Having been here for ten years there is an obvious sense of community here but it can take a bit of time to find your tribe perhaps.
Rose: That’s probably one of the reasons we went for an online market too, because you can find your tribe and your tribe can find you... and also have further reach.
Tanya: I think for towns like ours to grow and flourish it’s important to be able to connect on a wider level. Esperance is such a beautiful place to live and the online community is one way to help connect Esperance to the rest of the world, because let’s face it, we are very remote, it’s a very long drive to the city.
It sounds like Ecolosophy developed and grew out of many ideas and a desire to bring about some changes but was there a particular moment where you decided that this was the direction you would go?
Tanya: Well I was offered a different opportunity when I was about 6 weeks pregnant and thought ‘yes that’s awesome, it’s perfect, but I’m just about to have a baby!’ So I spoke to Rose and said that there was this opportunity and that I couldn’t commit to it on my own but that I’d love to go into business with her. She loved the idea so we both just ran with it, got excited and got half way through the process and then the offer was withdrawn.
Rose: We were so enthusiastic and had such a strong plan. It was disappointing but everything happens for a reason.
Tanya: And it was kind of at that point we thought to ourselves ‘Well we've done all the prep, we have a business plan in place so let’s just do something anyway.’ We looked into a bricks and mortar store but it was right at that point when retail was about to start doing a bit of a crash so the idea of investing in a bricks and mortar model at that time wasn’t very appealing when we could see shops shutting in town, so the idea of an online store made perfect sense.
Rose: And of course we loved the idea of the challenge of doing something new as well.
How did the two of you come together initially?
Tanya: Umm a very good friend of ours hooked up with this hot British chick, he came back to us raving about this girl he’d met two years before and eventually they did hook up and that’s haw we met, we just connected, just clicked instantly and have been friends since. We come from different backgrounds but have a similar vision and a similar path, we bring different things to the party I guess. It was just a natural connection that has grown and solidified through working together.
Rose: Hhahaha :) I do have to remind him of that sometimes, I’ll tell him ‘you followed me round for two years’! My partner though has built our house from recycled materials so he’s pretty good at making anything, he’s a do-er and it was good for me to meet him as I was leaving to go to Victoria and if I hadn’t of met him I would have left, I probably wouldn’t off stayed. His work is tied to being here but we do travel a bit because he works seasonally so having an online business helps with the flexibility in that. I do a lot of the online editing and the beauty of that is we can be anywhere, up north or over seas and you wouldn’t know where we are posting from.
Do you take on particular responsibilities that play to your strengths?
Tanya: We equally share the load and discuss and turn over everything together,
Rose: We don’t like making decisions when it doesn’t serve both of us well, it’s actually worked really well like that, we discuss everything, but I think we both know what the other is going to think of the different ideas we have and that comes from working closely and sharing everything.
Tanya: I think Rose is more business minded and sensible and from the financials point of view is really talented and adept at that side of things, I mean I can muddle my way through that kind of stuff but it’s not really my strength. I think my strengths are when taking on more of a creative role, but having said that I think Rose is just as creative and makes a lot of creative contributions also as she has a great eye for aesthetics etc.
Rose: It’s pretty good because I can drive a lot of that stuff, pre planning comes easy to me, its a good combination. We can both do all aspects of the business and adjust based on if the kids are sick or if we are away and things like that.
Who and/or what inspires you both?
Tanya: I am consistently and constantly inspired by Rose. We've worked our asses off to get the business up and running and off the ground and then worked even harder to run ecolosophy especially in it’s first year and I think there has been times when our energies have ebbed and flowed, one of us can be running ahead whilst the other is getting dragged behind. But I am constantly amazed by Rose, for example I have just had the worst flu that has dragged on for the last few weeks and I could barely run the household and Rose just happily picked up the flag and carried on. It’s a great feeling that I don’t have to worry because I know that stuff keeps going on…Plus there is a lot of stuff that it’s only in hindsight that you realise happened because of the forward planning and that’s Rose’s doing…I’m a bit more of a flibbity jibbit, ‘Go hard and gung ho in this direction then stop and look around.' I hate to say it because there are a lot of blogs and people I follow and admire but at the moment because we’ve been so head down bum up I haven’t had the chance to really explore or read some of the writers and blogs that I am interested in and inspired by. I rarely get time in between the business and the children, I know there are people out there doing awesome stuff and I occasionally see snippets of it but I can’t nail it down to a particular person or business that inspires me as such
Rose: Yeh, I must say I’m not a follower, does that sound bad…what do I mean? I mean if something is happening or someone is up in the limelight, like the' in thing' at the moment, I’ll notice it but I’m not usually likely to jump on the band wagon. I actually find a lot of inspiration from other women in this community, who might not be like minded in some ways but this place really runs because of the women, and I’m not sure the guys realise that there is just this network of mostly mums, not always mums but mostly mums who are holding families, community services, emergency services, mental health, sports…everything together to make Esperance such a liveable place. They continually are doing stuff, even when things are tough. I feel like sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am in life, I get blown away by the women in this community who have those real challenges and they just keep pulling stuff out, they might be running farms and businesses, homeschooling and bringing up fantastic children - who'll be wonderful people of our future.... I feel like as a non parent my role is to kind of play a role in the community to help make sure some of those things are happening too... I don’t think I’m inspired by a particular person who might be up in the limelight but I am inspired by ordinary people who are just you know, blasting through life and making small change which accumulate…I find myself in awe and thinking constantly ‘how do they do that?’
Tany: It was funny I was watching Bear Grylls the island which is on when the kids have gone to bed usually when I’m clicking away on the computer. One night it was on and my eldest son was had stayed up and was watching it, the one with the men was on, followed by the women and we were having lot’s of discussions about how the women approached the situations differently. He said ‘I think the men would win’ because obviously he’s a little man and he pointed out that they’d caught a crocodile and they did this and that so I asked him ‘Did you not notice that the women were taking care of each other, instead of being competitive…’ as I said this to him I realised that this is actually what women do in most communities, especially small communities like this town and the online world... the nurturing and looking after each other and although the men got lot’s of things done, the women made the point of looking after one another and that’s what women do its something that is unique in groups of women, no matter what else they are doing and what other roles they have on the peripheral, the first priority is usually to look after the people in their circles, to take care of one another.
Rose: I think the internet has really helped with a resurgence of women in business, like etsy and instagram has really helped give women permission to do what they do. I hope it can maintain that energy though, I hope it can all be kept alive and online business etc can be utilised for it’s positive side.
Can you talk a bit about your own challenges with Ecolosophy, what's been the biggest challenge?
Rose: Time! Time to keep up energy and keep connected.
Tanya: Yes, time, time is the biggest challenge!
Rose: It’s important for us to make space and after a full on time we decided to take a break after exhausting ourselves and realised that making time for our families and for me, my partner has really helped me to gain perspective as well as opened up those opportunities to be creative, to do those things you love to do like art and gardening and spending time with our respective families. I think sometimes you can get so focused, so heads down bum up in your work, especially when it’s something you are passionate about that you then tend to actually loose what your actually all about, which is not good.
Tanya: Plus the speed at which the online world is moving, the platforms on the net are moving forward at a bullet train pace and trying to keep up with that you need to, keep up, but you can’t keep up with all of it and trying not to be overwhelmed with the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all. We’ve had to be strict with ourselves and have digital detoxes and you know, do some finger painting and make play dough, get in the garden and do things you enjoy. The world will continue on without us, wether we are stressed or not.
Do you have any favourite moments or celebrations you could share?
Tanya: When I do some coding and it works :) hahaha! Well I’m not a digital native at all and in my own personal hippy tendencies I kind of eschewed digital technologies right up until the point we said ‘Ok lets make an online shop!’. hahaha :) So for me it’s been total swearing at the top of my lungs and using inappropriate language even in front of the kids to feeling pretty chuffed with myself and getting that adrenaline rush when something works. That feeling you get when you have learned something new and figured out something that you technically shouldn’t be able to do…I’ve got not formal training in this area, you know, I study at google university - don’t know how to do it? Google it :)
There is certainly a big sense of achievement in being able to create what we have created. I have worked in traditional retail but that is very different to online retail, so I feel pretty pleased with were we are at right now.
Rose: I think for me, what you mentioned about people being positive on social media is so true, there hasn’t been any real negative feedback. We really celebrated when someone we follow and really admire commented on our post!
It’s the little things really, but for me personally it’s been the power and confidence that it has given back to me, in the way that it has brought me to a space where I believe that I can be and do the things I want to do and be. There is no way I would have done anything like this when I was younger in my 20’s. I broke out of the corporate world pretty early. I think loving who you are is important and this has helped me to see my strengths and weaknesses and I’ve been able to work on all of those but now I have 100% faith that you can actually change things there has been some big disappointments for me in paid employment but I now feel like I can play to those strengths and use them to make changes even if they are just small. Running this business with Tanya has helped me believe in myself. I remember one time, I had bumped into someone I know locally in the street, she had said she’d been quite depressed and that reading and seeing what we were doing had encouraged her to get out in to the garden which had lifted her spirits so that felt pretty special, it’s just a little thing and you know we don’t often get to interact with our customers so that interaction was small but felt massive.
Has it been difficult to attract suppliers as on online store as opposed to a bricks and mortar store?
Rose: There were a few things where some companies were reluctant at the start but that doesn’t really happen anymore.
Tanya: Well, the online wold has changed so rapidly and peoples approaches to it have changed with that, there’s more trust in online shopping now and that’s changed very quickly, over the past 2 or 3 years. Theres a lot of things we hold as ideals for things we’d like which takes time to source but I think it will keep changing and growing and those opportunities will grow with it.
Rose: We could have maybe moved more quickly with it if we’d both been working full time on the business but we both have other responsibilities. We have to live life and be about what we are about too.
So how do you both like to play?
Tanya: I like being creative, I like to make things and build stuff, the kids and I make a lot of mandalas out of stones and leaves and that sort of stuff when we are out and about. I have children so we generally just do what the kids want to do, make play dough and paper aeroplanes. The boxes upstairs in the warehouse get regularly re-used as space ships and cubby house and that sort of thing. Looking around this property you don’t have to go far to find something to do, we live on this beautiful bush block. My partner and I talk a lot about this kind of thing, we would love our kids to be free and go and play, use their imagination but there is this real helicopter parent thing in society. We have ummed and ahhed about moving to the city because my partners work is constanly saying ‘move to the city’ as it would be so much easier for work if we did, but our kids have freedom here they go down and play with the ducks and the chooks, they’ve got a cubby which is their shop. They come in with frogs and we have the space to be able to easily play. I do think sometimes though more inner city spaces do allow for very playful interaction but when you get into the suburbs it’s possibly less the case. I have said to Dan, my partner ‘I don’t think I could live that way, how do people do it’ and he says ‘Well, they have theatre rooms and big tellies!’ but I don’t think I could do that. We play a lot in nature and with what’s around us.
Rose: My way to play is travel, I don’t do that all the time though. My partner is Mr Ocean he’s a diver and surfer so we like to go to lot’s of places to explore. I’m a land lover so I recently introduced him to snow boarding and he has said he likes snow boarding better than surfing
Tanya: Less sharks :)
Rose: Well yeh, there’s not much chance you’ll get eaten by something snow boarding but then again he hasn’t had an accident snow boarding so he might change his mind if he does! My volunteer work is my play as well, it’s all environmental stuff and it’s where I get to connect with people as part of committee’s which is kind of like wormy stuff but it’s really enjoyable to be part of those community organisations.
Tanya: We joked a little bit about this question, knowing you would ask it!
Because we have only just eased the pressure off and things like play has had to have purpose but having kids around forces me to leave it all and simply play…uit’s imposed on us so we take the opportunities as they arise. The other day Rose came over and we had intentions to have a business meeting and when she got here I said ‘Nope Iv’e been inspired were going to do a promotional is top motion animation for our site’ so we got creative instead, which really is initially what we hoped to do with our online business, to get creative.
Rose: I can’t say I like to play by getting my water colours out and actually painting that often, I do love that but it’s an effort and I have to get into the headspace but it’s not lost. I do it when I’m away but I honestly think that’ll be something I do later in life.
Tanya: I don’t think of it as us saying we ‘don’t’ play but rather that we take it where we can get it rather than going out and seeking it!
Rose: It’s also fair to say that we both probably spent a lot of our younger years playing :) hahaha!
Tanya: and playing up! :) hahahaha!
Rose: Yeh. I feel like this time is time to play with purpose but challenge myself and yeh paying around with boundaries and testing myself too.
Tanya: We sound very sensible, well, you sound more sensible that I do Rose :) But we have both had times of being insensible and right now and this point, we are just trying to get shit done!
Do you have any advice for others aspiring to turn an interest into a creative business?
Tanya: Oh, just do it! Just start with whatever you have even if you have the smallest capacity to do so, you will be amazed with how much you can do if you just have a crack at it! And that’s the beauty of the online world without having to make a commitment and even without making a finical commitment, you can spend 5 mins here and 10 mins there and have a play. But your not going to make any steps or get anything done in you don’t actually do anything.
Rose: People have told us ‘You can’t do this and you can’t do that’ I’ve heard that all my life and when I decided to hear that as a positive as motivation to say ‘Yeh, I can’ it’s a good reason to push yourself, see it as perhaps that person who is saying you can’t, is scared to. If you have that desire then follow your dreams, take the steps and if it doesn’t work out its only because it’s leading you down a path to something better and you have experienced what you need to experience along the way.
Tanya and Rose were so fabulous and have been very patient waiting for this post to go up (Thanks for that ladies!) They have also decided to be a little bit extra fabulous and offer subscribers and followers a 20% discount off clothing, jewellery and accessories in the Ecolosophy online store! Its great timing because they also currently have a summer lovin' sale on until 31 January so discount applies to many items already reduced!
To redeem the discount, just use the discount code PLAYUP in the checkout. Offer valid for multiple orders until the 14 February 2016. Online orders only. General terms and conditions available online. Offer valid for multiple orders until the 14 February 2016.
Happy shopping :)
Have fun - get happy!