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How we started elmkind...

Back in 2018 we were running an eco-friendly cleaning company, with multiple staff members, and commercial and domestic clients throughout Exeter & Totnes in Devon. One day we decided to review all the 'eco' products we were buying in to run the business. All the products had 'eco-friendly' 'planet-friendly' labels on them but looking closer, it raised the question of just how 'eco' are these products exactly? and are these 'eco' terms really credible? regulated even?

Above - Alex gearing up equipment for a big commercial student let job in Exeter.

The ingredients on the labels seemed to be either non-existent or hidden under words such as 'fragrance' and 'surfactant', so it was hard to know if what we were using was in fact as natural as we expected it to be, and not to mention the fact that everything came in plastic bottles - something that didn't seem very 'planet-friendly' at all. It was clear that a lot more research was needed.

After lots of research, we just couldn't find the type of products that we were looking for. We wanted honest products, that let us see exactly what was in the products we were using, we wanted natural and non-toxic ingredients, a lot less plastic and we needed products that actually worked well too.

So the keen at-home formulator in me decided, "well if we can't find what we are looking for, then I shall make what we are looking for, and at least then we'll know for sure that what we are using is natural, safe and non-toxic to us, our staff and our clients".

and that's exactly what we did. After lots of testing, reformulating and retesting I came up with a handful of cleaning formulations for all over the home that worked incredibly well using natural ingredients, from as locally as we could get them. Using naturally derived coconut surfactants as the main cleaning agents (instead of unsustainable palm used in most others) and other natural plant and mineral ingredients such as bicarbonate of soda, citric acid & vinegar, to help boost the efficiency of the products.

Most generic and even 'eco-labelled' cleaning products use chemical 'fragrances' and 'fragrance oils' manufactured in labs, and their toxicity is extremely questionable as they come with a lot of links to horrible diseases, so we knew we would be steering clear of any synthetic fragrances and instead opted for natural essential oils (which are extracted from plants), to give our cleaners very unique aromas.

Above - Emma cleaning a holiday let property in Exeter using the first trial of our homemade products

We rolled them out to staff and it wasn't long until we started getting bombarded with messages from clients asking "What products are you using in your cleaning? They smell incredible!" and "Where can I get these products from?". Well, we initially only wanted to make cleaning products to use in house, for ourselves and our staff, so that we knew we weren't breathing in any toxic chemicals and so that we could be as environmentally friendly as possible as a company, but as we were getting so many requests for the product, it made us think "Products like ours should be available to those who were also looking for the same ethos in a product." So we set about doing more research to see how we could make this possible.

Above - Alex mixing our cleaning formulations at home in our kitchen!

We decided that if we were going to release these products to our clients and the general public then we were only going to do so if we made them the most sustainable that we could possibly make them, and that's exactly what we did. So we sourced aluminium bottles (instead of plastic) from a UK company that had their bottles made in Spain, (the closest possible at the time) over getting cheaper ones shipped from China - we had to order 10,000 bottles in order to secure them which spent nearly all the savings we had, as we believed so much in the cause and knew there was demand out there for what we had.

We chose to only use organic ingredients where they were available so we knew that in the growing process of our raw ingredients we weren't contributing to the use of harmful, toxic pesticides on our plants and soil. We also decided to offer concentrated refills as this was a way to reduce the materials needed and would reduce CO2 emissions as well, a real all-round win for the environment and a concept no one else was doing at the time.

We also decided our products needed to look completely different from the rest because that's exactly what they were, so we wanted them to be something to show off in your home and be proud of using, and a company proud of supporting. So we got together with a friend and graphic designer to help start to bring our own imagination to life.

Above - Our first test print on some bottles, which we quickly realised you couldn't read well enough! So in stepped the matt white bottles.

Skip forward to 2019 after a lot of researching and hard work and we finally had a product that was market ready and elmkind had been created. We went from taking photos ourselves in our client's properties (with permission of course), to booking in our first proper photoshoot.

Above - Emma taking the first photos of the original elmkind bottles.

We launched the new business at our local and super small Chudleigh plastic free market and were incredibly blown away with the sheer volume of people that came to support us and buy our products! So much so we pretty much sold out of everything.

Above - (left) Me & Alex prepping for our launch day! (middle) Alex at our first ever market stall on the elmkind launch day! 3rd August 2019 (right) One happy chappy sending out our first ever online order!

We started getting our products into local refill stores and did as many markets as possible to spread the word on all things natural cleaning.

Above - (left) Our products pride of place in Exeter's most popular refill store 'Nourish' (right) Our concentrated refills on tap in our local refill store 'Bovey Larder'.

All whilst still running our cleaning company and making our products by hand at our home, and fulfilling orders in our (very cold!) home garage, as pictured below.

Skip forward nearly 5 years with many market stalls held, a lot of online orders, 1 wedding, 1 baby, a new unit, and over 20,000 plastic bottles saved from landfill (Wahoo!!), we're still here fighting the good fight.

Our products 11 (and growing!) are now used in lots of UK households, in holiday lets up and down the country and in many stores throughout the UK, including the RSPB's online store. Our products are also still used daily in many cleaning companies throughout the UK who want to offer a more natural solution to the mainstream offerings, (including the one we used to own which was split and now both have lovely new owners).

Our community is still organically growing and our ethos very much remains the same and we still continue to try and educate others of the dangers most generic cleaning products possess and the natural yet effective alternatives that are available.

Above - elmkind products in use at a commercial cleaning job in Exeter

Thanks for taking the time to read our story, we hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane as much as I did writing it.

With kindness,

Emma x

Above - A recent photo of co-founders Alex & Emma with baby Luna 🌙 - Sidmouth Sea front


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