Where has the time flown! We're already in the middle of Plastic-Free-July, an initiative that began in Australia back 2011 and now is a global movement bringing together communities to fight against plastic-waste and importantly provide sustainable solutions. It's a noble cause that not only showcases our tragic reliance on single-use plastics but ultimately challenges us to do better for the sake of our homes and planet.
This month we are featuring an interview with the lovely Anna Brightman from UpCircle. UpCircle pushes the boundaries on what sustainable beauty brands should look like. They embrace a closed-loop system throughout the business, everything from the upcycled ingredients to fully-recyclable packaging (no-plastics here), they are an inspiration for the industry and a brand we are absolutely delighted to be working with.
Without further ado, here's a bit of insight into UpCircle and Anna:
Where did the inspiration come for UpCircle?
We want to leave the world better than we found it, that’s why every UpCircle product is made from a core ingredient which would otherwise have been discarded. Our brand name encapsulates our core purpose: sustainability and promoting the power of the circular economy.
1/3 of all food produced is wasted. It’s one of the most wasteful industries in the world meaning that it gives companies like us a huge number of ingredients from which to do better things. Food ingredients can have powerful effects on the body - inside and out – so there’s an opportunity for us to create beauty products from food ingredients that’re being discarded yet still have much to offer the skin. For example, the UK produced 23,000 tonnes of fruit stone waste in 2012 alone, so we released our “fruit stone range”, within which each product is made with the powder of a different discarded fruit stone.
How many years in the making?
It all started about four years ago now. One morning on his way to work at his previous job my brother Will (co-founder) asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites.
Will decided it was a great starting point for a business idea, but wasn’t sure what that idea was – that’s where I came in. Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist, so I always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so… that was our lightbulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products?
Were you always involved in the beauty / self-care industry? If not what lead you here?
No, not formally! Before starting UpCircle I was as an area manager for a well-known UK supermarket, managing several stores. It gave me fantastic insight into logistics, stock control, staffing and monitoring trends, but wasn’t necessarily something I could see myself doing forever. I didn’t want to be a small cog in a big machine! William and I both came from a secure corporate employment background, but felt ultimately unfulfilled in our roles. We wanted to start a business that had a positive impact and a purpose beyond profit.
What works for us as co-founders is that we have opposite strengths. What I am good at Will is not so good at, and vice-versa! When it comes to marketing, events or branding, we agree that I should have the final say. However, for example, managing our budget and creating our pricing strategy is definitely much more his area.
What inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I’m inspired by the amount of progress that our small team has made in such a short time. We’ve diverted vast quantities of valuable ingredients from landfill, so I’m unwavering in my determination to continue sourcing varied ingredients that are ending up being thrown away prematurely.
What’s really exciting is that now that we’ve made a name for ourselves as the skincare brand bringing the circular economy to the beauty industry, we have businesses and individuals coming to us with their leftover natural ingredients asking if we can we cook up a circular skincare solution. We’re always ready to take on the challenge! I’m eager for us to be able to offer a full skincare offering, to cater to whatever skincare concern you may have, so new product development is a big focus that keeps me motivated and pushing forwards. We’re hoping to launch 4 new products this year alone!
What’s your ultimate self-care indulgence?
I try to keep my Sundays as work-free as possible. It can be pretty hard to switch off, but it’s so important that you do! So Sundays are my self-care day… a lie in, good food, going for walks, catching up with friends, time to read a book or start a new series on TV, a face mask! All of these things I enjoy and all of these things make me feel relaxed and happy! Simple pleasures, as they say…
Do you have a favourite UpCircle product and ingredient?
My answer to this changes all the time… At the moment, during lockdown, I haven’t been wearing any makeup which I’ve quite enjoyed. The weather has also been really pleasant, which is another welcome change! I’m keeping my skincare routine simple and functional - but having to combat the effects of tiredness and stress that come with such a period of uncertainty (and endless working!!) Therefore, I’d have to say that the product I’m loving most right now is our Face Moisturiser with the powder of discarded argan shells. It’s deeply hydrating, fast absorbing and keeps my skin looking nourished and bright all day. Can’t go wrong!
What makes you most excited about UpCircle’s future?
Growing our team. With each new member we have a new wave of excitement, passion and personality! We hired our first ever staff member last year, we’ve welcomed another since, and have 2 more on the way!
Can you tell us about your most significant achievement?
It’s so hard to choose one! Having 3 dragons fighting over us on Dragons’ Den was certainly a high! Last year I won a live pitching event to Sainsbury’s buyers which led to our range being launched in their stores nationwide… that was obviously pretty amazing too. This year we launched our range into over 800 stores with one retail partner in America – that was a pretty big deal!
But if I’m completely honest I cherish the little things even more. When customers take the time to email or even send letters, showing before and afters of their skin and letting us know how much they love UpCircle – those sorts of things are what I value more than anything.
Have you seen any news recently that inspired you?
WW2 veteran Tom Moore becoming the oldest person to score a UK number one! And seeing how many birthday cards he got for his 100th birthday - that’s feel good news right there!!
We’re in undeniably troubling times, but it’s been very moving seeing some of the positivity that’s come out of the Coronavirus pandemic. The whole planet is going through the same experience, so despite us all having to physically isolate ourselves from one another, I think it’s actually been a unifying experience. It’s given us all a renewed sense of community spirit and reminded us to always look out for one another.
What was your last feel good moment?
Instagram recently created a new “Support Small Business” shoutout feature on stories. The amount of people who’ve tagged us, sharing the love to their friends and family has been really touching. I can’t believe how many come flooding through everyday – it means the world to have so many people backing us!
Do you have a favourite charity, if so which one?
I don’t have a favourite, I like to show support to different charities at different times depending on what’s going on in the world at any given point. We’ve very recently launched a new Hand Wash, we’re donating £1 to the domestic abuse charity Refuge with every bottle sold. Refuge is a UK charity providing specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic violence. We chose this charity because of the troubling new regarding the increase in domestic violence during lockdown.
Favourite spot to hang out in the UK?
Battersea Park - I live right next to it and I think it’s one of London’s best parks. I jog around it several times a week, take my nephew to feed the ducks or to the zoo, I have picnics with my friends, watch the canoers on the river play tennis with my sister. It’s got so much to offer and I feel very lucky to have it on my doorstep!
What’s the closest thing to real magic?
I became an Auntie for the first time last year, that ongoing experience feels pretty magical!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Either flying or being able to breathe under water… or both, if that’s not too greedy!
Baths or showers?
90% of the time showers, but I do love a nice long bath in the winter.
Thank you Anna! That was a ton of fun! If you've never tried UpCircle products they are truly fabulous. We now have them on the site as refillable so be sure to check them out!
The charrli team,
Monica & Chloe xx