Settle down for another #COVIDCREWSTORIES, this time we catch up with our very own AIDU host, the radiant Polly Barsby. Polly’s been with us for a while, starting off in the music office, taking a detour as floating handywoman to managing our “pimping” Shambala Stage greenroom. Before the pandemic, you’ll have found Polly in theatre worlds (as actor and facilitator), venue manager and “beautifier.” We hear how this year as led her to focus on her own earthkind skincare business.
Let me take you back to 4 years ago lying on the floor exhausted, a small puddle of hopeless tears. I’d been struggling with chronic pain and migraine for years and now had been diagnosed with Hashimotos – no not a character from the sequel of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, but an underactive thyroid with a host of its own unpleasant characteristics.
I knew something had to change.
Nature has the Answer
Being a plant fanatic, I knew that if you give an organism the right environment and nourishment it can overcome most diseases. Thus began a complete overhaul. What I ate, what I drank and crucially – what I put on my skin. I hit google and delved into my botanical and herbalist books. My diet transformed and my bathroom cupboard was condemned. Everything had to be natural…..then it dawned on me that if it was natural products I wanted to use, then I could surely make them myself?
A month later I had mixed my first meticulously researched face oil that delivered all the nutrition my temperamental skin needed without polluting either my body or the planet. It smelt like heaven and made me feel like a queen….Not only that but people kept asking how I was looking so well! Thus began my (retrospectively illegal) side hustle as a local dealer of sustainably sourced natural and organic skincare.
Technophobe with no capital to business entrepreneur
A year ago I didn’t know how to format a word document let alone formulate a spreadsheet. I just didn’t need to. Computers didn’t really feature in my career which took me from job to job, performing, creating, teaching and all the things in-between. It was a hand to mouth existence but one that led me to extraordinary places and introduced me to lifelong friends…. then LOCKDOWN.
Being self employed there was no option to sip furlough cocktails on the chaise lounge (for too long anyway). I needed a more concrete survival plan. Since my initial foray into making skincare 4 years ago, it had become quite an obsessive hobby, but not one that made me any money. I’d been on courses and had already got three products certified. I’d had great success helping friends with rosacea, eczema and acne and that was worth gold to me .
But that gold needed to be a little bit more than a fuzzy feeling if my husband and I were going to get through a global pandemic with shirts on our backs. The time was ripe to turn this little puppy into a fully grown dog. All I had to do was learn how to ‘do business’ – how hard could it be?
Turns out – quite hard. I have always been a technophobe, but with zero capital I had to learn to do everything myself: how to brand, write legal cosmetic claims, take photographs, build a website, use social media, create all singing all dancing spreadsheets, generate batch numbers. Basically how to divide myself into 10 people and still manage to actually produce a product. There was shortage of hair-pulling and quite frankly it’s a miracle my computer is still in one piece.
JUST ANOTHER PRODUCT?
One of my biggest battles was an ethical one. There were certain nagging issues keeping me up at night.
- I don’t believe in mass consumerism.
- I don’t believe we need more product packaging in landfill.
- I don’t believe in big fat-cat business.
- I don’t believe in a beauty industry that preys on people’s insecurities and makes them think they have to be a constructed version of what we are told ‘beautiful’ is.
So how could I consciously bring another product ( or ten ) into the world?
- People will buy skincare anyway so isn’t it better they buy natural and organic from a small business that has carefully researched the provenance and efficacy of ingredients?
- I decided I would sell all products in reusable and recyclable glass jars with aluminium lids where possible. Where not possible, customers would buy a plastic pump cap once and from then on buy refill bottles at a reduced price.
- I teamed up with the incredible Tree Sisters and have pledged to plant a tree for every single product sold – the VerdeKin forest has gained 270 trees in 3 months. I can’t tell you how happy this aspect of my business makes me. I’ve never had much spare cash to contribute to things I believe in and now it is built into my business on a daily basis.
- I am all about ‘real beauty’ – helping people feel the best they can in their skin whilst keeping it real. Nature has imperfections and is still beautiful so why can’t we be the same? It’s about loving ourselves from the inside out as well as the outside in.
VerdeKin means ‘green friend’. My business plan is rooted in the idea that we must have reciprocity with nature. She can teach us. She can heal us, but we must work with her not against her and we must give back when we take.
There will be improvements and lessons I will learn along the way, but this is my beginning.
I’m growing fast and still spending days clutching my head squinting (and occasionally spitting) at computer screens but the skills I’ve learnt this year have been ones I never believed I could and all because I had to.
It seems adversity really can bring about energy and change.
As bereft as I have been not to frolic in fields and work creatively in teams, I’ve been so grateful for the time to focus on just one thing. In fact I’ve never been so busy in my life. Who’d have thought 2020 would make me a business woman? I’m feeling pretty proud of VerdeKin and how productive I’ve managed to be …. But can we all just have a giant cuddle puddle now please?!