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The Growth Diaries
The Growth Diaries is a series of content following the Growth Grant to share more about the impactful brands in the ecommerce and DTC space.
Following the overwhelming number of applications we’ve received in the past month, we’ve picked out ten brands that stood out to us with their impact on the planet, society, and their communities.
Reducing plastic waste through eco-friendly household products
“Happy Human is special because we are a community of positive people trying to make a difference with what we have, however we can. We believe that no action is too small and collectively, we’ll be able to make big waves.” - Vinnie Ong, Founder, and CEO.
Happy Human is an eco-friendly start-up based in Sydney that creates refillable "just-add-water" household products to reduce single-use plastic waste and carbon emissions.
Founder and CEO of Happy Human, Vinnie Ong shared that as an avid scuba diver, she watched her favorite diving spots turn into plastic dumping grounds. She started cutting down on her own single-use-plastic consumption, but couldn't find everyday essentials that were accessible, affordable, and effective. She realized she wasn’t the only one and eventually left her corporate career in 2019 to start Happy Human.
After almost 2 years working with some of the best scientists and designers across Sydney and Melbourne, Happy Human found a solution by condensing ingredients into convenient dissolvable cleaning tabs wrapped in compostable paper packaging. Just like Berocca but for hand wash or surface cleaner - simply drop the tab into the forever-use bottle and add tap water. Then refill with their money-saving tabs that cost $3-4 each.
Their mission is to make sustainable choices accessible to everyone by reimagining household products to be better for you, your wallet, and our planet.
Creating healthy and nutritious ready-made meals that are sustainably-sourced
“I was hugely motivated to start Lune + Wild to help other parents like myself. I’ve always felt conflicted between providing nutritious and varied meals for my family, but I had so little time on my hands... I always felt so stretched! Shop-bought ready-made meals are often ultra-processed and high in sugar, which left me feeling guilty. I thought there has got to be a convenient, healthy, and sustainable way to feed my family?!
Having Lune + Wild in the freezer helps me enjoy more precious time with my family, which is the greatest gift of all. It brings me so much joy to know we are now helping hundreds of other families too.” - Nadia Simonds, Co-founder.
Lune + Wild is a Mum and a Chef team on a mission to help busy parents raise healthy children, with their nutritious meals. Co-founders Nadia and Lara shared that when they came to wean their babies, they realized how few fresh, truly healthy, and tasty options were available, which left them with making every baby meal from scratch themselves. They believed there had to be a better way to offer parents time-saving convenience, without compromising on any of the nutritional benefits or flavor and deliver it in a way that is sustainable for the planet too.
So they teamed up with a Paediatric Dietitian to design a seasonal menu of varied and interesting meals—all plant-rich and focused on savory flavors (in contrast to the sweetened meals in the supermarkets). They sampled as many Mums and Dads as they could find, and within 3 weeks, 85% of them had been in touch with Lune + Wild to order some more. They launched their website the following month, left their jobs and it took off from there!
Initially, all the meals were made at home, but they quickly outgrew their kitchen. They were lucky to get a place at Mission Kitchen, an accelerator for food start-ups with either an ethical or sustainable mission, and have since scaled their operations.
Advocating for zero-waste in everyday grocery shopping
Roots & Hoots is an online zero-waste supermarket committed to resolving plastic pollution. They deliver vegan, plastic-free groceries, personal care, and cleaning products straight to their customer’s doors via eco-friendly electric vans and look to eliminate waste through an exciting new closed-loop system concept, utilizing reusable packaging and refillable products.
Their vision is to move from a throwaway economy to a reuse economy to lessen the impact of regular shopping on our planet.
Making bathtime plastic-free for kids
“A child born today in the U.K. will use 50,000 single-use plastic items in their lifetime. I have a son, and he told me this was rubbish!! At Rowdy Kind we are on a mission to make bath time plastic-free. We make the world’s first entirely plastic-free skincare for kids’ sensitive skin. We’re on a mission to make bath time plastic-free because my son and all the other kids in the world deserve better. “ - Kate Tilbury, Founder.
Rowdy Kind started with a series of challenging questions from Founder Kate’s son Chris, then 7, during bath time one evening: “Why do we use plastic bottles if they are so bad?” and “Why are you still using baby shampoo on me?” The search for a better bathtime solution was on! Kate wanted something that was made of high-quality ingredients and specifically formulated for kids’ sensitive skin, and Chris wanted something that wasn’t for babies, gender-neutral (not pink vs blue), was “cool and fun” and most importantly plastic-free.
It didn’t take them long to figure out that they were going to have to make it themselves and that was how Rowdy Kind was born. They make plastic-free body care for Rowdy Kids.
Everything they do is with kids in mind first and foremost. From bathtime, where their bars are specifically formulated for kids' unique skin & hair needs, to partnering with local and national organizations who help ensure kids have the brightest future.
Creating customizable and environmentally-friendly shoes
“At SALUBATA, our mission is to invent lifestyle technologies that help people and the planet. Our brand name SALUBATA is derived from a Yoruba origin that means shoes that never wear out. The zip lines that firmly hold your feet together are what does the magic; they never get ruined even when you decide to catch a moving train or you need to hurry in a cab. - Fela Akinse, Founder.
The plastic plague in many countries is visible and inescapable. Even moderate rain showers cause flooding because the drainage system is choked with trash, most of it bags, water bottles, and other items made from plastic. In one year alone, over 381 million [metric tons] of plastic waste is produced around the world and the sad part is only 9 percent of this waste is recycled.
So the thought of converting plastic waste into shoes was founded.
The global footwear industry produces about 30 billion pairs of shoes annually. Most of the shoes are made of petroleum-based plastics, foams, and rubbers. On the flip side of the demand for new petroleum-derived material for shoes is the staggering amount of plastics that go to a landfill every year.
They wanted to do something that impacts an everyday part of people’s lives. Plastic waste is always around and they have always looked for ways to help the environment. They believe these customizable shoes from SALUBATA could help stamp out plastic waste in its entirety.
Giving back to the planet and community while making pain relief more accessible
Ryan Gresh, Founder and CEO of The Feel Good Lab shared, “I spent the first decade of my career as an engineer in the aerospace industry, but after my dad shared an incredible success story that he had achieved at our family Pharmacy—I knew that we needed to bring his innovations from our small Connecticut community to the rest of the world.”
His dad told the story of a patient in chronic pain who had spent thousands on potent pain medication for many years, and nothing seemed to work. That was until they gave her a prototype of what turned out to be their Natural Pain Cream—30 incredible ingredients formulated to support a healthy inflammatory response, improve blood flow and address the underlying root causes of pain.
When his dad told the story of that patient calling the pharmacy in tears when she learned that it would be weeks before we had another batch, Ryan knew that if they had the ability to make this sort of impact on one single person's life, then they had to do whatever it takes to bring this to the world. That was how The Feel Good Lab was born.
Today, the team continues to bring the innovations out of their family Pharmacy and Functional Medicine practice. Most recently, they launched a new line of clinical-grade supplements that help to support the underlying root causes of pain and improve our patients’ overall health— when paired with their FDA registered topical pain relievers, they’re are seeing incredible results! They call it Fighting Pain With Wellness™.
Empowering communities while cultivating mindfulness with daily play
“The name Ordinary Habit stemmed from the belief that it's the everyday rituals in our lives that become what makes us who we are. In a world filled with so much digital stimulation, we set out to create products that would bring tactility and playback to the forefront of how we spend time both alone and together, with a focus on slowing down. We wanted to make activities that could be a part of your day – whether that's puzzling for five minutes with your cup of tea in the morning, or bringing out our matching cards for an afternoon break.” - Echo Hopkins, Co-founder.
Ordinary Habit was founded with a simple purpose: to create artful objects, designed to be both fun and functional, that would help people access habitual moments of calm and connectedness.
Founders Teresa and Echo Hopkins, a mother-daughter duo, believed in the transformative nature of something perfectly ordinary: daily play.
They set out to create products that would be simple to use, beautiful to look at, and luxurious in quality. Starting with a line of jigsaw puzzles, they have now expanded the collections to include matching cards and accessories for home and life.
Each item they offer is meant to serve as both a reason to gather together with friends, and as an escape for individuals in search of quietude—games to be brought out at a party, or used as a form of tactile meditation throughout the day.
Reinventing experiences at festivals with innovative backpacks
“What makes lunchbox special, in the long run, is the deeply emotional, communal core of the business. Our greatest strength is our ability to connect people—of all ages, sexes, ethnicities, demographies— who have never met before. Whether it's an event in Miami, an overseas adventure in Croatia, or a home-grown event, our packs bring people together. The shared values of our community - togetherness, inclusivity, open-mindedness - bring people together like you wouldn't believe. Our superpower is the people who lift us up, who in turn we support with the full strength of our platform. “ - Tom Worcester, Founder.
Lunchbox was founded at an event in Miami called Ultra Music Festival in 2018.
There were three stand-out occurrences over the three-day event that helped Tom Worcester, Founder of Lunchbox Packs realize how they could finally give back. He shared, “First, security told me my bag was too big. They confiscated it and I was left frantically trying to stuff all my belongings into my friend’s tiny CamelBak. Second, the hour-long water lines caused me to miss the artist I was most excited to see. Third, several friends had iPhones stolen by professional pickpockets, who come prepared to slice flimsy bags and spot unguarded pockets.”
Inspired by these three unfortunate incidents, Tom made it his mission to find a solution to the most common festival-related problems. His team began to research, conceptualize, engineer, and finally, they began to build. They interviewed hundreds of people to fully understand how they experience festivals, how they think about theft, how they think about water, and recorded absolutely everything. They went through prototype after prototype, never truly satisfied in their relentless pursuit of a perfect product. They hired the design team that did the Burton Ski&Snowboard bag line, who took this bag from “good” to “great” to “oh-my-god-amazing”. They visited factories all over the world to make sure that they could bring this dream to life, with rigorous quality standards applied every step of the way.
Making mental health resources readily available for everyone
“We believe in making thoughtfully designed, research-backed mental health resources. We also believe that a person's financial status should not hinder their access to mental health support—that’s why, if you or someone you know could benefit from our resources but it’s not the right time financially—please reach out to us directly!” - Naveed Avery, Founder.
The core product at Switch Research is their Self-Love Journal.
They started this brand during the height of the pandemic when fear was at its peak—and everyone's mental health was being tested. Some people had the luxury of being able to see a therapist, but many did not, and so the team at Switch Research decided they needed to do something to help.
They collaborated with over a dozen therapists and researchers to create a journal that would have a measurable impact on a person's self-compassion.
Their goal was to develop high-quality, science-backed mental health resources—and to make sure they were accessible to everyone, which is why they also offer a scholarship program for those who might not be ready financially.
Their community grew quickly, and that pushed them to develop resources that addressed other topics such as emotional regulation, trauma, grief & loss. They’ve been entirely bootstrapped up until now and every dollar they make is being poured into developing high-impact mental health resources for the community.
Putting the planet and people above everything else with sustainably-sourced food and compostable packaging
“At Sun & Swell, we're focused on building a healthier, more sustainable food system. This includes offering only organic, real foods - grown on earth, not in a lab - and packaging them in compostable packaging that turns back into the soil. We're a pioneer when it comes to moving the packaged food industry away from single-use plastic, and we are passionate about creating a more circular food system that nourishes both people and the planet.” - Kate Flynn, Co-founder, and CEO.
Sun & Swell has always been a company that stands for quality, organic, whole food that is free from heavy processing and harmful ingredients like preservatives, added sugars, and other chemical additives. Their journey started with a desire to make it easier for people to eat whole, real food—but it didn't stop there.
They went beyond to make sure that Sun & Swell fixed a very broken packaged food system. The packaged food world as people know it today (think: products that line the aisles of grocery stores) was hurting the health of individuals and our planet—and they were determined to fix that.
Over the years, the company had grown and their team was having increasing concerns over their use of single-use plastic packages that end up in the oceans and landfills. Like other brands found in the grocery stores today, they were primarily purchasing and distributing flexible packaging (stand up pouches) made from plastic that was NOT recyclable and remains on earth for hundreds of years after being used. This is a little-known issue for consumers but widely understood by the packaged food industry—though it is considered acceptable because it's viewed as the only way that packaged food can survive the trip through the distribution system and multi-year shelf life in distributor warehouses and on store shelves. Plus, "it's what everyone else does".
Sun & Swell never viewed things that way.
They’ve always wanted to be more than just a food company—they’ve wanted to stand for something. That led them to formalize their commitment to making the lives of their employees, community, and customers better by becoming a certified B-Corp and joining 1% for The Planet in 2017.
Making a difference
We’ve listed ten brands that have enacted change in their communities and we recognize that there are plenty more in the ecommerce and DTC space. With that said, the team at ReferralCandy is constantly looking for ways to celebrate the achievements of these brands and to help them grow.
If you know of any impactful brands in your network that are actively making a difference, do let us know by mentioning us on Twitter.
Subscribe to our newsletter and keep a lookout for this space as well because there’s more to come in our Growth Diaries.