We talked to Fran Castaldelli, founder of EarthBits about health and beauty and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Fran Castaldelli: We are not doing bad thanks for asking! We have 2 young children with the youngest being born last April at the peak of the pandemic while also growing our business, so we have not had much time to get bored in the last 12 months!
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded EarthBits.
Fran Castaldelli: EarthBits started as a side project in early 2019. I was running another online business at the time, but I had also started being more environmentally conscious of my shopping habits, and using eco-products in my personal life. So I decided to launch EarthBits as a place where people like me were seeking sustainable, plastic-free, and ethical products that don’t cost the earth. One of the main drivers of launching the business was the realization that Eco-Friendly more often than not is also a synonym of Elytist, in the sense that products can be a lot more expensive than plastic packaged ones, and therefore not very affordable for the majority of people. I wanted to change that and made my mission to provide good quality products that are not only good for the planet, but that is also accessible to a vast number of people.
How does EarthBits innovate?
Fran Castaldelli: We only use plastic-free packaging and compostable materials that can be reused, recycled, and or composted. That is also true of all the products we stock, and we promote vegan alternatives and plant-based materials whenever possible. To keep costs down and pass that saving onto our customers, we use very minimalist packaging, brown labels, and simple designs. Most of the costs of a product go into packaging, which does not have any functionality, so we want to avoid this unnecessary waste.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Fran Castaldelli: For the most part, it is just making things a bit slower, as we work with smaller and ethical suppliers; production and re-stocking of products have been a bit slower than before the pandemic started. However, that has also made us focus more on our own branded products, and we have been expanding our product lines exponentially in the past few months, with a lot more in the pipeline for 2021. Some exciting ideas are boiling for the next few months here at EarthBits HQ!
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Fran Castaldelli: We had to take risks and hire staff and professionals to help us grow the different aspects of the business, even at a point where we knew we were still not profitable and in the midst of a pandemic, so there was no guarantee the business would have succeeded. But we felt we had to step back from the day to day management of the business in order to grow it. We literally went from being a team of 2 to a company of 6 within a couple of months, and are now working on some exciting new projects that we hope will further help us grow our brand.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Fran Castaldelli: We think being humble and trying to learn from other successful and experienced people is key, so we are always learning, signing up for the latest courses on what’s new in marketing, SEO, operations, leadership, etc. We believe running a business doesn’t mean having to be a pro at everything we do, but we truly believe having knowledge of how each cog works in the business engine is the best way to coordinate each and every person working for us and with us, and get the best out of the talent of our team.
We are also always asking for feedback from our customers. They know what they want and if they think we could do things better, we are always listening to them and ready to adapt and improve.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Fran Castaldelli: Plastic-free and sustainable shops are becoming more popular, and some are doing things quite well. We look at what they do, reserve engineer what they do successfully, and learn from what we believe are their shortcomings, by improving those ourselves while also still maintaining our own unique and personal voice. We never copy anybody but if we can find a good idea and make it better, that’s something we don’t think twice about!
Your final thoughts?
Fran Castaldelli: This pandemic is really a make or breaks moment for so many businesses. It is a time to adapt, to be lean, and listen to what people are craving for. And we believe with the right attitude and agility to take action, it can be a time for a business like ours to really grow and succeed while also changing the world in a positive way. What’s not to love about that?
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