Just a few months ago I bumped into Elly Obeney at a Support Local Craft Stall in Tunbridge Wells. Intrigued by her gorgeous stall, I instantly set off across the room to have a look - and I was delighted to find my first local (ish!) refill station. Contain Yourself was born out of a passion for sustainability and has gone from strength to strength, selling vegan, natural, sustainable beauty and household goods in refillable bottles (Elly appears at several markets a month so you can refill your bottles, you can find full details on her website, and on instagram @containyourself.tunbridgewells). This week she answers my questions in #spotlight_on for the month of August, and tells you her story . . .
In the absence of sustainable shopping options, your start-up Contain Yourself was a welcome relief when I found it! What led you to start your business?
I started Contain Yourself because I wanted to reduce plastic in my own life, but there were no refill options available locally. I started to research the idea, never dreaming that I could make it work as I had never wanted to run my own business previously. The more I looked into it the more it looked like something I could at least try, even if it didn’t work out and only lasted a couple of months. It was the right time in my life, I’d been working in an office for a couple of years and had some savings, and it kind of felt like now or never. I knew I would regret not giving it a go!
Contain Yourself is all about sustainability and re-use. Why did you choose to go down the sustainable route?
It felt completely natural to choose sustainability and encouraging people to change their mindset to reusing and refilling.
My main goal when starting Contain Yourself was to reduce plastic, but to me it felt as though that goes hand in hand with so many other environmental issues. For example, I could have just used bulk products which were cheaper, but full of chemicals instead of opting for completely natural, vegan products. It’s important to me that the products are all made in the UK, rather than the other side of the world, where it would most likely be much cheaper, but then has a much higher carbon footprint.
Do you think Contain Yourself makes it easier for people to be more sustainable? And if so, how do you think it does that?
I hope Contain Yourself helps people to be more sustainable! Ideally to be in a permanent base would be the easiest option, but unfortunately the cost of renting a premises was way out of my budget. I make sure to attend regular farmers markets so people can rely on getting their refills and always update my social media to keep people informed!
I also hope that, even if people aren’t sure about what I’m doing, it helps to raise awareness on how to live sustainably!
Starting your own business is hard, but Contain Yourself is doing so well, with a nomination for the Muddy Stiletto Awards in your first year! What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome, and do you have any advice for anyone just starting their own business?
It’s been such a fantastic year with so much positive feedback and it’s been growing much quicker than I imagined! It’s so reassuring to have been nominated for a Muddy Stiletto Award as it shows that people are supporting the idea and want to live more eco-friendly! I think one of the biggest challenges was changes peoples mindset. At the beginning I remember I emailed all my local farmers markets around Kent to offer the refill station as an eco-friendly, plastic free alternative but I got refused by quite a few as I didn’t actually make the products. Some have strictly stuck by their rules, but I’m really pleased to have convinced others that I am trying to give people a more sustainable option for shopping!
I’m no expert on starting a business, but I would say to anyone starting their own business that passion is key, I’ve found believing in my business and its goals has pushed me through the hard times and I think people pick up on my passion.
Do you have any top tips for anyone just starting out on a more sustainable journey?
I think the most important thing is to not feel too overwhelmed by all the things that need changing, but focus on making small changes as and when they feel natural in your life.
Keep an eye on Contain Yourself’s facebook (@containyourselftw) and instagram (@containyourself.tunbridgewells) for weekly updates on where to find the refill station.
Visit containyourselftw.com to find a full list of products, ingredients and prices plus a monthly planner!
Massive thanks to Elly for being part of my monthly #spotlight_on feature and for agreeing to answer my questions. If anyone in the Tunbridge Wells area would like to try some small ways of living more sustainably, go have a look at Contain Yourself, and be tempted by her gorgeous bottles and products.