In our first #LadyBossInterview of the year, meet Gaayathri Periasami, co-founder of Baby Peppers, a socially conscious brand based in Bendigo, Australia providing ethically-made baby goods which are carefully handcrafted by skilled artisans in India. Products include fun and colorful wooden toys sourced from a fair trade co-operative in Karnataka, beautiful handwoven baskets sourced from Baladarshan, a world renowned fair trade organization and designer baby quilts. In addition, Baby Peppers is the only Australian store to stock Kateson, an American brand that has redefined the concept of pure ‘organics’ for babywear. Read on to learn more.
For our readers that are being introduced to your brand for the first time, please share with us what is Baby Peppers and the story of how it came to be?
Baby Peppers is a novelty artisan store that specializes in products created with traditional vintage crafts. Our niche is in creating baby and kids’ block printed textile collections but we do stock other products that have been made from traditional crafts. The store was born out of a personal need. The need to satisfy nostalgia – a longing to revive centuries old art forms and the need to amplify slow fashion but overtime my branding has become synonymous with the notion of motherhood and ensuring that parents have access to a wholesome shopping experience full of ethically crafted goods that will last a lifetime.
Both Nathan (your husband) and yourself founded Baby Peppers in 2016, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and upbringings?
Nathan and I both grew up in Singapore and it took us over 20 years to realize we had been living in Plato’s cave and there is more to the eye than we have been let on. Growing up, we were generally the odd ones because we were always on a different wave length to the generic mass. Even though I have fabulous parents who believed in learning through freedom, there was a lot of external influence to conform to the status quo and not question what you are being told. This stifling and sterile atmosphere was a huge hindrance to our creative and free spirits and we are both incredibly grateful for what we have achieved in Australia.
What's the meaning behind the brands name?
The name for the business was actually inspired by ‘Apple’, the company. I wanted something vibrant, fun-spirited, playful and childlike to reflect my brand identity and the name ''Baby Peppers'' just sprung to mind with the red, yellow and green colors! I initially went for Bell Peppers but that was already a registered business so I stuck with Baby Peppers.
The birth of your son inspired you to create your own online social enterprise kids store. In what way?
Before I had kids, I didn’t even stop to think what ethical consumption or shopping really meant. It was only when I was shopping for my son after his birth, I found that most baby items in the general stores were just cheap, flimsy products and were not meant to last a lifetime. I was determined to change that and felt compelled to provide a solution for any parent looking for a practical but ethically made everyday essentials for their babies such as nursery bedding, toys and blankets.
Baby Peppers handwoven recycled baskets are ethically sourced in Baladarshan, a world renowned fair trade organization in South India that helps single mothers living in the slums of Chennai. What kind of materials are used to create your designs? How do you assure that all the right steps are taken when it comes to issues such as working conditions, child labour, fair trade and sustainable practices?
All the baskets are handwoven by these amazing ladies with recycled plastics. Baladarshan is a world renowned fair trade organization with several smaller trusts under their umbrella. Obtaining a fair trade certification is no easy feat and because they are fair trade accredited, I have 100% confidence in their business plan and guarantee that their practices are fair, ethical, sustainable and the co-operatives in partnership with Baladarshan get fair wages.
How important it is to provide environmental friendly products to your customers?
Providing eco-friendly products is a paramount factor and one of the core linchpins underpinning our branding. Every item we sell has tonnes of research put into it to ensure that all our materials are kind to Mother Earth. While shopping for my first son, I generally found that stores were not transparent and bold enough to reveal what dyes they were using or how their garment making process is conducted. Transparency is one of the fundamental aspects of growing your brand so we have no reservations in sharing what materials we use, what brands are used to mix our dyes and how our fabrics and toys are colored.
What sets Baby Peppers apart from other ethical companies?
We are different because we provide an accessible solution. We educate and inform consumers the effects of cheap, mass produced baby goods and offer the solution towards a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle. Quality is very important but the number one thing that influences a customer’s purchasing power is the concept of pricing. If your products are of wonderful quality but exorbitantly high in price, then you have just built yourself a barrier and it will be hard to reach genuine consumers who want to make a change but are deterred by the price factor. If your consumers want to genuinely make a difference, why make it hard for them? However, we understand that you can’t claim good quality with a cheap pricing either so we have to work out a strategy that is mutually beneficial to both us and the consumers. By being an online store, we are able to keep our overhead costs to a minimum plus our profit margins are pretty low to ensure that our consumers are always the ones who benefit the most out of this deal.
You have partnered with Kateson, an American brand offering sustainable baby clothes and accessories? Can you tell us more about this collaboration?
When I first heard about Kateson, I was blown away by their garment making process. Their organic cotton onesies are hand dyed in Ayurvedic herbs and botanicals and the result is not only a beautiful hue but also plenty of wellness benefits for little ones. And the buttons on the onesies are made from coconut husks so there is not an ounce of anything chemical on the garment. What is even more meaningful is their investment and partnership with organic farmers, tribal groups, herb cultivators and environmental conservation. This is such an amazing achievement so I felt I needed Australian moms to also experience such goodness. I personally have the vetiver onesie known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic quality and I know that the onesie will be an heirloom piece as both my kids have worn it and despite repeated washes, the quality is still amazing.
How important it is to maintain "slow-fashion", high-quality practices in an industry that's always changing and asking for more?
Pricing is always the sticking point but if you can be smart and ethical about your business model, I think slow fashion will become the norm and will be part of your everyday life just like how bread and milk may be part of your daily family life.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is always hard but with some proper planning, it can be achieved as least to a desired extent. I’m currently on maternity leave so it is much easier to juggle work/life when you don’t actively have a full time job to go to. I try to do all my work for the business when the kids have their afternoon nap or after they have gone to bed at night. It’s not the most ideal solution but it works well for me because my family comes first and I am happy to spend the day with them and do some productive work at night.
Gaayathri, was working with Nathan something you've always wanted to do? If so, why?
Working together with my husband was always something I envisioned. Nathan is very hands-on, practical, and great with numbers so he sets the pricing strategy, files my taxes, iron presses the blankets before sending them off for orders and generally does all the packing as well. Nathan runs his own business as well being a qualified mechanic with his own workshop.
As women entrepreneurs, what do you think are the most significant obstacles to women’s leadership?
As contradictory as this may sound, the most significant obstacle to a woman’s leadership is the lack of support and encouragement from fellow women entrepreneurs. You can never stop a determined woman from setting out to what she so craves but the moment someone disses her, compares and does some serious judgement, it’s so hard to move one and women just become crushed. More than a supportive family, I think it’s incredibly important for women to have a tribe full of like-minded individuals and businesses right behind her soothing her soul.
What kind of legacy do you aspire Baby Peppers to leave in the "slow-fashion" industry?
I aspire to leave a legacy of giving, kindness and leadership. The purpose of giving back is the lifeline of the brand so I want the brand to be synonymous with a lifetime of giving and intentional. I want Baby Peppers to be known for its kindness. As a business, you don't have to be ruthless or arrogant to get by. You don’t have to cut corners for fear of others taking advantage of you. There are so many positive things you can achieve with silence and kindness. Lastly, I want Baby Peppers to be known for its leadership especially from a woman entrepreneur.
Do you ship worldwide? Where can customers find your products?
Yes, we definitely ship worldwide. Customers can find our products online at babypeppers.com.au and we are also very active on Instagram and Facebook so potential customers can connect with us on social media as well.
Follow Baby Peppers:
Facebook: Baby Peppers
Disclaimer: This interview is sponsored by Baby Peppers.
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