S2E3 - Adele Frew of The Other Wife - Chemical Free Premium Cleaning Service

Adele Frew is the cofounder of The Other Wife. They are a chemical-free premium cleaning services. They use natural cleaning products free from chemicals and toxins.

Highlights:

  • Why Adele’s background is not an issue to developing a solution in the cleaning services industry.
  • The favourite app Adele uses in researching chemical-free products
  • What is driving awareness and interest in natural alternative products
  • The problem with harsh chemicals used in our cleaning products
  • How to run a business and create you own cleaning products
  • Mushroom based product packaging is an alternative to plastics

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Transcript

[0:08] Will: Welcome back to the Green Element podcast where we feature business leaders and innovators transforming their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. I’m your host Will Richardson and I can’t wait to meet our guest today and help you on your journey of sustainability. Today’s podcast with Adele is a fascinating way to understand how to grow a business from literally nothing. She has worked out a way to produce her materials almost out of thin air. She basically makes environmentally friendly cleaning products, and cleans offices and residential houses to a very, very high standard. Listen to this episode, you’ll understand how to implement environmentally friendly cleaning. Adele, welcome to the Green Element podcast, thank you so much for coming on today. I’m really excited to speak to you because you specialize in chemical free premium cleaning service, you work in domestic and commercial, cleaning offices, communal areas and flats, and specialized in one off cleans for holiday rentals and homes. But you only use environmentally friendly products, and you make them yourself, I can’t wait to hear more. Welcome to the show.

[1:37] Adele: Thank you very much for having me on. And yes, everything you’ve said is 100% accurate, we do make our own products and our ingredients are readily available, most of which is bicarbonate of soda, and vinegar, as well as essential oils. The combination of different elements together can really cut through some of the grease and victim grime and stuff like that, which is something we’re very proud of.

[2:09] Will: What got you into this? I mean, were you in cleaning before and you kind of thought actually, you know what we could do this better by using natural ingredients or what kind of put you through?

[2:20] Adele: I do not have a background in cleaning at all, actually. But I am a consumer, I guess of other cleaning companies and the services and I do find that the service that is available in England is not of the highest standard, let’s say they do a very quick clean, I find it’s not entirely perfect every time and of course they use bleach and other chemicals that everybody is accustomed to. So, I want to start a cleaning business that offers a more premium service, I want to, you know, when our clients come home, and we’ve been into clean, I want them to feel like wow, you know, we’ve done such a good job. And because of the essential oils that we use, the house smells really nice when we’re finished. And that’s kind of why we wanted to get into the business to basically offer a better service. And then the products themselves came about because I think the world is becoming more aware of the toxins that are lurking everywhere. And if we can just change a little bit of what we use, and what we do, and make a tiny little change, it will all add up, eventually it will all add up. And of course, the more people that become committed to making these little changes, I think, obviously have a bigger impact on the environment and the world that we live in.

[3:49] Will: Was there a learning curve for you? I mean, how do you learn how to make cleaning products, do you just Google it?

[3:56] Adele: There are recipes available online, one of my favorite apps is Pinterest, and I get a lot of information from there. There’s lots of people doing this, you know, I think there’s more and more people are aware of the chemicals that we have. And actually, a lot of people are becoming allergic to some of the chemicals that we use in our day to day lives and I think that drives a lot of people to find an alternative product. And because the market is still learning, let’s say, the people are doing it just for themselves, basically to try and eliminate some of the allergies and stuff that they have. But yes, it’s trial and error and of course, some things work better than others and it’s just a matter of kind of figuring that out.

[4:42] Will: It’s amazing how dependent we are on those chemicals. I remember speaking to a co over there 20 years ago now, it was a pretty small show in London, and I would imagine that they would probably quite new because it really was quite a small show. It was not about cleaning; it was just about natural products or all in. And they were like, he basically made our products at home. That said and that was 20 years ago, where we’re having essentially the same conversation. Now 20 years later, are we going to be having the same conversation in 20 years’ time? I mean, these chemical companies have got such a hold over us and I’m not going to go into conspiracy theories, because that’s actually not what I think, I just think that we are stuck in our ways, aren’t we? It’s like the people that say, oh, yeah, you should leave your lights on because it’s more energy to turn it off and on. Well, it was the 70s, but it isn’t now because that was purest electric, that is that kind of ploy, isn’t it? We’re very much stuck. Oh, well, bleach is the best because it’s the best.

[5:53] Adele: Nothing else works. Yeah, I totally agree. And probably, hopefully you won’t be having this conversation in 20 years’ time with somebody else just kind of trying to do the same thing. Because I really believe that a lot of people are becoming more aware and actually wants to make a change. 

[6:10] Will: Do you find that people are using your services because you make and use natural ingredients or is it because you do a good job or is a mixture?

[6:23] Adele: I think our unique selling point is the fact that we do use own products and people are, yeah, I keep saying the same thing. But I people are becoming more aware and with the increase in allergies as well, it does drive people to find an alternative.

[6:40] Will: I guess. I mean, I asked quite a lot of shops and I’m always asking businesses, what their customers are thinking about sustainability. For example, I was talking to a guy who runs a carpet sharing franchise, not franchise but group of shops. And I was asking if people came in and said, oh, do you have environmentally friendly carpets and he was like, actually, no, not really. And so, I still don’t think that people are but it’s nice that people are going out and actually physically looking for you, as a company as well. And I guess the more we talk about it, and the more than people realize that it’s not a superior product, to use, superior in the fact that sustainable, but superior in the fact that actually it does equally is good a job. And we always hear about natural cleaning products not being as good as the chemical equivalent, does that come down to the person cleaning as well as how you may–?

[7:42] Adele: You ask such difficult question; how can I say? But again, I would say yes, I think it is all about personal choice, you know, some of our products, yes, you have to put in a little bit of elbow grease. But surprisingly, not as much as I would have thought, you know, it’s, put the product on and you leave it for a while and then you can, after 10, 15 minutes, whatever, come back, and then you can, you do need a little bit of elbow grease, but it’s up to the person making doing the clean, I guess. Yes, I think it is both. I think you know, some of the harsh chemicals not only affect the environment, but obviously you are, let’s say for example, we’re talking about an oven cleaner, you are inhaling the chemicals as you’re using the product, as well as the product, potentially degrading some of the interior of the oven. So, you have that sort of as well as what’s happening in the environment. Because our products are natural, it doesn’t have that same effect. You know, it is just taking off the grease, basically. And it can be baked on grease as well

[8:49] Will: How long have you been running this company?

[8:52] Adele: We’re very new actually, we only started earlier this year 

[8:57] Will: So, what were you doing before this? 

[9:01] Adele: I don’t think we have enough time to discuss all of that. I have a lot of sort of different hobbies and things that I devil in. I like interior design and I’ve done courses that match. Previously, when I left school, I became a chef. So, none of these things have anything to do with what I’m doing now and what I want to focus on now. But yeah, I’m passionate about making changes and I know that it’s only little changes, but I really believe that the overall effect of that will be enormous.

[9:33] Will: Looking back at your previous experience, would you say it has been a sustainable common theme through it? Or is it something that you kind of woke up, New Year’s Eve, it was early this year, you know, New Year’s Eve, you are going to be more environmental, this is ridiculous where we are or has it been a growing kind of concern of yours and as amalgamated into what it is you’re doing now 

[9:59] Adele: It’s an amalgamation, I think what’s happened is because the media is, I want to say force feeding us with information. But I think it’s important that the population realize the state of the planet. You know, I think everybody can relate to David Attenborough, the Blue Planet Show, and that is really eye opening. And it may add, you know, this is devastating what’s happened or what’s happening to the world. And I listen to other podcasts, and I’m inspired by people. And I think that you know, these people out there that are discovering mushrooms and bacteria that can potentially by degrading plastic and stuff like that. And I’m like, wow, these people are amazing. Like, I wish I could do that. I wish I could be that. But I’m not that, I’m just me. And I know that these tiny little things that I can do to make a difference, not only in my life, but for my customers will actually make a difference in the long run. You know, a growing passionate, I want to make a difference, I want to help. And this is the only way that I know how because I’m not a rocket scientist, so, you know something that would be able to.

[11:11] Will: Hopefully after this, if we will go off and either use your services or if you’re not in your gardening kind of Guilford area or you’re in the southeast of England?

[11:23] Adele: Yes. You know, hopefully in time, we will be able to grow and be nationwide. I mean, that would be the ultimate goal. We could have little teams, you know, based in different areas, things like that. Because we’re so new, we do have to sort of focus and start and build our customer base and get growing. And then we can potentially, not potentially, absolutely, definitely, branch out and become nationwide. I am also looking at potentially making the product but there’s, I have to put a lot of research into that. As it is we use glass containers and of course we keep reusing them. As opposed to plastic, I would like to see if I can even change the packaging. If I can do something better than just, you know, reusing the glass, this is something else that we can do. Yeah, so maybe in some time to come, you will be able to purchase the product for yourself or home use as well. 

[12:19] Will: I pick up an accent of yours. Bear with me on this. Are you originally from the UK?

[12:24] Adele: No. 

[12:25] Will: Where are you originally from?

[12:27] Adele: I was born in Zimbabwe, and I grew up in South Africa.

 [12:31] Will: Well, I’d like to ask you is you talked about, you know, it’s been amalgamation of events that has enabled you that kind of got you to this point of where you are sustainably? Would you say that if you had lived your life in, say South Africa, because you went from Zimbabwe to South Africa, you’d be in the same position now? Or do you think that the, I guess interactions, the media and your influences in UK has accelerated your thought process? I’m just curious, from a cultural point of view or your thoughts on that. Because I would imagine the thoughts about that. They’re not being from the UK. 

[13:11] Adele: You know, I wonder if because the media is sharing with us, the state of the planets basically, more regularly now. The information is, you know, so 20 years ago, when I was in South Africa, it wasn’t on everybody’s agenda to think about environmental situations and what is going on in the state of the planet, that kind of thing. So, it’s hard for me to say if that’s what it was. I definitely think that being here in the UK has helped the situation because maybe we have better media coverage here. I’m not sure if if that’s even accurate, so please.

[13:49] Will: No, I’m just really, absolutely just curious. Because you may talk to friends and stuff in South Africa, and you’ll have gauged and they’ll be like really, you’re doing that or yeah, that’s quite normal, or you know, I literally don’t know.

[14:03] Adele: No and because I left so long ago, I also feel unqualified really to kind of answer your question, because when I was living there, that was not my main concern. My main concern was living there, and things are very different there and I don’t really want to talk too much about that. But I think my focus at that stage was to just leave the country.

[14:25] Will: Fair enough. It’s just always interesting to know what’s going on around the world and not being kind of Britain’s bubble, as it were, particularly.

[14:38] Adele: Yeah, so I’ve moved from South Africa to here, and then I’ve moved to Australia. I lived in Australia for 12 years, as well, and I married. And they, I think, are also very, very much in an understanding of the state of the world and I think the media coverage there is also on par with the UK.

[14:59] Will: Oh, that’s interesting. That’s interesting, because that’s not what you get from your Facebook feeds, with the politicians that are around in Australia at the moment and the decisions that are being made around. 

[15:12] Adele: It’s really hard, I think, because I think that the whole planet is going through a change. And I don’t want to get into politics at all, because I am not qualified to talk about it. But I think everybody’s focus is on kind of that change in our lives, in our world, basically, I mean, the States as well as here, and like you said, Australia as well. But there’s kind of like two bubbles, so it’s either like a political bubble or an environmental bubble.

[15:40] Will: No, I agree. I agree, I think the US is a prime example of that, with what’s going on. You know, I think, interestingly, I think that they are probably one of the leading countries from a sustainability point of view. Personally, I know that doesn’t look like that from the outside but some of the stuff that, you were talking about, say mushrooms, but breaking down plastics, think I have heard about that. I don’t know where they’re from, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re from the US, put it that way. It’s that kind of stuff that’s going on and I think that’s what you’re talking about. 

[16:16] Adele: I can’t actually add more to that, because I haven’t read the article. 

[16:21] Will: The other one is mushroom packaging. 

[16:23] Adele: Okay. Yeah, I mean, mushrooms are amazing, of course, for many different things. You know, not only using different products can people make changes, everyone’s very much aware of the plastic situation in the world. And if we do all make those little changes, like changing from cling wrap to that beeswax wrap, for example, or the silicone, like, it’s almost like a lid that you can pull over a container to seal it and that sort of thing. Those are all of the things that those little changes that we can make too, you know.

[16:56] Will: Brilliant. So, you’re going to expand across the whole UK in the future, you’re going to help us understand how we can use natural products in cleaning of homes. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for enabling us to understand your journey and what it is that got you into this and where you see yourself. It’d be great to have you on in a year or two’s time, to find out where you are and what you’re doing.

[17:26] Adele: That would be awesome.

[17:29] Will: Brilliant. Thank you very much, Adele, thank you.

[17:32] Adele: Thank you so much for your time and the questions and hosting me. It’s been a pleasure.

[17:39] Will: Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode of the Green Element podcast. Do take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues and rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. I’d love to know what your biggest takeaway from this conversation has been. What are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them too, @GE_podcast. For links and show notes for this episode, visit our website greenelement.co.ukforward/podcast. Thank you again. I hope you will join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world.

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