S2E24 - Taylor Gathercole, Founder of Kindwood
Eco-Entrepreneur Taylor Gathercole founded Kindwood with a simple mission: to provide people and planet kind warmth.
Kindwood’s reason for being is to transform the wood fuel sector – turning it into an industry that provides comfort to our homes and regenerates our environment.
- How is Kindwood firewoods sustainable?
- Bringing together two types of comforts
- Creating first products which are experience packs firewood tailored for specific situations and orange peel firelighters
- How they learned about orange peels as natural fireligthers
- Solving to the problem of food waste by reducing surplus orange peel waste and turning it into a fuel
- How Kindwood plans to grow the business
- Developing own audit process more than just relying on sustainability certifications
- Importance of identifying your purpose
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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.
Hello, welcome to the Green Element Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. It is a pleasure to talk. We met through our Facebook group, the Green Elements Facebook group, which is, it’s brilliant the way that’s, um, people meet now and how you can meet so many different people through so many different mediums and whether it’s online or networking meetings or et cetera. So, um, welcome to the podcast. Please tell us more about your business and what it is that you do.
Sure. Yes. So Kindwood, firstly, thank you for having me on here. That’s, you know, there’s a really exciting to be on this and this probably the first podcast to shine the light on Kindwood. So that’s, it’s pretty cool.
What’s Kindwood really? Well Kindwood in its basic form is a firewood producer. That sounds pretty wicked. You know, they’re, you know, Oh God, um, you’re, you’re burning wood and taking trees and forest and various things like that. So I think I should probably shine some light on that side of things, first of all, because that’s usually where people come straight for me.
Basically. We also want to act as sustainable as possible. So some of the most common things that we’ll try to do with Kindwood is to take the natural fittings from a woodlands so woodlands have to be thinned. So we’re going to take, we’ve got to take wood and trees out of woodlands anyway in order for them to flourish, to open up the canopies, to allow more light into the forest so that the ground foliage can grow when you have greater biodiversity and allow the other trees, the good trees, the really big trees to get bigger and bigger to absorb more carbon and various things like that. So there’s actually a natural process in which we have to thin trees. So I thought I would cover that bit first. A lot of fire wood companies are doing that now. So the real difference with Kindwood was that we wanted to be able to be a bit more purpose led and act in a way that across the entire, so process, we were, had people in the planet, be in the best interest really.
So. So the first thing we discovered is that there were two types of comforts really. So you’re going to buy firewood because you’ve got a wood burner or an open fire and it made you get it cause you went to relax or something like that. Maybe some have it for, for the actual reasons they need heating, but most people don’t include it for the pleasure of it. So you’re getting a level of comfort, you know, by relaxing and feeling at ease. Um, you know, very similar to being around your family and taking a nice long walk and various things like that. And there’s this other type of comfort that we can all actually get from doing something good, which, you know, makes us feel good inside, inside warm and fuzzy. And that normally from contributing society in a positive way or, or to the environment.
And we saw that there was actually a good coupling of those two comforts. And this is where Kindwood sort of purpose started to be born of time comfort, where we’re trying to think of a way to bring together these two forms of comforts of doing good for the planet and providing comfort to people in their homes or when they’re on an adventure outside. So that kind of, you know, where we started to come at it. And then from there on we started looking at ways we could actually implement the sustainability, which we can probably cover later on. Other than this.
Yeah. Who do you work with? Who would you sell to? Enlight what do you, are you a wholesaler? How does it work?
Sure. So we’re still very much prelaunch and we’re coming into that in the new year. So who we’re selling to, but we’re going to go and do down two channels. So we could do direct to consumer through website orders, which is mainly going to be bulk orders. So that’s where you’re going to get your vast amounts of firewood, which we’ll have for your winter months and things like that. But we’re also going to go to retail. We have some smaller items. So probably one of the most exciting ones is a different form of natural firelighters. So normally you would go out and buy the petrol based ones or these ones, which are actually a good one here, which is made of wood shavings. It’ s glued together and made of and then a distinctive wax. And that’s probably the most sustainable one on the market so far. We were like, how could we do better than that?
You know, there were so many issues around in the planet and so many natural alternatives that we can use, not to say that’s not natural, but it is actually created and it’s not just a base product. So we discovered that you can use orange peels, I don’t have it with me now, but you can use orange peels if you dry them out. They act as a natural fire lighter because they have wax in them and various things like that. So they allow for enough heat. They burn for a decent length of time to get your fire going. If they’re, you know, they are with kindling and logs and things like that. So we are looking to take that sort of product to retail and a thing which we’re going to call experience packs. And those experience packs will be tailored to specific things you do.
You might have a camping pack or something like that. A picnic pack. We still yet to define specifically what they are. So we’re looking at those two avenues and I guess specifically who the customer would be, we were talking about the other day and we’re just going to call them the green warrior. We’re going to call them the green warrior because I guess because this is the surfer person that was act in a sustainable way. They want to live a life which is sustainable, but actually underneath they know they’re not acting in the best possible way they could. And there are a few things that they, you know, they didn’t realize they could do. You know, we all believe that we can be a green warrior and we all believe that we can go out and act sustainably. But the fundamental core of it, we can’t do everything we can. So we want to be a brand which can show that it’s okay not to do everything, but you can actually look at everything in your life and there are ways you can act more sustainably if you just start that journey. So that’s kind of where we’re going out it and those are the sort of channels and who we’re going to selling to.
Brilliant. Sounds really interesting. It’s a cool journey you’re on. Um, so how did you come up with this idea, and I also want to know how you came up with the orange peel idea. Like how do you find now that orange peel dried out is a good fire lighter?
Yeah, sure. I mean, I’ll start with the first bit then. The story started that with me and my best friend were sitting around the fire. Uh, I think it was actually a summer’s day or an evening and we had a fire pit outside and we were both just sitting there wondering why, you know, both of us were so fascinated by, you know, for something that is dangerous or various things like that. Why are we so at easy with that and so relaxed and we want it to understand whether it was just us, so anyone else. So we looked into it and we discovered that cultures all around the world just find fire, strangely comforting. And that’s when we dived into these two worlds of comfort as we call it. And that’s kind of how the journey started. And then discovering the orange peel. I think, I’m trying to think how it was.
I think that we were talking to someone who was a forestry manager for the forestry commission and we were talking with him. He was just literally saying some of these crazy ways he started fires from when he was a kid up until now. And one of them he mentioned was using dried orange peels and we like, they seem interesting. He said, do you think it would be a great alternative to actually using what’s on the market now? He went, yeah, this is a far better product. It lasts longer. You know, you’re tackling a food waste issue. Various things like that. So we thought, okay, we need to get on there and we need to bring it to the market because literally no one, we cannot find anyone who’s actually offering this as as an alternative to what there is right now. And we want to be able to tackle some of these issues that we have.
Like food waste. Who would have thought in a, I guess a fuel industry. You could tackle an issue like food waste and you can, obviously they’re doing it biomass and biogas, but at home we can do the exact same thing by taking orange peels, which we’re doing in partnership with the juice company in Shropshire, uh, called Be Fresh. Uh, they will be providing us with their surplus orange peel waste and we’ll take in that drying it ourselves in a kiln and then using it and taking it to the market as an alternative. To start your fires, you know this a home or out and about.
Brilliant. Is it good? You’ve obviously tried it yourself. Does it work much better?
Yeah, it’s really good. And believe it or not, it leaves your house smelling unbelievably. Unbelievable. Like just imagine the smell of orange just flooding through your house.
Yeah. How funny. It’s kind of like incense and fire at the same time.
Yeah, it’s great. And one thing is well as well too is I have less of a significantly less emissions and gases than if you use newspaper or something that else is covered in wax and various things like that. I mean it releases far, far less of it.
Cool. Brilliant. What would you say your business superpowers?
Well that’s a great question. I definitely think it will be providing comfort to yourself at home.
Okay. And can you tell us about that? How you probably best how you are trying to discuss and promote your mission and purpose. Because your presales, you won’t have staff, suppliers or customers. So it’s more, you’ve obviously got quite a clear mission and purpose. How is it that you’re going to promote that and and through what means?
Sure. So right now we’re using obviously the most powerful thing you can think of, which is social media. And we’ve used that to kind of test whether this is a good thing and whether the market wants it and which we’re gaining really good traction, especially our Instagram account is growing about 120% a week, which equates to probably a hundred or few hundred people a week, which is really nice. So we’re trying to gain this awareness and we’ve actually got a few press releases coming up very soon and things like that. And we’re also going to go to crowdfunding. We do a reward based crowdfunding campaign in January, which also is going to really, I guess, prove whether this is something the market wants. And so at this stage, that’s kind of how we’re bringing it to life and seeing, you know, I guess promoting it. I think that’s the best way we’ve found so far.
Yeah, yeah, I bet. Who are you doing crowdfunding with?
So we’re going to be using crowdfunded.co.uk.
Okay. Oh, okay. I’m interesting to talk about that. It’s after podcasts cause we’re just about to use Crowdcube.
When it comes to, I guess, have you had any struggles of any problems that you’ve come up against that and I guess the orange peel is probably a good example of this, but any other things that you’d gone right, we can’t use this type of material or have you come across any ethical and sustainable issues that you’ve wanted to try and tackle it has ended up being a struggle within the business?
Yeah, I mean I think this one, there’s two and there’s one that most company will probably struggle with, but it’s the distribution and with the bulk orders you know that they’re going to be going out weekly on big arctic lorries all around the world. And that’s good. And we haven’t found another way to go about that. And I don’t think there really is at this moment of time, and that’s been one of our biggest struggles. But another one which we can actually probably come around is actually we’re going to be selling the, some of the logs in a small form in paper bags. But before that we were really struggling to think of a durable way, a durable material in which we can put, you know, 10 to 12 logs in which you can then go to your local Phoenix shop or Superstore or DIY shop and pick up, uh, because you’ve, you’ve run out or something and you need it, you know, a quick convenient amount of good logs for that evening say before your actual big order comes.
And we were trying to think like how can we actually put this because we don’t really want to use, you know, as much as you could probably in encouragement to recycle it and various things like that. It’s just not a great thing and you’re going to be contributing to a fossil fuel industry and various things like that. And that’s something I just don’t want to be involved in personally. And we had significant trouble, and actually we’re still having this trouble now, is finding a supplier that can provide us with the paper bags, which are, can actually prove the credentials behind them and the impact of these paper bags having, you know, we need something that really is sustainable and ideally I would actually really appreciate something which is 100% recycled paper, but it’s just not that easy. Finding those, finding those suppliers.
Yeah, that. Do you think as you scale you’ll find stuff like that easier?
Probably yes. Because obviously it’s what we’re being smaller. We don’t need such high orders, we don’t need so many units, so that’s actually as well limiting the companies that we could approach because they have such high minimum orders of quantity. So for a small company especially that for one that hasn’t even launched yet, ordering 10 20 50,000 is just not viable option for us.
No. I can imagine if you could offer one piece of advice to our listeners which could help them with that is what do you think that would be?
That’s a great question. I think it’s, I’ve followed this my my entire life. I’d like to think, or at least my entire working life and that is to make sure that anything that I’m contributing to, I know that it’s serving something beyond my own selfish needs. I think in order to have a level of purpose in life, I think it goes beyond just yourself and I think it’s always important to consider how is it going to contribute to the society or the planet or both, you know, an effort if you’re starting a company. I think it is always important to consider that in every decision you make. I mean, you know, the reason we really wanted to find what our purpose was is because we want that to be the decision maker of all of our decisions. You know, we make a decision, does it align with our purpose? No. Okay. We need to reconsider that. If yes, great. Let’s go ahead with the, and I think that’s something really important in a business nowadays anyway.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. When it comes to reducing your environmental impacts and carbon footprint for your business, what would you say your biggest challenge or frustration is?
Biggest. Um, cool. 100% distribution.
I had a feeling.
And maybe sometimes there are some areas as well that we can’t measure as well. So you know, I’m someone who likes to measure the impact that’s going on across the majority of things in the business. And there’s a huge sometimes it’s really difficult to measure. So maybe with some of the suppliers where we get our timber from, it can be very difficult to measure the impact that’s coming from that, from the time that it’s felt to time, it comes to us. And that’s a huge frustration. You know, it’s really nice that we know that it’s being grown in Britain, but it’s like actually, can we clarify and can we be certain that how they’re doing it is in sustainable manner. And that’s probably a big challenge at the moment, is making sure that where we’re sourcing it from is done in the way that we hoped for. So we’re kind of in a way to overcome that. We’re trying to see if we can form our audit process for every timber supplier that we go to and that we actually do our own audit. Even though they have the credentials in place. Sometimes they have doing this audit will only bring more authenticity to the product that we want to offer.
It’s so interesting listening to you your, I’m a complete breath of fresh air for organizations and I mean I’ve been doing this for coming up to 20 years and one of the things that I’ve noticed is the sea of change that’s happening from younger people and they see you are younger than me and it’s brilliant really what you are doing because you are questioning. Just because something has happened before doesn’t mean it’s right. And just because someone’s thoughts about it sustainably doesn’t mean it’s the most sustainable thing. Right. And what you have just said to me is yeah, they’ve got their certifications, but we still like to check it and make sure.
Yeah, you taught me too you cannot be too sure.
Yeah, I think it’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant because that’s the only way we’re going to win this climate crisis. And change his attitude like that and what you’ve got. Brilliant. Brilliant. Is there any advice or learning that you’d like to share with everyone listening on this podcast?
True. Okay. God, that is a good question. Any, any learnings or findings? I’d like any advice. I think it is, you know, it goes back to what I said earlier is, is always to define the purpose and lead with that. And you make every decision on that because ever since you know, even my own internal purpose, which is about enabling everyone to overcome barriers by simply coming together, that’s my own purpose.y coupling that with a career purpose as well. I think it just gives me a huge drive to achieve something and that it’s not just about the goal of those, about having that purpose, which keeps you getting up every morning and sometimes you can forget about it and especially if you don’t have one and then you actually figure out what your purpose is. You almost wonder like how did I function without a purpose? And I think by having that purpose, you’ll be amazed at the things that you can achieve. And other things that you’d be open to doing the things that you will end up questioning too. I think so many people would say this and it might get old and it might get boring listening to people tell you to define your purpose, but I think like all of us who have defined it well, we’ll keep saying you’ll, it’ll surprise you what can happen to you when you figure it out.
Yeah, no, I agree. I agree. What’s the best way that we can connect with you? Learn more.
Sure. Anyone’s welcome to email me, tweet me DME on Instagram, you know, all the young things and I’m happy to give my details to use that they can find them easily on the podcast.
Brilliant. Thank you so much for today. It’s been absolutely brilliant talking to you and listening to what you’re up to and maybe we can get you back on in a year’s time to find out more about your journey. If you’re interested in that.
That’d be great. It’d be a nice milestone.
We’re good. Cool. Well let’s do that then. That’d be awesome.
Well, thanks for having me on this. No problem at all.
Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode, the Green Element Podcast. Take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues and rate and review the podcast, whatever you get your podcasts. I’d love to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation? What are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them too at GE underscore podcast, the links and show notes for this episode. Visit our website, Green Element dot co.uk forward slash podcast. Thank you again. I hope you’ll join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world.
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