This week we profile Jamie Palmer, Co-founder and CEO at Social Supermarket, an ethical marketplace and corporate gifting start-up. The hampers are consciously curated with products from independent UK business with strong social missions. As a registered B-Corp they conduct thorough research on their partners, working with businesses that are committed to putting more into the world than they take out.
Hey Jamie could you tell us a little more about yourself and Social Supermarket?
So I’m one of the co-founders of Social Supermarket, which is the UK’s largest marketplace of social enterprise products. They’re not just products that avoid doing bad but they reinvest their profits into their social mission from accessories made from fire hoses that will otherwise go to waste to tea that provides employment for refugees. What we try to do is curate the best of this in the UK and make it really easy to buy these products and also understand the impact behind them.
Okay great so what is one of your favourite responsible brands on the platform?
Elvis and Kresse, they are a brand that is inspired by the fact that there is a huge waste issue in this country and they started their journey by going to a landfill. And in the landfill they noticed there was a huge amount of fire hoses going to waste. If you get a fire hose with a tiny little tear in it they throw the entire fire hose away. What they do is convert that into beautiful accessories, they’ve partnered with the likes of Burberry and they also donate 50% of their profits to fire service charities.
The other one isChange Please, they are a coffee company that provide employment for people experiencing homelessness in the UK and today they’ve provided employment, training and skills for hundreds of people in the UK. They’ve recently partnered with AMT so they’ve scaled up their operations much further as well. They also serve on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin trains, which is a great example of a social impact brand scaling. They also have a coffee shop by Lamb’s Conduit Street.
I think one of the biggest problems our planet faces at the moment is the threat from global emissions and there are things day to day we can do. People often think about simple things like turning lights off, but that only represents a tiny percentage of our daily emissions. I think if you look at the carbon footprint of somebody in the west, it is about twenty tonnes of carbon compared to developing countries where its about 0.5 per tonne, so there is a huge disparity there.
A lot of that comes down to travel, so thinking about how you can take the train or cycle more instead of driving or flying. Food waste too is a huge issue. About 8% of global emissions come from food waste in this country, so meal planning can really help. And obviously one of the growing carbon emitters is fashion. Fast fashion is on track to be one of the biggest emitters in the globe, so it is really about finding products which are more local and use more organic materials which are less water intensive. Purchasing garments for the long-term and maintaining them to ensure long product life is also essential.
So on that side of it, how do you think about fashion and style in the workplace?
Sure so obviously we’ve been working at home a lot more so days when I have admin, it might just be a t-shirt and a hoodie, typical start up style. But we still have meetings with clients and so we try to reflect what the client is looking for as well. You know style might change when going to an investment bank, where it will be a full suit job whereas for other companies where it might be a consultancy, it might be a pair of jeans and more relaxed Oxford shirt.
'Inertia is one of the biggest killers to a business so actually one of the most important traits for entrepreneurs is just being able to make a decision and stick by it.'
Whats the best piece of advice you’ve been given in business?
One of my favourite pieces of advice is it's less important whether you decide to do it or you don’t, it's more important you decide. So it's the idea that inertia is one of the biggest killers to a business so actually one of the most important traits for entrepreneurs is just being able to make a decision and stick by it. And you’re not always going to get it right but the ability to make quick decisions and learn from when you make those decisions, right or wrong is the most important.
A second piece of advice, I remember when I was at the early stages thinking about setting up Social Supermarket, one of the pieces of advice I heard was ‘just put the spade in the ground and start digging. You’re going to come up against some pipes.’ Everyone has a million pound idea but the most common theme amongst entrepreneurs is persistence and execution. So as long as you continue to work and you’re not afraid of failing, you’re probably going to do quite well at it.
Would you still go through the same path again or do you think "I should have started a business right away"?
I think it’s very easy to retrospectively look back and say I can just do this all again, I can start out of university. But actually there are certain things I picked out from working in a corporate sector much quicker. One of the pieces of feedback we get from our clients is that we like that you’ve got that corporate background. I think I might have thought about going into consultancy earlier to get better insight and overview of businesses but I think that corporate background is helpful because you get to understand what the professional environment looks like.
But the one thing I would say is I would have started building something on the side of my day jobs because people have this idea that you need to quit your day job straight away and go into it but I don’t think that is true. I think you can start building your business on the side of your day job and test out the idea whilst you’ve got the comfort of a home, salary etc.