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8 Questions with Julie Mathers

Founder of online vegan and eco-friendly retailer Flora & Fauna

  • What lead you on your journey to starting Flora & Fauna?

I’ve worked in retail for 25 years and have always had a real sense of purpose. I’ve always thought we can do things better and I’m not good with complacency; we have a limited time on this planet so let’s do everything we can; that’s my philosophy.

My journey started at a very young age with a love for animals and our planet. I’d frequently rescue injured wildlife as a youngster and have a huge amount of compassion for animals. When I was 19 I decided to go to an alternative technology project in Spain to build solar cookers for a couple of months; I studied engineering at Uni so decided to put my skills to good use. The following year I spent three months working in a school in the middle of nowhere in Kenya. I’ve always had a desire for change and making a difference.

When you’re working for someone else you can make change, and I have, but it takes time and is often edited; I wanted to do something more powerful and meaningful and ignite my entrepreneurial spark. Enter Flora & Fauna.

 

  • You’re one of only a very few online vegan retailers. What was the driving force behind only stocking vegan products?

I believe to be totally cruelty free products need to be vegan. Products can be not tested on animals but include animal products such as carmine (crushed beetles), snail secretion (yes I’ve seen that) and so on which is not cruelty free in my opinion. As an industry we use names for ingredients that are not transparent so it is difficult for customers to make informed choices. Leather is also one of the most polluting industries out there and there are so many better options for our planet like cork and recycled material. Therefore we decided to make it easy and ensure everything is vegan. I am also vegan so along with being a business decision this was also an important personal choice. I’ve seen many products being touted as vegan and they aren’t; we ensure there is no question.

 

  • We’ve read a fair bit about some of the amazing awards Flora & Fauna has won and you, yourself have won. Can you tell us a little bit about these?

Thank you so much. We’ve been on a bit of a spree recently and we are incredibly humbled and honoured. Although it’s lovely to win awards we find it a win for ethical retailing. It’s not often an ethical, 100% vegan, retailer wins Best Online Retailer, which we picked up in February. I also picked up a few recently myself including Business Person of the Year, No 4 of the Top 50 People in Ecommerce in Australia and I won an innovation award in New York last year for our work in responsible retailing. They’re fantastic and I love we’re getting responsible retailing out there and it’s being rewarded and noticed by other less responsible retailers who might be inclined to change their ways. I couldn’t ask for more.

Actually I could, we got BCorp Certification last November which is a real honour, and not an award as such, but pretty close. It’s a long process but such an important one for us and one I personally am absolutely dedicated to. Being a BCorp means you use business for good and you reach the highest standards as a business. This certification is not a one off certification but a journey. Since achieving certification we’ve implemented more initiatives around waste, energy and our impact.

 

  • What’s your greatest achievement so far in business?

Without a doubt setting up Flora & Fauna that first day and every day since. Someone asked me recently was there a day I wanted to give it all up because it was just too hard. My response: never! I love what we do and there are tough times and long, long hours but I wouldn’t change a thing. Every day we learn new things, surprise and delight customers and make changes in the industry. I also do a fair bit of mentoring which I personally love.

 

  • What kick arse daily habits do you have in place to navigate the entrepreneurial journey?

I am a crazy to do list fan and always have been. I remember someone twenty years ago telling me she loved my to do lists. With so much going on and having to be across so many things this is the only way I can operate and I constantly re-prioritise. You have to.

The other thing I do is change my scenery. I work all over the place, and hate working at a desk ( I rarely do) as I like getting inspired by different locations whether that be in the warehouse, in the office (currently a shipping container) or the table outside.

I also attempt to go on a daily run in the bush to do some exercise and appreciate nature. It inspires me every day.

 

  • What would you say is the best part about working in the health and wellness industry?

I love the innovation that exists and the fact we get to work with likeminded people where our values align. We’re all on a mission and working together as partners to get there is fun and meaningful. I also personally love being healthy, in a plant based way, so we’re constantly looking for, and sourcing, new exciting products to help with this.

 

  • What has been the biggest challenge in your business to date?

Keeping up with growth. It’s a good problem to have but we do have to keep up with it. This year has been a particularly big year and we have some much needed projects being worked on, and in the works, and we’ve grown our fabulous team. It’s exciting times; with every challenge comes an opportunity.

  • If you had one quote to live by, what would it be?

Back yourself mindfully. Something I do is really believe in what I can do and what’s right but it shouldn’t be at the expense of others or the expense of ethics, hence mindfully. I’m a very driven human and love what I do and I’ll find a way but always ethically and authentically. Respect those around you and remain humble.

Want to know more about Flora & Fauna? Click here.

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