Q&A with Simply Bamboo
Last week, I spoke to @simplybamboo_za founder Alex about moving countries for love ❤️ (naww), doing work that’s meaningful 🌱 and the differences between living in Europe and SA. 🌍
Hi Alex! Let’s start with why you started a bamboo toothbrush business?
“I guess it goes back to my upbringing - I was taught never to litter, to recycle and look after nature.
At varsity, I came across an American zero waste influencer, @trashisfortossers , and I started living with less waste.
There were already bamboo toothbrushes available at the time but I thought their design was uninspiring, the handles uncomfortable and the bristles too hard.
So I set out to make something better and Simply Bamboo was born”
And have you thought about introducing more products yet?
“So far we make adult and kids toothbrushes, toothbrush travel cases and a fully biodegradable pot brush for washing up.
It’s really important to me not to make something out of bamboo just for the sake of it.
We have steered clear of cutlery and straws because there are non-disposable alternatives available.
But we do have other ideas we are working on!"
What were you doing before Simply Bamboo?
"I guess I’m a typical millennial - I was on a corporate grad programme after varsity but I wanted to do something more meaningful.
So in 2017 I decided to just go for it and start a bamboo business.
I started researching, finding suppliers with good labour practices, finding the right materials, registering as an importer (that was quite a mission!) and designing the toothbrush.”
What have been the highs since then?
“Getting our first samples and seeing our work come to fruition.
Making our first sale.
And more recently, seeing so many new zero waste shops pop up in SA.”
How about the challenges?
“It’s mainly logistics - for example, in SA, couriers insist on using plastic envelopes so we’ve had to manoeuvre around that.
Another example is we used to have a scrub pad made of coconut husks. It was a great product but we found it wasn’t lasting long enough, so we discontinued it and brought out our pot brush instead.”
How does sustainability factor into your day to day life?
“One less obvious area is transport – I’m currently based in the NL and it’s great to be able to cycle everywhere and take trains.”
Oh wow, how did you end up going there?
“It sounds so cheesy but for love…my (now fiancé) is from Zimbabwe and, perhaps surprisingly, it was easier for her to find work in the Netherlands than SA. I saw it as an opportunity to expand Simply Bamboo in Europe and we decided to go for it. Our operations are still based in SA but I’m overseeing the overall business from here now.”
And what have been the big differences in the NL vs SA when it comes to sustainability?
“You have to bear in mind that one is a first world country, the other an emerging market. In SA, trying to combat poverty will always take precedent over the environment.
But on the other hand, the footprint of South Africans is lower in many ways. I never really grasped what fast fashion was until I moved to the NL – it’s crazy how much people shop. SA also has the benefit of being able to leapfrog when it comes to technology, like we did with mobile phones for example. Hopefully that will happen in areas like renewables”
Finally, your hopes for the year ahead?
“I really look forward to the emergence of more zero waste businesses, and seeing more people live a lower waste lifestyle.
From a professional point of view, I hope to convert more people to using bamboo toothbrushes.
And personally, I’m trying to limit my carbon footprint as far as possible. Unfortunately that limits how often I can go back to SA…but I’m also enjoying the new adventure that is living in Europe”