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With over 120 billion pieces of personal care packaging being used every year and 69% of us wanting to reduce our plastic consumption, there is a real need for solutions that design out waste but also that customers want to use.

KANKAN is a simple at-home refill and reuse solution for personal care. Their quality, plant-based essentials are supportive for skin health and wellness, but also benefit Mother Earth.

Now raising on Seedrs, we had the pleasure of chatting with co-founders Elizabeth Flanagan and Mary McLeod about sustainability and the inspiration behind KANKAN London.

Why is self care important to you and how did that influence launching KANKAN?

Life has become increasingly taxing – work demands, home and family life, and the everyday navigation of urban living all takes its toll. Add to the mix the building eco- anxiety that is felt globally it’s really key to find moments of pause, reflection and self care amongst it all. You can’t fight the fight if you’re not fighting fit – mentally and physically and emotionally.

You describe your consumer as ‘discerning, modern, and values wellbeing’, when did you notice that there was a market being underserved?

We live in a fantastic cultural hotspot of a city where we can access the most amazing products and services. But we found that when it came to searching for  natural and sustainable products (especially plastic-free products) they felt very dated and didn’t speak to us. One thing we know we need is a deeper connection to nature – There is so much joy and benefit to be enjoyed in the natural world and we wanted to bring this into people’s lives, conveniently and in a modern, sustainable way.

Tell us about the work you do surrounding sustainability.

We know that Mother Nature is the greatest designer there is, so our focus and guiding principles have been in the circular economy and looking to nature for inspiration. It seems complicated, but the circular economy is based on 3 basic principles: 

1. Design out waste & pollution.

2. Keeping products and materials in use.

3. Regenerating natural systems. 

So, to make that relatable to KANKAN, we: 

  1. Design out waste by using circular resources (the refill can), by using recycled materials in our dispenser, and using mono-material to support recycling and by using natural products that don’t pollute or damage the environment when used. 
  2. We innovate and design the dispenser and pump to be a ‘forever’ object and encourage a culture of refill and reuse by elevating and improving the customer experience. We build into the design the ability to replace parts rather than the whole (should) you need to replace it for the future.
  3. We commit to a quantifiable and significant regenerative plan (one tree = one can) that is directly related to our growth. As we grow our impact does too!

What are some of your notable achievements to date?

Getting exhibited in the Design Museum early on was a huge thrill, as was being longlisted in Dezeen Awards – both for Can O’Dreams – our first design of a dispenser that would work with a can.

We’ve had a great interest in retailers too which has propelled us to ensure that we are retail ready for our V.2 launch.

How do you plan to create a scalable and profitable business model?

We strongly believe in the power of brand and storytelling. We are really true to our ideals, which is not just important to us, but to our customers that look for authenticity in brands and businesses. 

We are currently a d2c brand, but we’ve got a multi-channel strategy – including b2b and retail – which helps build our brand, cement our positioning in addition to driving revenues. We see the next step to continue to build brand awareness and exposure in both b2b partnerships and key retailers.

What does your team look like and what plans do you have for hiring?

Our team is 4 currently, but we are looking to hire someone with analytics and growth expertise, and we would look to build out our team that works across Marketing & Sales

A few personal ones:

What do you love to do in your free time? 

Heading to nature! You’ll find us both heading for the hills (or beach) as soon as we can.

If you weren’t building KANKAN, what do you think you’d be doing? 

I did spend quite a bit of time on a project idea in Portugal a few years ago. It was a quinta that we wanted to build a sustainable minded resort/retreat with permaculture gardens and vines – it was on the side of a mountain, near the sea and it was totally overgrown with brambles – but so much potential!

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building KANKAN?

Trust the customer. We have learned so much from going live with our pilot (MVP) and leaning in to our customers and getting their feedback on product and process. We also love the goodwill that people have for us, and for KANKAN. It’s by far the best part of the job and we want to do them proud.

KANKAN is straddling 3 markets (beauty, wellness & subs) worth £3B combined, they have 11k trees planted, + 70k plastic diverted. Join their journey to provide personal care without the waste. Check out their campaign pitch here.