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SO JUST SHOP is an award winning, ethical & sustainable, homeware, accessories & gifting D2C and B2B brand working directly with women-led artisan groups from vulnerable communities all over the world.
It is a route to economically empower women all over the world.
With a background in international development, CEO & Founder Jennifer Georgeson, witnessed first hand how economic empowerment of women increases health, reduces childhood malnutrition, increases access to education and wellbeing of entire communities, with up to 90% of all income earned by women staying within and supporting their communities.
We sat down with Jennifer to learn more about her career before SO JUST SHOP and the mission and future of the brand.
We’d love to know about your career before SO JUST SHOP and where you first found that entrepreneurial spark.
As with most entrepreneurs, our careers tend to be varied and interesting! I have an MSc in Immunology and, whilst working on a large research project in Zambia with University College London, I also completed my PhD, specialising in Public Health and Epidemiology (population statistics). So having measurable goals and impacts are close to my heart!
I then went to work for a tech start up, mixing project management with marketing analytics (as is the way in startups!) and went on to manage their IPO on the London Stock Exchange. With a £10k bonus from this I went on to set up a small not for profit to support local organisations to assess the impact of their development work, working with an organisation near Peshawar, Pakistan and Mumbai, India.
I subsequently became a Program Director with the Clinton Foundation, working directly with the Indian Ministry of Health to expand their Nurse Practitioner training – a wildly inclusive role that included working with Yale University, award winning architects and fundraising. In amongst all of this, I was still working on the project in Mumbai – which was the spark to SO JUST SHOP.
My last role, before starting SO JUST SHOP (strategically chosen to support the skills I would need) was as an Operations Director at Work Angel (subsequently acquired by Lifeworks).
What motivated you to start SO JUST SHOP and what problem are you solving?
The project I was working on in Mumbai was around the prevention of chronic early childhood malnutrition. If this is caught and treated before the age of two there are few long lasting effects, but if you leave this until later, the child will be permanently physically and mentally stunted. It is a relatively complex issue to treat because the causes are multiple – diseases and childhood illnesses, unsafe water supply and lack of food.
Solutions are relatively straightforward – vaccines, safe drinking water, good sanitation, quality food – but these solutions are not readily available to all. How can you vaccinate your child if you cannot afford the bus fare to the clinic? How can you provide safe drinking water if you don’t have access to it? How can you provide quality food if you don’t have the finances to buy it or have a choice in what you can cook?
Time and again in many of the health projects I have worked on over the years, we target mothers and yet many of those mothers have little choice in how they are able to manage their child’s health. The solution is economic empowerment of women.
90% of the money women earn stays within the community vs 30% of the money men earn. Women tend to be decision makers on healthcare, education and food, so if they are earning, these become more of a priority. Economic empowerment of women results in better maternal and child health, higher rates of child education (particularly of a female child) and lower rates of malnutrition. It is one of the key impacts you can have on education, health and climate change.
And so SO JUST SHOP was born. If we want to have a positive and meaningful change in the world we need to be economically empowering women.
What can you tell us about the market and how SO JUST SHOP is positioning itself for success?
SO JUST SHOP started 7 years ago and the world was a very different place. Ethics and sustainability were still relatively niche and it was a hard slog of selling at many market stores and also consulting to bring in money to the business. But the last 3 years have been amazing, the awareness of what we do and why we do it, alongside our reasonable prices, mean the appetite for what we do, across direct to consumer, wholesale and corporate is booming.
Ethical and sustainable fashion and gifting is a fast growing industry but there are challenges, both with price points and greenwashing. From the start we have made it clear that we want to be affordable, that shopping sustainably should be in the reach of as many people as possible – we will always be higher priced than the lower end high street retailers but we sit comfortably in the mid end high street pricing. This has definitely put us at an advantage both for direct consumers but also to those retailers who buy our products wholesale.
In terms of greenwashing – we track our supply chain from raw materials through to delivery, with complete transparency on who made our products and how they are made. We won a major contract with a UK supermarket to provide them with recycled cotton totes because we could show them the water they saved, the waste saved from landfill and the hours of meaningful labour they provided by working with us. Corporates increasingly want to work with ethical and sustainable brands but they need to see the data behind the marketing, which has always been at the core of what we do.
What does your competitive landscape look like and how does SO JUST SHOP differentiate itself?
The market is rapidly growing for ethical and sustainable goods, which means there is a lot of space for those of us who are already established. There are three key differentiators for us:
- We have multiple income streams, which in itself is a differentiator and can protect us from what has been an increasingly turbulent market over the last few years! So when our wholesale sales (sales to retailers) plummeted in lockdown our corporate sales rose dramatically as corporates were keen to keep their employees happy whilst working from home.
- Our price point – at mid high street range – makes us accessible to a larger market than the historically more expensive, luxury, sustainable brands.
- Our transparent supply chain tracking gives complete reassurance to clients and consumers.
Could you tell us about some of your biggest achievements to date?
Last year we provided 80,000 hours of meaningful labour to women from vulnerable communities all over the world
We managed to negotiate a rent on highly favourable terms on one of the most prestigious shopping streets in London (52 South Molton Street – please visit!).
We’ve won awards and had amazing press and TV – including Vogue and featured on ITV’s This Morning.
We are working with the most amazing corporate clients, including a major internet search engine provider.
How do you plan to create a scalable and profitable business model?
Oh we are so almost there! So more of the same. With the investment from this round we are going to expand our sales team so we can grow the corporate and wholesale side of the business – there is such an appetite for what we do that we need to get our brand name out there to a much greater degree. Online marketing is another side of the business we would love to invest in, we have had a ROAS of 4x – so we know what to do but just need to budget to do it. At the core of what we do is our transparent supply chain tracker and we would like to automate this further, alongside bringing in a VR element.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I’m not sure how many founders have much free time! But when I do I live in London so when I can it is eating at our amazing restaurants, seeing brilliant theatre and shows and generally sitting with my wonderfully amazing and supportive friends and putting the world to rights!
If you weren’t building SO JUST SHOP what do you think you’d be doing?
Definitely something that links technology and social causes together. I firmly believe that impacting businesses will make the world a better place. Profit, people and the planet are the key for a happier and healthier world, any part I can play in that would make me incredibly happy.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building SO JUST SHOP?
It takes time and a dogged belief in your mission, but an adaptability in how to get to that goal. AND (as an added extra) most people are so very supportive, love being asked to help and are generous with their time, so don’t be afraid to ask.
SO JUST SHOP’s mission is to raise half a million women and their families out of poverty and have a positive impact on the planet. Check out the campaign here.