The Kind sells sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly products. ThinkBusiness talks to its founder Sheelin Conlon on how her quest to make ethical choices at home led to setting up a shop that looks after the wellbeing of customers as well as the planet.
Why did you set up The Kind?
While living in Singapore, I endured what is called the Singapore haze; pollution due largely to deforestation to produce palm oil. I started to question why this was happening. I discovered that palm oil is in every product you can imagine. Not only is it hugely damaging to wildlife but also to humans. I questioned what was in products and looked at more natural alternatives. I also witnessed rubbish being dumped along roads and on beaches while travelling around Asia. It was those two things that made me wonder whether there was a better overall alternative.
“That fear of failure definitely held me back for the first few months. To overcome it, I listened to a lot of motivational talks, I talked to business owners, I realised that everyone had those same fears”
When I moved back to Ireland I tried out some natural products like deodorant, bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars. I was much happier with them than what I’d been using previously. The added bonus was that they were from local companies, so the carbon footprint was tiny and I could trust that there was no greenwashing going on.
What makes The Kind stand out?
We have three homes; our mind, body and the planet. It’s important to take care of all of them. The Kind takes a very holistic approach to sustainability. We have self-care products that look after the mind. We have wellness classes aimed at getting your body moving and we have a range of eco-friendly products, which help people make more sustainable swaps at home as well.
Sheelin Conlon, owner, The Kind
“I went from having 2,000 followers on Instagram when the pandemic hit to 25,000 now. Showing my products online has definitely helped a huge amount in terms of building that audience”
What challenges did you meet and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge initially was self-doubt. I was worried the idea wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t qualified enough and about what would happen if it didn’t work. That fear of failure definitely held me back for the first few months. To overcome it, I listened to a lot of motivational talks, I talked to business owners, I realised that everyone had those same fears. Everyone I approached was more than willing to help and share advice. After speaking to other people I took what felt like a huge risk and moved from having a very small online business, to taking over a pop up store for Christmas. That was the turning point for the business. I invested everything, financially, physically, mentally, into making that pop up a success. It worked better than I could have imagined. It put me on the map and catapulted my business to where it is now.
“The Local Enterprise Office was amazing. They were really supportive and approachable. They offered mentorship, grants and other supports. A challenge is that unless you are manufacturing your own product or providing a service, it can be difficult to get a grant”
Has your business been affected by the pandemic and how have you adapted?
I focused all of my efforts online, using Instagram to show people the products I had in store. I did demonstrations online, which I didn’t feel very comfortable doing. I had to really put myself out there and try and drive sales by showing people what they would see if they were in the store.
I went from having 2,000 followers on Instagram when the pandemic hit to 25,000 now. Showing my products online has definitely helped a huge amount in terms of building that audience.
“The main thing is to talk to everybody you can about your business idea, get out there and network”
What is the support for entrepreneurs in Ireland like and how could it be improved?
The support structure is quite good in Ireland. I was lucky to get on the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance Scheme. It’s a great support for people who want to set up their own business who’ve been out of work for a period. The Local Enterprise Office was amazing. They were really supportive and approachable. They offered mentorship, grants and other supports. A challenge is that unless you are manufacturing your own product or providing a service, it can be difficult to get a grant. I’m a retailer so I wasn’t eligible for quite a lot of their grants. It’s important for people to look at what the criteria are and think of things that fit into that criteria. Support should be more available to entrepreneurs looking to start a business that isn’t manufacturing or service based.
What lessons have your learnt and what would you pass on to other businesses?
I had to keep telling myself, it’s better to try and fail than fail to try. That stuck in my head. The main thing is to talk to everybody you can about your business idea, get out there and network. I did a course with the Local Enterprise Office called Start Your Own Business. It was a great way of meeting other people in the same position. Surround yourself with people you aspire to be like and lean on them for advice and support.
Even with the pandemic, you can still reach out to somebody on Instagram, you can still network from home, it doesn’t have to be in person anymore. Because of the pandemic, you’ve automatically got something in common with every other person in the world. People are more open and supportive because everyone has been going through a tough time. People are more willing to help others.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d love to launch The Kind Collection; my own range of sustainable products. Also, we did a virtual wellness festival recently, which was a huge success. The feedback was so positive, I’d love to do a physical wellness retreat with a mix of wellness, mindfulness and sustainability.
Interview by Olivia McGill
Published: 28 July 2021