#BEYOUROWN MEETS JOY VASILJEV
The Organic Company is a Danish design company which creates meaningful and tasteful interior textiles from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton.
Honesty, transparency and an ambitious wish to make a difference is a rock solid foundation for the company, founded by entrepreneur Joy Vasiljev in 2007. Since then, the company has developed a collection of organic textiles for the home, which includes textiles for the bath, kitchen, children, bags, meditation, and blankets. The products are designed by The Organic Company and, from time to time, co-designed with selected Danish designers.
All products are made of organic cotton and certified with the international organic standard GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). This standard focuses on two major areas; environment and social responsibility, and guarantees that all fabrics are free from toxins and heavy metals, and international workers rights are respected.
Joy Vasiljev, is known as a visionary, an inspiring and uncompromising entrepreneur, who is not afraid to speak up and point out things that are not right. It all started with a lot of questions. Why is it so hard to find textiles that combine great design with organic materials? Why do we have to choose between the two? Are we showing responsible behaviour when it comes to protecting our planet?
In 2007, The Organic Company was established with the clear mission of proving that a responsible business is a good business. Every product is thoroughly considered with regards to both design and purpose because Joy believes that the better the product, the better you take care of it. And this rimes with an organic lifestyle. It was not an easy start. The world simply wasn’t ready. And people were unaware of the extremely dirty industry of cotton.
Now, 12 years later, The Organic Company produces more than 200 different products and exports to more than 26 countries. Today, Joy is an important voice in the debate on an organic lifestyle, environment, and sustainability.
What is a day in the life of you like?
I always start my morning with breathing exercises and meditation. Then some family time, helping my kids out the door and then I bike through Copenhagen to The Organic Company office. Mondays we have mindfulness at 11 am. I guide, as I am mindfulness as well as a guided meditation teacher. This to ensure well being at the office and because I love it.
How is The Organic Company funded, is it bootstrapped, self-funded ect?
Self-funded. I started with my savings, passion and a lot of hard work. Today, we are 3 partners, Rikke, Peter and myself. Love my partners and love our collaboration. We also start all board meeting with mindfulness and meditation. People tend to be amused about this, however, it works so well and when starting the actual meeting, we are focused and present. I can only recommend this. And 3 of us love The Organic Company; our growing sustainable business baby.
Can you tell us more about your brand DNA and ethos at The Organic Company?
Our DNA is to bring design, quality and organic cotton together. Organic, because conventional is not future proof. We cannot keep on destroying the soil, our water reserves and our wealth. The better the product, the better people tend to care about it. This goes well hand in hand with an organic way of thinking.
We love how you are also supporting local Danish companies by collaborating with them, which has been the best project work on so far?
Helle Vibeke Jensen (hebiinu.com), her and I share the same passion for Japanese lifestyle and Danish design culture. We have i.e. developed a relax robe (https://theorganiccompany.dk/portfolio/relax-robe-she/) together. She is one of my favourite designers to co-work with.
Can you give us 3 useful tips for launching an organic textiles company?
- I recommend to think beyond the products and to think about the level of impact your company will have.
- To take responsibility and make future generation proud of you and your company from a sustainable point of view.
- To give an example of something concrete, I will share The Organic Company’s three launching principles: Meet a need. Solve a problem. Lift a category.
We’ll never just add another colour/product unless we meet above. These principles should apply to all companies, new and existing. The world does not need more shitty cheap cannot-wait-to-be-thrown-out products and fast fashion. We need less and better. Next, to the above, I suggest to go organic, it’s a huge positive difference for people and the planet.
Who does the team involve behind you The Organic Company?
On a daily basis, we are seven women running the office and some lovely student workers as well as freelancers. Love my team. Couldn’t do this without them.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
A much bigger company, much more positive influence, and more talks. Hey, we’re on a mission here. We need attention to the biggest and most polluting as well as toxic crop in the world. It’s all around us and does us no good. Conventional cotton should be forbidden, it’s so bad for the soil, the workers and our health. As in really bad.
What strategies do you have in place when looking at the expansion of The Organic Company?
More focus on the storytelling part. More communication. More collaboration.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
All of them. To be an entrepreneur, it’s about learning, learning, learning. The first 2-3-4-5-6 years were chaotic and still, I managed to build a brand. With passion, you can reach the moon! A good friend of mine, Soulaima Gourani, once told me that overnight success takes seven to ten years, she is so right.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
Anne Skare Nielsen, a futurist, author and keynote speaker, she has taught me so much, and perhaps most important of all, to trust my gut. I still use a lot of her quotes like “the future is about less and better” and that”nowadays you cannot reach any target with success alone.”
What outlets do use to market The Organic Company?
We are medium to high-end and we have two parameters to elected from; organic and design. In the retail market, we have design and department stores as well an eco store.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
I network a lot. I attend important talks, network meetings, workshops and seminars almost every week. It’s a balance because I also need to work, but networking, you can hardly do too much. You need to build and take care of your network. And when doing that, you have a lot of ambassadors and help within reach.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about the retail industry and how are you using your platform and voice to educate people more?
The number one misconception is to think that your purchase does not matter. Your purchase is your vote, your voice. If you want a better world, start buying i.e organic and cut down in general. In our communication, which is our possibility of inspiring, we guide and share a lot of knowledge and ideas. I.e on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
What would you like to see changed for millennials in business?
Focus on responsibility for our common planet. Focus on sustainability and also getting our planet back in balance.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
To stay focused.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
Not to listen to my gut feeling.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I made an agreement with my self from the very beginning about I wouldn’t work my
The highlight of your career so far?
That I have reached so far. We’re a brand. We’re a team on a mission. Our mission has been from the very start and is to prove a responsible business can be a good business. And the bottom line figures are black and in 2018 (year to date) we see a sales growth of 29% compared to all sales of 2017. I know we have inspired and enlightened a lot of people into less and better, which in this case is organic quality products.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
When people come for business advice and for advice on how to be more environmentally friendly.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of The Organic Company?
A lot, for instance, when your company grows, you want to hire. And then you need to see what area you need the most (because you can’t hire a lot, though you need a lot of hands). And that’s a practice of its own. And then, when decided, you start to look for your new colleague, and that is also a practice of its own. And finally, you hire and then it takes perhaps six months or more for your new colleague to be of true assistance. That’s a challenge, it has been since the first hire and still is.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
A lot actually. I meet a lot of entrepreneurs and I get so impressed by all the great ideas the passion. The people I admire the most are visionary and good people, entrepreneurs or not.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I’ve just read ‘Kafka On The Shore’ by the Japanese author Murakami for the second time. Rarely I read the same twice, however, most of Murakami’s books are worth it. Love his way of writing and the depth of his books, philosophic in a readable manner.
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
Not much of a listener, when I walk, bike or run, I never have anything in my ears or podcasts running. I always listen to the city, the silence or life around me. Once in a while, I listen to a news channel, Zetland and their podcasts and once in a while something mind-expanding like Simon Sinek and the like. Otherwise, I prefer silence or meditative music (like singing bowls)
How do you measure your own terms of success?
When I can tell that people listen to what I have to say about taking responsibility and do better towards our planet.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
For me it’s freedom. When you have a cause or a passion, it means everything. Like, listen to yourself, dare to be different, stick to your inner voice and gut feeling and still be respectful towards other people, animals, and our planet.
Earth Overshoot Day was in 2018, August the 1st. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used more from nature than our planet can renew in that entire year. In other words, we have to cut down on disposables and start using things over and over again.