KIWI Eco Box: Your Zero Waste lifestyle, delivered monthly
Changing your lifestyle is hard, but once you’ve done it, it’s worth it. The trick is to find ways to make the transition simpler. With KIWI Eco Box, Kate and Nataly want to make going Zero Waste that much easier.
After stewing on the idea of starting a eco-friendly business for a year, lockdown pushed Kate to make it reality with her sister, Nataly.
Utilizing a subscription model, KIWI Eco Box delivers the goods you need when you need them to replace the single-use plastics in your life and help save the planet.
I talked with Kate about what inspired her to start her business, what it’s like to work with her sister in different timezones, and where she sees their company in the next few years.
Sendle’s small biz quiz
Kate & Nataly
Name, title, and location
Kate & Nataly, Owners | Austin, Texas & Kyiv, Ukraine
How would you describe KIWI Eco Box in a few lines?
Kiwi Eco Box is a new eco-friendly subscription box that helps people start living Zero Waste step-by-step.
Once you subscribe, you start to receive a box every month filled with 5-7 eco-friendly goods that help you to replace plastic items for cleaning, storing food, hygiene, traveling.
KIWI Eco Box will help you to build a Zero Waste routine and implement eco-friendly products in your lifestyle.
And, what about in just three words?
Sustainable. Biodegradable. Plastic-free.
How and when did you get started? What inspired you to start selling Zero Waste products?
We are sisters—Kate and Nataly—and Ukrainians. While Nataly lives in Kyiv, Ukraine, I (Kate) live in Austin, TX.
I had this idea in mind for over a year, but April 1st, 2020 is the date when we started to actually do something about it.
During the lockdown, I went to Ukraine and spent over 3 weeks in Kyiv. I had more time to think and rethink all the details with Nataly and make it work, step by step. I came back to Austin and started the business.
My ex-coworker inspired me to use eco-friendly products in my own life.
Living in the US, I found it difficult to get all the products for myself. I thought if it was difficult for me how is it for others? That's how the idea was born.
How is working with your sister? Any of the typical sibling infighting or are you besties?
It has its advantages and disadvantages. We are very different people, which helps a lot in running a business.
I am the more creative person and Nataly has a very analytical mind—the perfect combination for me.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability is not only being concerned with your own well-being, but also the well-being of future generations and the planet as a whole.
To live sustainably is simply to think about others, turn the light off when you go out, turn the water off while brushing your teeth, doing our own little bit to make the world a better place for those who come after us.
How did you come up with the name? Were there other ideas in the running?
To be honest, there is no story behind the name. We just like how it sounds and it reflects on our logo.
What were you doing before you started KIWI Eco Box?
We are still working full-time jobs. Nataly works as a personal assistant in Kyiv, Ukraine. I work at a tech company in Austin, TX.
How is working across different time zones? How do you balance work and life?
The time difference actually works well for us. It’s only 8 hours, so we adjusted pretty quickly.
It means that we have time to work together. Normally, we use FaceTime for communication. And we still have enough extra time for sports, hobbies, and friends.
Is the Zero Waste scene growing in Texas? Do you think more people are waking up to the reality of waste?
There is definitely a Zero Waste movement and people in Austin are more conscious about their lifestyle habits than in, for example, Ukraine.
But still, it is not a trend yet. We need to get more and more people on board and propagate a sustainable lifestyle like the new normal.
There aren’t many Zero Waste subscription boxes out there, but how do you stand out from the competition?
We've just started and we are still learning, learning from our mistakes and of course from our competitors.
It is definitely not easy to start something new in a foreign country: culture, holidays, interests, law—everything is different and unknown.
It is quite a challenge, to be honest, but we love it when it’s hard. Otherwise, it’s not interesting.
Why did you decide to go with the subscription model? Were there benefits to that over selling individual items?
The idea came from my own experience.
I used a loofah sponge for dishwashing and normally it lasts for a month or so. And a loofah sponge isn't a very popular item, so you can't just buy at any store.
So to get a new one, I had to search online and place an order. And of course you remember needing a new loofah only when you need it to wash your dishes. Then, when you get to the computer, you forget it.
So I thought it would be wonderful to receive it each month without all the hassle.
Same with the toothbrush. Dentists advise you to change your toothbrush every 3 months. Finding a good bamboo toothbrush isn't that easy. But if you will get it every 3 months, that would be super convenient.
That's why we think the subscription model fits perfectly, because you receive the new items right when you need to replace the old ones. And you can throw out old products without any harm to the environment.
How do you choose the products you include each month?
We do our own research and use all the products ourselves before choosing what to add to the next box.
Also, we often ask our subscribers what they want to see in the next boxes.
Based on their answers, we build a catalog of items that we think would be interesting and the most important and useful for our customers.
Do you have plans for growth? Where do you see the company in the next few years?
Our main goal is to motivate and inspire others to cut out single-use plastics, reduce their everyday waste, and switch to a more earth-friendly lifestyle.
At the moment we’re working to expand the products in our Kiwi Eco Shop to provide the best eco-friendly alternatives you can find for yourself and your home.
We’re also bringing in lots of fantastic ethical brands who share our values and create wonderful products.
After 2020, it’s even harder to predict what the future may hold!
What advice would you give to someone just starting their own business? Anything you’d avoid if you had to do it again?
I would advise you to choose the right niche, do market research, but most importantly be confident in what you are doing and dedicate yourself fully to your own idea.
Don't be afraid, just do it!
For people who want to start going plastic free, it can be daunting to know where to begin. How would you recommend they start?
It's impossible to avoid plastic entirely, but there are effective ways to limit your exposure.
Avoid using big 4: plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles and single use cups.
I bought a reusable thermocup for coffee. When I go out I always carry it with me. If I want a coffee, but I forget my cup, I won't drink coffee. That’s the rule I created for myself.
What are some of your favorite small businesses?
What is your favorite thing to listen to when working?
We like to listen to different podcasts or business webinars, but honestly, silence is the best. Helps me concentrate and be more productive.
What brought you to Austin, Kate? On the same note, what keeps you in Kyiv, Nataly?
It is a long story, which deserves its own separate article, I bet.
To make it short, let's say that destiny brought me to Austin. As for Nataly, she is in Kyiv for now because of the pandemic.
As soon as everything opens us, she will join me in Austin. Fingers crossed!
How did you find Sendle?
We are part of the community on Facebook, Subscription Box Entrepreneurs, and someone from there mentioned you guys as the best shipping option.
How is Sendle working for you so far?
Perfect, we love you guys!
The most important thing for us is that you are carbon neutral, and for us, it is a big deal!
Photos courtesy: Kiwi Eco Box