The Howe Collective are a group of creative women who are working together to boost their businesses and drive forward their efforts. They are currently working together on a pop up shop, to be held on Cupar, Fife on March 20 for more information read our piece on the group and the event here.
“I’ve always been a maker and no matter what else I’ve done with my life professionally; I have always needed creative projects (and people) around me in order to feel in any way normal.”
Feeling restless in her job as a nursery admin manager, Kim Sullivan had a desire to break out of the every day into her creative self. Only ever feeling fired up at work when her duties led to a creative project, the former academic distracted herself by using her artistic flair to come up with alternatives to cling film for her family and started experimenting with the creation of wax coated wraps as an alternative.
“I think I just caught that wave of realisation around the world that we are all responsible for the footprint we leave, and it kind of hit me like a tonne of bricks that our own household was rife with disposable ‘convenience’ items and single use plastics. I made that very first wrap, just to see – and we’ve never looked back.”
What started as an experiment became a mission and the wraps were soon joined by forays into home-made dishwasher powder, deodorant, lip balm and cleaning products. The family are now bottle free in the bathroom and are still working hard to reduce their waste.
As the mission became noticed by friends and family Kim’s creative solutions soon started to draw attention, particularly with her food wraps.
“Very quickly I had lots of people asking me to make them,” she said. “And I realised that the time was exactly right to have a go at developing my own business around the wraps, as there was clearly a shift happening in people’s attitudes towards single use plastic. I took a chance and left my job to give it a go, and basically haven’t had a quiet day since!
“I love every aspect of it – the business side, the decision making (I’m my own boss so nobody says no!), the creativity and ideas, building relationships with stockists, meeting customers at markets, coming up with new products and designs, collaborating with other creatives, and being part of my local community of amazing makers.”
Her business, Leaf Natural Food Wraps, now sees her making waxed food wraps and pouches, which are both beeswax and vegan, often using fabric she has produced with her own lino-cut designs. The hand printed patterns, which she prints onto natural calico using environmentally friendly fabric inks are also available in custom patterns for other small businesses. Self-taught and inspired by a variety of lino print makers on Instagram, Kim’s eye for what customers really wanted drove her in new directions too.
“I’ve always been arty and once the wrap making was up and running I felt that I wanted to offer something original, mostly just because there are lots of other wrap makers out there offering the more traditional patterned fabric variety, but also in response to a trend I was noticing at my markets,” she said.
“Women would happily spend ages pouring over the different fabric choices but the men with them were typically completely disinterested. I wondered why nobody was catering for men? So I did a bit of research and experimented with different ways of adding subtle colour or pattern to plain calico, and discovered a knack for lino cutting. I love the look of old fashioned product branding and also the ‘government issue’ style stamps you used to see on official documents, so drew my inspiration from these in developing a small range of stamps. They went down really well generally, and sure enough even men began buying them.”
Kim found that, as well as attracting a diverse and loyal customer base, she found a place in a circle of amazing creative people.
She said: “I feel as though I’ve been welcomed into a local community of makers and that has been wonderful, especially when you work alone. It’s so important to get out there and meet your customers face to face at markets and fayres, as it really helps you to hone your product, but it’s also vital for meeting other makers and sharing those experiences with them.”
To purchase Leaf Natural Food Wraps visit: The Tack Room Gift Shop, Cambo Stables, Kingsbarns, St Andrews; The Munro, Markinch; Love Your Planet, Broughty Ferry, Dundee; Grain & Sustain, Burntisland; Post & Pantry, Aberdour; Greengate Gallery, Culross; The Stables Hub, Centre for Stewardship, Falkland Estate; The Sun Gallery, Newburgh; Health Food & More, Kirkcaldy; The Wash House Store, Ruthvenfield, Perth; The Black Cat Soap House, Kirriemuir; The Emporium of Worldly Goods, Fort William; Tain Bothy, Tain; Puldagon Farm Shop & Restaurant, Wick.
For more information visit Kim’s Facebook page.