Building an ethical business brick by brick

Building an ethical business brick by brick
Business Collaboration Sustainability
It only takes passion and dedication to challenge 'business as usual'.

Report with Eva Power, founder of The Ethical Silk Company

The textile industry has a significant impact on the environment and, in many cases, inhumane treatment of its employees. I believe that it is possible to offer consumers an alternative and educate them to consider all aspects of their purchases.

We want our customers to enjoy beautiful, timeless pieces, with the knowledge that they were made to the highest standards, both in quality and throughout the production process.

I found a particular mulberry silk production that extracts the silk from the cocoon after the moth has left it. The result is beautifully rich mulberry silk which, because of the particular way it is produced, is more like fine linen with a lovely matt lustre rather than the shiny finish of traditional silk.

Entrepreneurial journey

My journey has been a bit of a rollercoaster… I’m running my business for a while now, and I’ve done it very slowly, it’s growing organically, no investors are involved, and I try to keep it that way. I’m proud of it that it started in 2009 and it’s still going, evolving and changing.

What I’ve learned so far is to trust myself and have faith in what I do and don’t be afraid to show what I’m doing. At each level, we try to be as responsible as possible. We’re constantly researching how to improve ways of creating our products and managing the business.

The support I received is countless, really. I’m always surprised how people relate with our story, how they try to help both professionally and personally.

Without my husband I’m not sure I’d be here, he kept me going many times I would have given up.

Starting and running a small business it’s hard enough, but I'd say: Go for it, trust yourself but watch your cash flow like a hawk! Finance is so tricky to handle, and every cent needs to be accounted for! You’ll need money to carry out your plans. I think it helps if you consider yourself as an investor looking for returns.

I received many supports from the Local Enterprise Office – Dublin City, which helped me financially and in learning how to run my own business.

For me, it’s important to make a positive impact on my business.

I just wanted to create something that I can personally stand over and be proud of.

We want to keep up with organic growth and improve our presence and sales online. We’re bringing in a new collection and continue to grow in the US to make a more significant impact there.

Respect and hard work

Tailoring silk is hard and challenging work! We are collaborating local NGOs and suppliers who train and promote local people, offering job security, fair wages and carrier options for woman and man in the area.

Our products are printed by hand at Mehera Shaw's unit in Bagru, Jaipur.

Block printing is a centuries-old tradition, and heritage craft of India passed down from generation to generation. Using simple tools, age-old techniques and years of experience, the designs are traced onto teak wood blocks and carved by hand. The blocks are then dipped in dye, and the pattern is stamped onto the silk, by hand, one at a time. Colours used are low impact, AZO-free dyes and all water used is treated and recycled.

One of the most challenging part for me is the public appearance, to put myself out there and be the face of the company, broadcasting the message. Naturally, I’d rather be working behind the scenes, but that’s part of the learning which is necessary to run a successful company.

To overcome my fear of public speaking and share our story, I applied to the Business SPIRIT Award in 2018. I made it to the final, where I received a professional presentation training.

First, it felt like I'm going to die on stage, speaking in front of a real live audience of about 200 people was my worst nightmare. But eventually, I have won, and it felt amazing, which encourages me to push myself, no matter how hard it is.

I commit to give back as I witnessed all the hard work of charities.

Having visited the Jeevan Jyothi AIDS Centre in Theni, and witnessed first-hand the tireless work carried out by the staff, I decided to pledge 5% of company profits to the centre.

Focus Ireland, a charity that works to prevent people from becoming, remaining or returning to homelessness, also receive 5% company profits.