Kin & Kind meet the founder of Koala Eco, Jessica Bragdon
1. Jessica Bragdon, Koala Eco, mother, business woman, earth warrior – how did you get to your happy place?
I guess the same way as anyone else: determination, hard work, serendipity, luck. Experiences with remarkable and inspiring people, professionally and personally, and incredible support from close family. I’m so lucky to share my life with two adorable little sons, and their father Paul, who is also my partner in business as well as my husband.
2. Tell us about Koala Eco and why you’re so passionate about the ethos and reasons behind its existence?
Koala Eco is a family-owned business created by Paul and myself. We make household cleaning products that are absolutely free of any synthetic chemicals or toxins, and won’t harm people, pets, or the planet. We use only 100 percent pure Australian essential oils, because these, when combined with vinegar, sugar-based biodegradable alcohol and bicarbonate soda are just such great alternatives to caustic cleaning products. Australia has the most incredible range of plant-based resources and remedies, so we’ve a wealth of natural anti-bacterial and insect-repelling materials right on our doorstep. What Koala Eco does is combine these ingredients to make cleaning products that are not just effective and safe for ourselves and the planet, but also smell divine.
For the sake of a healthy future for everyone’s children everywhere, we’re passionate about supporting environmental conservation. We take the .eco part of our name very seriously, because for us it just isn’t enough to make products that are environmentally friendly; we also want to do something constructive to support the efforts of charities and organisations that are actively fighting for the wellbeing of the planet. That’s why for every Koala Eco product sold, we make a donation to the charity One Percent for the Planet.
I guess Koala Eco has its origins in my upbringing. My late grandmother would take me and my twin sister on long hikes through the forests around her New England home, pointing out the flora and fauna along the way. She passed on her passion for natural things to our mother, who likewise was an avid plant and garden enthusiast. Family outings invariably meant visits to historic gardens, plant nurseries and flower shows. I’ve always loved anything to do with the natural world, and I come from a family of inquisitive and entrepreneurial people – so I guess I was destined to find my way to creating something like Koala Eco.
3. Green cleaning products seems like such an obvious switch, but why do you think it can be a hurdle for some?
I’m guessing that there may be a couple of factors. A fear that natural products won’t be as effective, and that they will be more expensive. Perhaps a reluctance to change entrenched habits. That’s why education is so important, to let people know that natural products are not only just as (if not more) effective as synthetic cleaners, they do the job without giving people headaches or breathing problems or allergies or skin irritation; they offer terrific value for money; and if people can just give a couple of products a try, chances are they won’t want to go back to artificial fragrances and toxic ingredients when they know they can get the same results with entirely natural remedies.
4. Tell us about your biggest challenges running your own business and whether you have any advice for someone wanting to start a business which gives back to the planet?
Never enough time in the day! But then, that’s a reality for so many people, we all lead such busy lives. I guess my advice is that first of all you need to be honest with yourself: do you have the temperament to cope with the time and energy your business will demand, especially if you have other responsibilities, such as a family? You have to be 150% committed to what your business stands for; you have to be passionate about what you are doing and why. But you also have to be just as committed to your family life, so it can be tough keeping all the balls in the air. Also, when you are raising awareness about care for the planet, your own ethics have to be without question: you have to make sure you are walking the walk as well as talking the talk. But if you have a business idea, and a passion – go for it!
5. How do you set boundaries to maintain a better balance between home and work?
I guess it helps that Koala Eco is part of home as well as part of work; I mean, we’re using the products around our house, so we’re really close to the end result of the hard work, as well as being at its beginning: the ideas, the research and development. That said, it's important not to let a home-based business dominant family life. Boundaries require clarity, organisation, and a lot of discipline to maintain. But then, if you’ve got the self-motivation to set up and run a business, you’ve actually got the wherewithal to make sure the business doesn’t start running you!
6. As a mum, what do you want your legacy for your children to be?
As healthy a future as possible. A mindfulness that actions have consequences, and just a few simple choices can end up making a difference. Yes, the planet is at risk and it may feel a bit futile when you are one individual seeking not to cause further harm to it; but the world is made up of individuals. I’d like our sons to grow up as independent thinkers and become compassionate men.
7. As parents we have such a responsibility to influence our children. How do you influence your children to be kinder to themselves and their environment?
Children watch and listen intently – they observe what their parents or peers or carers do. So we’ve been aware that if we start by modelling good habits, it’s much easier (and much more authentic) to show our sons what being kinder to oneself and the planet entails than it is to tell them. And also by getting them to take responsibility for small yet important things, like working out what the family can recycle….trying to get the message across in a fun and constructive way, making it meaningful to them by making it part of their lives. Cleaning is definitely a family affair. Our children are responsible for realistic things like making their beds, setting and clearing the table and putting dishes in the dishwasher.
8. At Kin & Kind we really believe in the need for parents to carve out time for themselves. How do you carve out time in your day for yourself?
Good question! I go for an early run, yoga class or beach workout. I find exercise beneficial to managing a packed schedule. Paul and I make sure we go out together for dinner or a drink together on a regular basis. During a working day, it can be a challenge to grab a few minutes to sit and centre myself with a bit of meditation, but this is something I endeavour to do. Once a month I make sure to have a day to myself to regroup, recharge and rest. Usually it involves the ocean.
9. What’s a great example of Kindness someone has shown you recently?
There’s such a ground swell movement at the moment with women supporting women. The kindness of my female friends and small female run business’s encouraging each other and forming a community is inspiring. We can do this, raise our babies and support each other and succeed while making a difference.
10. And finally, what things are exciting/inspiring you right now?
I am excited to go to bed tonight and start reading Jennifer Egan’s latest book Manhattan Beach. Her books resonate with me she captures transformative moments of life with all of its sadness and beauty. I loved the Goon Squad it took me back to living in New York City in my twenties.
I am excited and inspired about our new product development and the release of our latest products including our All Natural Lemon Eucalyptus and Rosemary Hand Wash and our All Natural Pink Grapefruit and Peppermint Room Spray.