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Ecodownunder’s transformation from retailer to successful online store

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Inspired to find the naturally better way: conversation with Russell Lamb, founder of Ecodownunder.

The world seemed focused on synthetics and creating “new” plastic textiles which flooded the market from China. By the mid-90s, thanks to technology and the growth in demand for cheaper man-made fibres, it was virtually impossible to find good quality, pure cotton sheets in Australia.

Born at the foothills of the mountains backing onto Fiordland in New Zealand, it’s no surprise that Russell wasn’t comfortable with the synthetics boom. He and his three brothers grew up by the ocean, disappearing when the school bell rang on a Friday, to explore the beaches and bluffs of this remote and rugged coastline, returning home only to get some sleep before school on a Monday.   Long summer holidays were spent working on a cousin’s farm. Some of his earliest memories conjure up images of collapsing exhausted, hot and sweaty, in the hay bales after a long day shearing sheep. To him, at times it feels like yesterday and the memories are vivid.

Those heady days came to a sudden end when school finished and he had to work full-time so that he could study at night. With a degree under his belt, he arrived in Australia 25 and broke. It didn’t take long to land his first job with the NZ founder of wool underlays. A few years later, he joined a business which imported lower quality, synthetic products from China but he didn’t feel right about it.

The freedom to roam the bush and beaches of the southern tip of South Island, had left Russell with a strong connection to the natural world and it seemed clear to him that natural fibres were the way to go. “Everyone was focusing on synthetics and the fastest way to turn products around at the lowest cost. Australia was being flooded with low quality, chemically coated sheets from China. It was a no brainer to me. Sleeping in synthetics just didn’t feel comfortable”.

Never afraid to follow his instincts, which he confesses has got him into some interesting situations over the years but concludes “things invariably work out when you’re true to yourself.”

 And Ecodownunder was born. 

Just a concept at first, “eco in our name meant to be naturally better, to use no synthetics, no harsh chemicals, nothing made in China. Australian made where possible” and the start of a long journey with a string of failures along the way!

The dream seemed simple: to create homewares from natural fibres, grown without harsh chemicals and pesticides, made into products using natural processes. But organically grown cotton was virtually unheard of at the time. Mention of it was generally met with no interest or raised eyebrows at best. But he was not deterred as he was certain it was the right path to take.

The hunt began for organic cotton which didn’t exist on a viable scale in Australia. The search took them to remote farms in northern NSW and Queensland, to an anthropologist working with farmers in Peru who had discovered naturally coloured cotton seeds in mummy wrappings. The trail moved to another farmer in Northern California, who was growing naturally coloured cotton and producing cotton fabric. They trialled organic cotton from Turkey, talked to cotton producers in Pakistan and India.

 “The concept of organic was not deemed commercial and we were viewed as time wasters. I’ve always been determined to find what I’m looking for and this was no exception.”

Research around the world was followed by a string of time-consuming failures! They partnered with a farmer in NSW to grow their own cotton crop in Australia. 6 months later, the crop failed, and a lot of money went too!

They then found naturally coloured Australian cotton, which of course was reddish brown. But it was evident that no one liked the colour! And the fact that the towels were made without using toxic dyes was clearly not enough to help sell the towels back in the 90s!

They decided to try making sheets, with naturally coloured cotton from Queensland which they sent to a cotton factory in Pakistan, but the colour failed again and just looked washed out and dirty.

Their long search continued for naturally coloured cotton and ended successfully in the middle of where Russell describes as “nowhere!” They found darker naturally coloured cotton in Arizona, which they were optimistic could be spun and woven to make sheets! They bought some cotton, shipped it to Pakistan to have it spun and woven. It made beautiful sheets which customers loved, at first. But the pigment in naturally coloured cotton is not stable and the cotton faded in the sun, although the colour returned when the fabric was washed.   

“We spent 3 years getting this far but realised these sheets were just not going to be good enough.”

Finding desirable naturally coloured cotton unearthed an interesting correlation between cotton fibre length and colour. Russell explains “the brighter coloured cottons seemed to have shorter fibre lengths, which made sense when you look at the traditional rich, bright colours used by the Mayans which created a coarser fabric. We needed long staple fibres to create quality cotton in desirable colours!”

“These failures made them more determined to give people better sleep, naturally. 

To do this we just needed to create bedding without using synthetics and harsh chemicals.”

Like many things, their no 1 bestselling eco cotton sheets happened by accident. People wondered why these sheets were so wonderful to sleep in.  It was because of the things they didn’t do; they weren’t coated in chemicals so they could breathe, and they were made without blending the cotton with polyester. By eliminating harsh chemicals, they had inadvertently created what has become their most popular sheet! The soft smooth finish of eco cotton became their signature. 

“We knew we’d created great sheets when people came back to buy more.”

The search for quality organic cotton ended in India where they finally found a partner who was able to produce Ecodownunder’s organic cotton bedding and maintain the quality they had committed to at an affordable price. In producing organic cotton sheets, they again had a lucky break, as they were the perfect alternative to eco cotton sheets. As Russell explains “our eco cotton has a soft, smooth, almost silky feel but some people prefer a crisp hotel finish which is why they choose our organic cotton sheets.”

The eco in Ecodownunder continues to be at the heart of the business as they develop their natural range of bed and bath linen which uses either organic or eco cotton.

“We know we’re not perfect, but we continually assess and look to improve the way we do things at every level of the business. A high for us was eliminating single use plastic from our stores. We redesigned our packaging and our bedding is now delivered to customers in organic cotton reusable shopping bags.  

We’re a family run Australian business, and live, work and spend any spare moments by the sea. It’s why we’re so passionate about alternatives to synthetics and plastics. Between us, we’re on the water most days, surf boat rowing somewhere between Palm Beach and Manly, depending on surf and wind conditions!  Every day we become more determined as we see particles of plastic stuff floating in the ocean and washing up on our beaches.

Downunder – we produce within Australia when it makes sense to do so. Our comfort range uses the finest natural fibres, made in Australia, which we believe grows the best wool to be found anywhere in the world.

Ecodownunder | Since 1997

25 years ago we couldn’t find luxurious pure cotton sheets that were not blended with synthetics and produced without harsh chemical treatments. Frustration at the poor quality of bed and bath products available in Australia was the impetus for Ecodownunder, and the creation of the best quality bed and bath collection made without harsh chemicals and synthetics.

For more information, head to their website.

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Improving digital experience is everything

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All eyes are now on businesses as they navigate the online world.

Organisations are trying to optimise their website, social media and mobile applications to capture customers, and provide a flawless digital experience.

But, how can this be done?

“There is a real thirst for leveraging the data of customer behaviour,” Optimizely‘s Paul North revealed to Ticker News. “This is all a part of the customer digital experience online.”

North also spoke about the importance of the company’s ‘data core service’ – a free service for clients, to better understand customers and how it can help businesses to grow.

“We are getting queries from our customers, about what their customers are doing online,” he adds. “every touchpoint you ave with a customer is a chance to get to know them better.

“You also get the chance to understand them, the content they are interested in, and to enrich their experience.”

North also went on to detail why a personalised aspect is crucial in a fast-paced world.

“Everyone in the digital space talks about the three-second flicker,” he continues. “If you don’t have the engagement in real-time, you lose them to another digital property.

“This could be your competitor, or another service, or another avenue of interest that the end user may have.

“Our aim is to help organisations contextualise customer experiences in real-time using Artificial Intelligence and a data bank built up, and by doing this, the experience become relevant and contextualised, keeping people engaged with your brand.”

For more information, head to their website.

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Training to your peak with Maximum Potential Calisthenics

The way people train and take care of their body has significantly changed over the years, with bodyweight calisthenics becoming a popular choice for many.

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The way people train and take care of their body has significantly changed over the years, with bodyweight calisthenics becoming a popular choice for many.

Maximum Potential Calisthenics‘ Nathan Leith says there has been a boom over the past 12-24 months in the industry.

“There has been a decrease over the past decade of people wanting to go to the gym,” Leith points out on Ticker News. “They don’t want to build that huge, massive physique.

“A structural shift towards functional training has been seen.

“People want to stay mobile, build strength and learn a few more skills.”

Leith argues there are benefits for people to get into Calisthenics, as it appeals to anyone.

“There is no need for weights, or a gym,” he highlights. “It can be done outside and people seem to love it.”

“Anybody is able to do it, especially if people are able to do the moves and then improve on it.”

Leith also points out form and safety are paramount when doing the exercises, which is why they keep their class sizes small.

“People want to get their form and detail correct,” Leith adds. “Before anyone signs up, we will assess how people perform certain actions. and history.”

For more information, head to their website.

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HCL hitting cricket for six!

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HCL Technologies is a next-generation global technology company that helps enterprises reimagine their businesses for the digital age.

Their technology products, services, and engineering are built on four decades of innovation, with a world-renowned management philosophy, a strong culture of invention and risk-taking, and a relentless focus on customer relationships.

HCL offer an integrated portfolio of products, solutions, services, and IP through our Mode 1-2-3 strategy, built around Digital, IoT, Cloud, Automation, Cybersecurity, Analytics, Infrastructure Management, and Engineering Services, amongst others.

With a worldwide network of R&D, innovation labs and delivery centres, and 187,634 ‘Ideapreneurs’ working in 50 countries, HCL serves leading enterprises across key industries, including 250 of the Fortune 500 and 650 of the Global 2000.

For more information, head to their website.

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