The An'du Story: Part 1

We were recently advised by our marketing guru (thanks Jimmy) to write a series of blog posts sharing our story. Who we are, how An’du came into being, and why we continue doing this ‘thing.’

I wouldn’t say this idea filled us with horror as much as it did scepticism. We are uncertain why anyone would want to read about our story, but on the small chance that some are curious, we’re giving it a shot.

 

Who we are…

 in a nutshell, lifted straight from the life-style magazines of the 90s, we thought we’d answer ten, quick fire questions about ourselves:

 

Lizzy:

 Current TV obsession: Ted Lasso; I’m re-watching and laughing and crying more (if possible) than the first time round.

Favourite food: Pizza, I recently made some with my own hand-made sourdough base. It took three days to make the sourdough but was well worth the effort. Taste rating; 10/10. Efficiency rating;1/10. 

Favourite place in the world: So many, but I’m recently trying to be super grateful for what I have in front of me, and Richmond Park is one of the most stunning places.

 Biggest weakness: follow through, I have the big ideas and suck at the details of implementation.

Biggest strength: my commitment to my family. It’s one of the values I hold highest in life and something I make a conscious effort to practice.

Pet peeve: poor grammar when texting or emailing, somehow it doesn’t bother me as much when it’s spoken.

What would you tell your 20 year old self: don’t be afraid to call people out more. Do it gently and constructively, more often than not, it builds, rather than breaks relationships.

 Favourite time of the day: is it really sad to say bedtime?

 Three words to describe Tina: determined, kind, genuine.

Hogwarts house: Hufflepuff   

 

 Tina 

Current TV obsession: Slow Horses

Favourite food: breakfast porridge

Favourite place in the world:  Port Eynon, Gower Peninsular, Wales.

Biggest weakness: do I have to answer this one in public?

Biggest strength: love

Pet peeve: people leaving dirty cups around 

What would you tell your 20 year old self: relax 

Favourite time of the day: morning 

3 words to describe Lizzy: thoughtful, loving, kind

Hogwarts house: Hufflepuff

  

A little more depth

 Tina

I can only write about my Mum, Tina, from the biased lens of being her daughter; her life really began at thirty when she had me! Apparently, mum always knew, or at least knew from a very young age, that she wanted to be a doctor. This absolutely fits with my view of her. Mum is pretty resolute and has this amazing capacity to get things done. She is also empathetic, curious and kind, so the idea that little, seven-year-old Tina decided that she wanted to spend her life helping others (and did indeed spend thirty-three years as an NHS GP) comes as no surprise to me. What has surprised me is the way our relationship has continued to grow and strengthen as we embarked on this project together. In some ways mum and I are very similar but growing up I always viewed us as quite different. Mum has always been far more practical than I am and far less 'dream the big dream.’ In that wonderful, omniscient teenage way, I always felt like mum never really understood a part of me and couldn’t grasp the ‘greater things in life’; art, philosophy, music… all the things I was into. Now, as a less omniscient and hopefully slightly wiser thirty-one-year-old, I see how mum was completely the opposite. Mum has always embodied the things that I am only just beginning to realise are valuable to me, but in real-life kind of way. And of course, a real-life kind of way makes for real life, tangible change and difference to those around you.

 

Let me explain what I mean a little bit more. While I locked myself away writing poetry, reading Marx and weeping to music, mum went out into the world and built community. She took time to listen to her patients and her friends. Mum practices friendship rigorously. She shows up, always, with home cooked food, or laughter or simply her time. Mum remains curious and is always open to listening and really trying to understand others’ views. Even when she doesn’t change her opinion, I walk away from that conversation genuinely feeling like I have been listened too and usually with a lot to think about. She has always allowed me to be who I am without judgment while gently encouraging my better qualities. Mum understands that it’s the day-to-day actions and habits that makes you who you are and defines what you give to the world; far more than grand gestures and big proclamations. I’m not saying that big ideas aren’t important or that they don’t change the world, just that mum’s way of doing it is equally as valid and probably has more impact.

 

It is these qualities that have, without a doubt, kept An’du running. While I am most definitely learning and practising more of mum’s ‘here and now,’ as I grow older, I am still a bit of an ideas person, sometimes without the capacity to follow through as well as I would like. I go through phases of huge productivity and then, not lose interest as such, but more get pulled in other directions towards the complexity that is life. Mum just grinds away and gets it done!

 

 

Lizzy

As I have attempted to explain, one out of the two of us, I’m the more creative one. However, I’ve never had as clear an idea as mum had about what I want to do with my life. I studied philosophy and politics at university because I was interested in them, rather than having a clear plan about where I wanted them to take me. Throughout uni, I became interested in business and entrepreneurship, but my ideas rarely became more than scribbles in my note books. I went into teaching and found a real passion in Early Years education. Early childhood development continues to absorb me, and I continue to marvel at how little value we place on it as a society (but this is a discussion for another blog). I now have my own, two-year-old daughter and have grappled with the challenges of motherhood, sense of self, selfishness/selflessness, identity issues that so many mums go through and once again, our culture is woefully ill-equipped to help with. I think this is something that for me will be a constant conversation, but, like all of life’s challenges, it is something I have learned so much from and, with grace, have become a better person because of it. Mum of course has supported me emotionally and physically throughout it all and while no doubt my daughter will one day smile ruefully when she reads Larkin’s “This Be the Verse”, I hope she will also see how fortuitous she is to have her Grand-moo and, again with grace, me.

 

The seed of inspiration

I actually tried using Chat GPT to write this section, but like most things I do to try and speed something up, I wasted a good few hours of my time and had very little to show for it. So back to the good old fashioned, typing it out myself. I do, however, just want to share the first paragraph it came up with because it cracked me up a little bit.

 “Nestled amidst the serene countryside of rural England, our journey to An'du began with a gift from afar. It was the winter of 2015 when my sister Kat returned from her transformative adventures in New Zealand. Canterbury Christchurch University had beckoned her across the globe, leading her on a journey of self-discovery and exploration. As she regaled us with tales of her travels, she revealed a simple yet profound discovery - a compact shampoo bar nestled amidst the vibrant streets of Wellington.

What ChatGPT is trying to say is that the idea for An’du started with a gift from my sister who found solid shampoo bars in New Zealand and brought some back for us as presents. With the simple phrase ‘this is plastic free and has no nasties in it’. We fell in love with the concept but quickly realised that there was no equivalent in the UK. Shipping them over from the other side of the world also seemed a little counter intuitive where the environment was concerned. I’m trying to recall if somewhere in my head I knew that I wanted to make this into a business venture one day, but I genuinely can’t. Either way, we started making bars simply for ourselves and then eventually for friends and family. We started with that gloriously naïve phrase “how hard can it be”. Four years later, we launched our first bar commercially; that gives you a fair idea of how hard it actually was!

 

As a family we have grown up conscious of the environment (within our times of course). As children we certainly weren’t aware of the damaging impact of fast fashion and hyper consumerism, but we were told to turn off lights, save water, eat all our dinner and to recycle. Mum has always been a keen gardener, so a compost heap was a part of my life growing up as much as porridge was for breakfast. Again, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where our family-group consciousness expanded to an awareness of the huge environmental impact of single use plastics, but sustainability was certainly getting a little more airtime so I imagine it fell in line with that. We also loved watching David Attenborough and all of his nature series, becoming increasingly upset as his message of the damage humanity is doing to the planet became clearer and stronger. 

 

Solid shampoo bars fitted right into our plastic-free, low-waste philosophy. 

 

This is the bit of the blog where I am meant to mention phrases such as ‘founders commitment’ and responsibility and motivation to making a positive impact on the planet. Well, I think it’s fair to say that at that early stage we didn’t start the business with such a clear intention.  

We felt responsible to live a sustainable life, we also wanted lovely, shiny, healthy hair, but we were far from thinking about selling the bars and helping the world to convert to being plastic free. 

Making shampoo bars was fun, the house smelt gorgeous and kept us busy in the kitchen!

I was living back home at the time and mum and I found ourselves spending more and more time discussing, researching and experimenting. We trialled new bars as they hit the market, but felt that none ticked all our boxes. Mum was also interested in scalp health and the skin’s microbiome so was keen to introduce fermented products into our bars. That is a whole new blog, for the future, but we were definitely hooked on all our experimenting and keen to create something better than what was already available.

 

Of all the stages in the development of An’du, this has been our favourite. We had an absolute blast and really enjoyed being on such a steep learning curve. Never in our lives had either of us failed so repeatedly, but we were both genuinely having so much fun. In part II, I will go into more depth about the development stage, including how two adults with one chemistry A level between them went about making a shampoo bar from scratch. We will describe our “poo bar” the “tizzy test” and third-time-lucky with the brand name.

 

For now, however, I just wanted to round things up by saying that An’du is certainly something neither of us saw coming. But now, it’s something that would be very hard to walk away from. We are both committed to doing our part for the environment and the feedback we have had to date makes us believe that we truly can make a difference, even if it only turns out to be a small one. This venture has brought us joy, laughter, a huge amount of stress and 100% a stronger relationship. Sometimes, when it feels really hard and I’m seriously lacking in motivation, I wonder if we’re still doing this because of a bit of a sunken hole fallacy; we’ve put in so much, we can’t walk away without feeling cheated! But actually, even if this business venture ends up failing, I think we will both be able to walk away proudly saying that we did our bit and got a lot out of it. For many, we have just raised awareness, for others, we have been a sustainable swap on their journey towards less plastic, for us, we have learned a huge amount about cosmetic formulation, scalp health and the skin’s microbiome as well as running a small business. We have created something that our whole family now contributes to. (Kat is our promoter-in-chief, who, along with her boyfriend is converting Spain, where they live, to the joys of shampoo bars, my dad is now head of logistics and shipping, my husband lends his business and strategy expertise, my step daughter is our ‘teen market’ consultant, my granny our social media guru following us on Instagram ‘liking’ each post even if it’s a rubbish one, our dog insisting that a day’s work should start with a 2 hour walk to clear the mind,  and my daughter who shows up at fairs to keep us all entertained).

 

More than anything however, we have brought a little bit of An’du into our lives. We have, wherever we can, made attempts to row gently against the tide.

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