Fresh ideas | Free thinking #7

We caught up with #EthicalHour founder Sian Conway, about creating a social network with real social purpose. More than just a hashtag, #EthicalHour is a space for ethically-focused blogs and brands to connect.

Conway shares how she's been inspired by the queens of cruelty-free, Lush; and moved by the story of the Gandy brothers...
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03.22.17
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What do you do?

I’m the co-founder of ethical fashion brand Little Lotus Boutique and founder of the world’s first support network for ethical businesses and bloggers – #EthicalHour. I work in marketing and mentor young entrepreneurs. In June I was looking for new ways to promote Little Lotus Boutique, which gave me the idea to start a Twitter chat for ethically-focused blogs and brands. It quickly became popular and now I’m building it into a support platform.

Where do you do it?

I live and work in Worcestershire, UK. #EthicalHour is an online community of businesses all around the world. I’m inspired by travelling and it has always been my goal to start a business I can run from anywhere.

Who do you do it for?

#EthicalHour is all about creating opportunity. People are capable of incredible things, but they need the right environment and support to reach their potential. If you can empower someone to change their situation, that can have lasting impact on their life and the community around them. Social enterprises around the world are doing that, and they need support; that’s what #EthicalHour does.

I’ve been lucky to work around the world with people from a range of backgrounds who are turning their business dreams into reality and creating positive impact. From women in Sierra Leone who survived civil war and are re-building communities by starting businesses; survivors of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia who are creating a better life through traditional handicrafts, to young entrepreneurs in the UK. These people have passion and purpose, and with the right support will achieve amazing things, which encourages me to build the #EthicalHour community as a place where anyone with drive, determination and an ethical outlook can come to build a thriving business with social purpose.

What has been your favourite project of the past year that you’ve been involved in?

As a mentor and advocate for aspiring entrepreneurs, I was proud to become an Ogunte ambassador for their Impact Women project, which aims to connect one million female social entrepreneurs by 2020. As a peer-to-peer support network, the project provides a platform for mentoring and collaboration. It’s ambitious in its aims and closely aligned to what #EthicalHour is trying to achieve. The more platforms available, the more likely social entrepreneurs are to thrive and that will lead to positive change, so I’m proud to be involved.

What is the most innovative, ethically-minded business that you’d love to collaborate with?

One brand I really admire is cosmetics retailer Lush. They actively avoid marketing themselves as ‘ethical’, ‘eco’, ‘responsible’ etc. and instead let their products and actions speak for themselves. They understand the challenges of ethical business and marketing, and their branding, campaigns and approach is impressively innovative. I’ve learnt a lot from their ethos and I’d love to collaborate with them.

What ethical business leaders inspire you?

Rob and Paul Forkan are two social entrepreneurs with an inspiring story. After being tragically orphaned by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, and inspired by their unique upbringing travelling the world, the two brothers started flip flop brand Gandys. They have committed to making it a success, even achieving the backing of Richard Branson. They donate 10% of profits to helping underprivileged children through “Orphans for Orphans” and in 2014 they opened their first children’s home. It’s an incredible story of how personal tragedy can become a powerful force for social change.

What are the five most interesting things that you have come across or read recently?

● There’s a video called “What do you desire?” which features a speech by philosopher Alan Watts. He asks what would you do if money were no object – where are your passions? If you’re passionate about something, you’ll become a master and you’ll find a way to make money from it. It’s an important message for anyone with a desire to make a positive change in the world, start a business or pursue their passion.

● In contrast to Alan Watts, entrepreneur Mark Manson asks “what are you willing to suffer for?”, which resonated with me. Running a business is not an easy path. Understanding this will help you identify what you truly want and Mark puts this as a challenge to the reader – pushing you to examine your motivation.

● A key skill for anyone who wants to spread an idea or establish a business is to be able to grow an audience. I’m fortunate that I work in marketing, but many people in the #EthicalHour community tell me it’s their biggest challenge. I’d recommend “Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday. In the digital age, it’s easy to reach a large audience if you know how, and Ryan teaches strategies and tactics which can be used by any business.

● As an ethical business, it can be hard to see beyond your principles – but this isn’t always the most effective way to sell what you do. It’s something we talk about a lot during #EthicalHour chats and I think this article about why not to brand your business as ethical sums it up really well.

● I’m currently reading “Tsunami Kids” by the Gandy brothers. They bravely recount the horrors of the Boxing Day tsunami and give a personal, moving account of how they’ve turned their business from a spare room operation into a global brand committed to giving back.

What’s the book, books or author that most shaped your thinking for the work that you do?

I come from an arts background and one thing I try to instil in any entrepreneur I work with is that creativity isn’t just about painting a picture – it’s a mindset and way of life, and essential for anyone looking to go into business, especially to create social impact. The book that has really shaped my thinking is “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s an empowering read that helps you understand where ideas come from and how to build your creative confidence.

Join the #EthicalHour Twitter conversation every Monday from 20:00 GMT – just search @EthicalHour