April 30, 2021

How I Research + Choose a Brand

When I want to find a new item to bring into my home – how do I go about searching out a the right company for me? 

So many of you have asked for this blog post, and I get it, it’s an overwhelming venture to change the way we shop. The thing I’ll say up front as always is: it’s a journey, for me and for you. And to free you from the need to research to perfection… we will all get it “wrong”, or as I prefer to think of it, we’ll get it an evolving kind of right. That’s the journey.  After you read you’ll see why you always hear me repeat the same companies over and over again… I fall in love when I find a good one like ABLE, Beautycounter, Pela Vision + Pela Case, and Nudies! It’s why you see the same names over and over from me! 

A few starting thoughts 

I don’t want to think of companies as “good” or “bad” – it makes the journey much harder and makes it harder to sort out what we personally need in the midst of other people’s opinions. Instead I’m looking with each purchase for the best company for me at the moment when I’m looking for a product. Good and bad also changes, both ways, and it’s why I prefer to just stay in relationship with where everything we buy is coming from and watch and learn. 

With that said, I also put a company through a different set of criteria depending on what I’m buying from them. The amount I TRULY need (not want, or tell myself I need) the product or company changes my standards. A bit. In some areas. But I always make sure I”m really challenging gmyself on what I’m ok to just go without.  If I can’t find a fair-trade chocolate out of plastic, I just won’t buy chocolate. If I can’t get coffee paid for at a fair wage, organically grown, I just don’t need coffee enough to say I should still buy it not done well. There are things that are always more important than me having the options I want. Sometimes it’s about saying “no” rather than even setting out to find the best. 

In general when I’m bringing something into my home I’m thinking about it’s impact on three things: my personal health, on other people, and on the planet. 

Trusting my gut

I do use my gut. If I don’t feel I’m seeing enough about a company to shop them, I’ll steer clear. Sometimes everything looks right but I feel like something is missing and so if I don’t HAVE to buy a product I’ll just steer clear of the company or email and ask questions. On this  DM screen shot I actually chose not to go with the company – on paper they had good looking answers but I felt I just couldn’t find the “heart” and “humanity” of the company and the answer I got here was simply a link to a blog post that answered some of the questions, kind of. So I trusted my gut and the lack of real answer and moved on.


STARTING QUESTIONS:

  • Who made this product?
  • Where was it made?
  • What is it made of?
  • How were the people treated who produced it?
  • What was the environmental impact of it being made?
  • What’s the company story and mission?
  • What is the level of transparency and ‘story’ shown?
  • What is the company committing to? How is that being assessed?
  • Is the company showing a journey towards any areas it wants to grown in? 
  • What does their “about section” say about them?
  • How do they talk about their ethics and care for people?
  • How do they talk about the environment?
  • How are they portraying their products or services? Who are they communicating they are for?
  • Is there any way they’re doing good beyond their company, is there a social mission or charitable element?
  • Is there external verification or certification of the company, products or practices in any way?
  • What is their plan for products after their useful life with me?
  • Do they offer any kind of assurance or guarantee?
  • Is there any kind of ongoing service?
  • Where is the company based? Where will it ship from?

Where we start

When we think we need something new I start as I said above, by assessing if I really need it. This is so valuable. We can shop better, we can find better, ethical companies… and yes we NEED to shop better but also a lot of the time we need to shop LESS.  So before jumping to better brands we stop and ask if we really even need the purchase. Can we use something else? Can we borrow? Can we buy used? Can we go without? And I’ll dig into my heart and ask: “What is making me feel like I need this?” It’s a good practice. 

Starting the search

Then I think back to if I’ve seen anyone I trust recommend something similar or a friend who might have ideas. . I ask people for recommendations, and yes I turn to google! As a starting point – not ever something just to trust!  “Ethically made _______” or “Organic cotton _________” and then I take what I find and start digging in myself. 

Putting it all through my questions

This is then when I run through that list of questions above as I
browse. The questions that are relevant depend on the type of product. I might look at the products and what they’re made of, see if they’re built to last, what they’re made of or what the ingredients are.  I’m usually looking for natural, organic materials, ones that won’t end up in landfill, that can be mended well.  Then within that initial look, I usually see some certifications, GOTS organic, USDA organic, maybe Fairtrade, maybe 1% for the planet, maybe GMO free, maybe compostable, maybe many other things. If I see a certification I don’t know I’ll look it up and dig in. I follow my curiosity and my gut, if I don’t know something or don’t see an answer I don’t assume it’s good – I ask! And if something feels off or hidden or wrongly marketed – I ask! 

Further research

There are a lot of other questions that follow on from those and those aren’t all make or break questions but that’s where I’m starting. Usually nowadays, if a company is doing something good, they’ll shout about it and conversely if they’re not talking about an aspect of what I’m looking for… it’s not there. But if a few things look right and it’s something I need, I’ll ask the questions on the other things and not make assumptions.  Often the email reply tells me a lot! When companies are really sourcing well, producing well etc they’re excited about it and happy to talk about it but when they’re scraping to look good you can tell!  So yes, it can take emailing, researching, digging in and getting on the phone… TIME before I know what I want to know about a company!

Seeking out minority owned. 

This is another thing I love to do that has specifically led me to some of my favourite items that have solved some of the real gaps I’ve seen in the market.  For example: Vitae watches. I searched for YEARS for ethically made watches for Jared, Nothing. At. All. As soon as I went down the track of black owned companies, I found the most stunning company we love.  

  • Reason 1: Minority owned companies don’t sometimes get the airtime or publicity so I’m missing out on such amazing things by not seeking them out specifically. 
  • Reason 2: I want to use my buying to champion people who have a much harder time in business for no good reason! Female and BIPOC led companies are less likely to get funding, loans etc, and I get to give them my support with my purchases – which is easy when most of the products I shop are led by female founders and members of the BIPOC community, and I LOVE that. 

Keep searching

Depending on what the purchase and need is I’ll be satisfied or keep searching, or just move on. I’ll go as far as listning to podcasts, reading articles for and against companies in some cases… so much. And if I do decide on a new company and make a purchase, I stay in relationship with the company – you can see once I’ve delved in that deep… I feel committed and in love with the options that I find and I fall deeply in love! 


OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY with companies we love:

Female founded businesses we love + shop

Clothing Brands we Shop

Coffee + Tea brands we love

Better Gift Guide (US)

Better Gift Guide (UK + beyond) 

 

 

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