12 July 2021

All the small businesses in the world add up to be a force to be reckoned with

Lucy Jeffrey with her socksLucy Jeffrey graduated from UEA in 2016 with a BSc in Biological Sciences. Lucy went on to a graduate programme at a major bank and alongside that she started up a business, Bare kind, selling socks. In the past year or so, she has dedicated all her time to the business, and invested in good causes along the way. We caught up with Lucy about running a company full-time and how small businesses can make a difference to the environment.

I have always wanted to help save animals - I just didn't know it would be through the medium of socks!

Tell us about what Barekind is all about, and how it started.

I started Bare Kind in 2018. At the time I was working for a bank, and I wanted to use my spare time to do something more for the planet. I started by dabbling in a few different plastic-free and recycled products such as reusable straws and recycled t-shirts. It wasn't until 2019 when I launched my hero product - the bamboo sock. 10% of the profits from my bamboo socks are donated to animal conservation charities. I started with turtles, supporting The Turtle Foundation, and since then I have been growing the range out to other animals, including rescue rabbits more recently. 

Did you pick up any skills at UEA, alongside the funding, that helped you start a business?

I didn't utilise the facilities available at UEA until after I had already left and have only now realised how much support there is at UEA for students wanting to start their own company. When I was at uni I was focussed on my degree (and let's be honest, the LCR) and was only worried about getting a job after uni. I was delighted when I got a place on a graduate programme at a large bank. I might have been possible to go into business earlier, but I gained a lot of skills and confidence from starting a full-time job (and money!), so it was the right path for me in the end.

You began by running the business alongside your full-time job. How was that?

Pretty good actually, it took the pressure off in those early stages because I already had a steady income. There were times where work was busy and the company got none of my time, and its growth suffered as a result. Now, I'm working on the business full time, I can see that it really needed my full dedication to be able to grow any further than just a side project. 

And how tricky was it to be able to make the decision to dedicate all of your time to it?

When the time was right, it felt like the easiest decision in the world, and it all happened very quickly. However, for a full 2 years I had been going back and forth in my head about what to do with my career. Running the company full time hadn't seem feasible until Christmas shopping season 2020 where things just took off, and so I made the leap very quickly and haven't looked back.

Have conservation issues always been close to your heart?

Animals in general have been very close to my heart, and as I have grown older I have started to take in the disastrous consequences of human action around the world and decided I need to help. I wanted to be a vet when I was little, I have always wanted to help save animals - I just didn't know it would be through the medium of socks!

Lucy GraduatingDo you think it is important for businesses to operate sustainably and how you do so yourself?

Absolutely, businesses have got to lead the way in this, especially large corporations. There is a lot of power and money sitting in these corporations and it can be put to good use as well as turning a profit for shareholders. As a small business there are crucial steps I can take: all my packaging is plastic-free and 100% recyclable and that's a really easy one to achieve. I'm also working on my carbon emissions programme; in the new year I will be working with a third party to minimise my emissions and putting a plan in place to reduce my carbon emissions and offset them where I can't reduce further.

Do you think businesses like yours can play a role in fighting climate change?

All the small businesses in the world add up to be a force to be reckoned with. If we all donated a % of profits to good causes, or all had a social impact in another form, then we would have a huge impact. And the consumers also then have a lot of buying power if they choose to shop in a purposeful way.

What are your favourite UEA memories?

Winning our hockey match at my last ever derby day! And just in general playing hockey every week with my best girls.

And what’s next for you?

Loads more socks, loads more charity partners! I've got a big Christmas coming up with my largest ever order of socks incoming. I am moving my operations into a fulfilment warehouse so will be growing the business as much as possible, getting it into a strong position in the UK market before breaching other markets abroad - watch this space!

Lucy studies BSc Biological Sciences at UEA, graduating in 2016.