Robyn Smith founded Faithful to Nature – a successful online eco-retailer – 15 years ago. And it all started with a drive to make the world a better place…
Faithful to Nature has always been customer-centric: its customers are at the heart of everything the biz does. Robyn tells writer Ondela Mlandu why the brand works so hard to empower consumers to know what’s in the products they use, and how it supports them in their journey towards ethical, conscious and sustainable living.
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✨Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment. Fully alive, fully aware. – Thich Nhat Hanh ✨ We came to Earth in this human body to live and experience our lives. All creation and manifestation happens in the present moment, not the past or the future. We take breath for life now – not ‘for then.’ Let us be careful that we don’t get so caught up in the drama around us that we forget the essence of who we are, and what we are doing here. Do and be whatever it is that you need to do and be, but make it a practice to keep bringing yourself back to the profound simplicity of the present moment. By practicing mindfulness in as many moments of our day that we can – when brushing our teeth, eating our food, hugging our kids, sweeping the floor, picking up clothes, we actually create more (and this is key – more) space to solve all the problems that we think we have. It is by practicing mindfulness and making the present moment our ultimate temple that we increase our capacity for consciousness awareness and the perception of ‘true reality.’ From my heart to yours ❤️ 📷 by @ilzelouwphotography
From Faithful To Nature to spiritual trainer – how to diversity yourself as a woman
Robyn is passionate about truth. “I started to make this my life’s work with the birth of Faithful to Nature,” says Robyn. “We were the first retailer of its kind on the planet – the first retailer that made a commitment to its customers to only procure according to a strict and thoroughly researched ingredients policy, where honesty, transparency and product integrity were always first in line.”
This grew from a desire to empower customers on their own way to more conscious, ethical living. And now, of course, that desire is furthered by the one-on-one work Robyn does with her clients seeking healing and spiritual guidance.
“About four years ago, I started to diversify my own path, and now work as a healer and spiritual trainer as well, teaching classes and guiding others more personally on their spiritual journey. I’m still involved with Faithful to Nature on a board level and oversee any major ethical decisions related to the company, but have continued to evolve my own personal desire to help others find their purpose and paths of joy,” says Robyn.
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It was almost 14 years ago when I birthed the idea to start an online ethical store in South Africa. Everyone thought I was crazy. None of my friends and family though there was enough interest yet to actually create a business around supplying then much more expensive natural and organic cosmetics and household cleaning products (it took a few years before @faithfultonature went into food) – and online too!! It seemed like madness. But my heart had spoken and I felt the call clearly and trusted that beyond all else. And now, having moved beyond that (mere expansion really – remember ones soul purpose grows as you complete certain contracts) and working as a healer, I am coming across mountains of the same sceptism. But this time I have so much more experience under my belt and so I find it more curious than anything else. You see, this is the thing – apart from the fact that I am just following my heart once again (which often does not seem rational or logical,) if one has to put that aside, to see a leader in wellness branching out to serve their community not just with their bodies, but also mind and spirit makes total sense. For us humans are not just the physical body. We are made up of 3 bodies – the physical body, the auric body and the soul body, with the soul body extending at least 150m in diameter. And all disease and illness manifests first in one’s aura before reaching the physical body. And so it actually is irrelevant how many advanced whole foods supplements and organic food one consumes – if your aura is damaged you are still going to continue to get sick. (Real whole food is important, but it’s not the full story of our health.) And mark my words, this understanding is the future of wellness. Just as 14 years ago it seemed far-fetched to invest in natural and organic products, so too may it seem that investing in ones emotional, mental and spiritual wellness may seem to be for the niche, but I guarantee you that in a decade, it will be much more widely understood that we are not just our bodies. And health and wellness does not just end with our bodies either… (continued below in the comments)
Ethical retail: how to get your foot in the door…
Walking the talk is so important in the ethical retail business. “The best way to get to know the market is to live it. Whether you dream of being employed in this industry or starting your own business, the best way to get your foot in the door is to submerge yourself in the world of ethical, conscious and sustainable living,” she says.
Resources and platforms that could help you
“We run our internship programs through SETA (a government-funded platform to help students get practical experience in the workplace),” says Robyn. “Through SETA, we are able to place an application at the beginning of the year, and upon approval, we can then create a 12-month intern position in any department of the company, or across departments.”
LinkedIn and Bizcommunity are both great tools for staying up to date with local industry movements and trends, as well as offering readings across all sectors. The website Startup Grind offers global insights. Think: events, talks and insights for start-ups.
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“When death finds you, may it find you alive.” (African proverb) Hello 💫🦋 Most people know me from the work I have done in the natural and organic industry in South Africa! Parallel to this has been a deep commitment to my own spiritual growth in seeking to answer the eternal question of “Who Am I?” As with most things, my work has evolved and having recently just updated my website (link in bio) with the latest classes and healings I offer, I wanted to share why I do what I do, and why my work has evolved like it has. I look around me and see so many people living with a constant, “soul-ache.” An emptiness that no amount of money, change, holidays, adventure or numbing can seem to shift. A constant frustration that there is more to life, that just beyond our grasp lies a life with so much more joy and purpose. I know this feeling well. I lived with it for all of my adult life. And I have experienced that it is possible to truly heal and live with joy. Not happiness that is reliant on external happenings, but a constant joy that comes from knowing oneself, loving oneself and living one’s own life, not the life of our parents, or community, partners or even kids. But our own life. And this is what it means to live life alive. It is is my mission to bring the light to your life. To share tools with you so that you can build your own foundation of healing. I am not interested in developing co-dependancies with my clients. The essence of my work is to help you reclaim your crown, so that you can live confident in your ability to seek the answers within, confident to live authentically, to stand in your power, and to live the life of YOUR dreams. The work we do may not always be comfortable, but it will bring profound shifts and self empowerment to your life. Together, we will to strengthen your beautiful divine essence within so that you can shine your most authentic and truest light. A light that I have no doubt will help wake up others to do the same. And we will work to find your path of joy. For a life of joy is the only life you, and all other beings, deserve to live. From my heart to yours divine beings 🙏✨💫
How Faithful To Nature ensures gender equality in the workplace
There’s a universal discrepancy in all industries, so Faithful to Nature has made a point of ensuring equality across the company. “Our gender distribution is 66 women: 43 men, and this is across all levels of management. We are a female-founded company, with a male CEO, and three men and three women in upper management, so we’re fostering an environment of equal gender input and opportunity,” she says.
The hardships Robyn has encountered – and how she overcame them
“The first [hardship] was believing in myself and carrying the Faithful to Nature concept through. The business model itself was built around long-term growth and after a few years of slaving away, friends and family started to show their concern for not only our well-being but also the company concept itself. So, unfortunately, it was having to fight off that negatively while still staying strong to my idea and the work I was doing…
“The second [hardship] was cash flow because it took so long for the company to turn a profit,” says Robyn.
She overcame the first through consistently practicing self-development. “As anyone who has started their own business will know, your company becomes a reflection of you – and the strengthening of you feeds strength into the company. [I focused on] making sure my own cup was full, that I could mentally and physically deal with the emotional challenges that come with starting a business,” she says.
Robyn overcame the cash flow problem through becoming wildly inventive, innovative and operating “lean”. “We didn’t have a marketing budget for the first few years, but rather focused on building the customer experience; turning our customers into our marketing through the exceptional service they received from Faithful to Nature,” she explains.
Leadership lessons learnt along the way
1/ Never stop believing in yourself and your ideas.
Self-belief, self-care and self-awareness are all we have as individuals.
2/ Never give up on the thought you had and where you want to take it.
The only difference between one woman who makes it and one woman who doesn’t is that one woman didn’t give up.
3/ Start with a strong foundation.
Put the work in at the start and constantly go back – recheck and rework your business strategy to keep it relevant and strong. Cash flow should also be a huge priority. You can have an incredible concept, and create an amazing business, but if there isn’t strong management of your cash flow, it will fail.