ECOVELA, HOW WE FOUND IT. OR BETTER TO SAY, HOW IT FOUND US.
During our last Blue Subur Market in Sitges, we launched our new product "Bamboo Toothbrushes" for the first time and for a special price. On the 2nd market day, one other market-seller stopped by and asked if we could do an exchange of 4 toothbrushes for 4 of her Ecovelas, which had the same price during that day. Just accepting the offer - not having any idea what she was talking about - because the word Ecovela (Eco candle) sounded interesting to me. The next day we would do the actual exchange and there she came with a small paper bag and 4 plastic discs. To be honest, that did not look very exciting and I really had no idea what to expect.
ENTHUSIAST AFTER THE DEMONSTRATION
She told me to stop by at her stall to get a small demonstration on about how it worked and what kind of creative options you have with the candle. And WOW, it was amazing.
Just some water, sunflower oil and a paper towel wick and you have a self made floating candle, which burns for many hours. I am super enthusiastic and think it is a great clean and cheap product which can be used at home, in restaurants and beachbars, campings, holiday houses etc. But also would be a great product for the areas in the world where people live in slums, maybe without electricity. Most likely they will have (dirty) water, a bit of cheap cooking oil, a cup, glass, container or even half a coconut and some paper available, even if they do not have many other things......and in that case they also have a candle! And the Ecovela can be used again and again.
Ecologic (no chemicals, no paraffin etc.), Vegan (no animal products are used and it works with vegetable oil), Cheap (you buy one Ecovela and can keep using it to make new candles), Creative (with colors or shells, pebbles etc in the water), Reusable, Safe, Different, Aromatic (with the use of some drops of essential oils), Decorative (with different containers / cups, colored water, several candles in one bowl) Invisible (you hardly see the Ecovela when it burns), Simple (very easy to make) and Floating.
For more information and a 1 minute instruction video, you can check here.
During my October visit to Phillip Island - Australia, I stayed in the house of the Innes family. Very special friends, and most of all the son, Youki. (see a photo of him on my PARTNERS page) Youki has Cerebral Palsy and is using straws to drink from cups / glasses. One day we were talking together about his future and he mentioned that he wanted to start a web-shop in products and handy gadgets for people with a handicap, and of course Youki could be the best person to sell them, as someone with personal experiences with Cerebral Palsy and all the problems, issues, difficulties and challenges it brings!!! We also talked about the plastic straws he is using and decided that it should be possible to replace the one-time-use-disposable straws, which you will find everywhere in the trash, many times also on beaches and in oceans. And so we talked about wooden or bamboo straws.
Of course we did not expect to be the inventor of the product, but I decided to look into it and found several bamboo straws offered on the internet. I have been spending time to read about them in blogs, tests and reviews of buyers and there are really not many good ones on the market. But I found some with the company BRUSH WITH BAMBOO. And I placed a test order with them, as a regular client. Just to see if I would like them. At the same time I decided to write to the company and ask if I could place a reseller-order instead of a regular client order and they said "yes". So we changed my retail order into a wholesale order and I decided to order also the Bamboo toothbrushes as a try-out. I have been reading more and more about bamboo, bamboo from China / India, the different product offers on internet, the cheap Chinese ones and the more expensive but still affordable high quality ones.
BRUSH WITH BAMBOO came out as the best in many tests and blogs and as one of the most reliable in giving honest statements about products, manufacturing, etc. So this is "how it started". Now more about the products and the company.
"BRUSH WITH BAMBOO" TOOTHBRUSH
The source for the following information is the web-site of BRUSH WITH BAMBOO. For a lot more information and details I refer directly to their site: Brush with Bamboo
(Copied from the website) 1 - BIODEGRADABLE HANDLE We’ve created a high quality easy-to-grip curved handle made entirely out of bamboo. Only organic, wild, giant Chinese Moso Bamboo is used for our bamboo toothbrush handles. No pesticides or fertilizers are ever used on our bamboo – in fact, because it is wild mountain bamboo, doing so would be completely impossible. Likewise, our bamboo is never watered by us — only natural mountain rain. At present we are harvesting less than 1% of the possible bamboo resources available in the sprawling Chinese bamboo mountain range where our bamboo is harvested. Less plastic, more bamboo!
2 - PLANT BASED BRISTLES This special SOFT bristle is composed of 62% Castor Bean Oil, 38% plastic. This is the latest and most advanced biobased bristle in the world today. It’s biobased, but still not biodegradable. You may have seen Dasani brand plastic water bottles made form 30% plants – our bristle is a similar concept. Prior to the invention of nylon in the 1930s, pig hair was used for toothbrush bristles worldwide. Today, pig hair remains the only biodegradable option – and it is a very controversial material. We hope you’ll support our brand as we “vote” with our supply chain. We’re pushing bristle manufacturers to develop better alternatives to nylon. This new bristle that we are now using is the best available option. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. Our bristles can be recycled – please read further details in the Proper Disposal Section of the website.
3 - COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING We wanted our whole product to be ecological, including the packaging. The toothbrush comes in a compostable wrapper made from plants (Learn more about the wrapper in the FAQ link at the bottom left of our web page). The outer box is made from 100% paper and is also biodegradable – no tape or glue is used.
4 - SAME LIFESPAN AS CONVENTIONAL PLASTIC TOOTHBRUSH Our ecological bamboo toothbrush will last just as long as a conventional plastic toothbrush. Please see details on the Proper Care page of the website.
5 - TRUE SUSTAINABILITY Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth. Because it contains naturally-occurring antimicrobial agents, there is no need for using fertilizers or pesticides during its cultivation. Our bamboo is totally organic and wild. After we harvest a bamboo stalk to use it for toothbrushes, another stalk takes its place and grows to full size within just 2 years — a remarkable growth rate!
"Brush with Bamboo is the world’s first plant-based toothbrush. Every component of our product is plant-based: bristles, handle, wrapper, and box.
Brush with Bamboo is a USDA Certified Biobased Product by United States Government’s Biopreferred Program. A purchase of our toothbrush is a vote for biobased products that are not fossil fuel-based!
Our product is BPA-Free, Vegan, and Verified Non-toxic."
"BRUSH WITH BAMBOO" DRINKING STRAWS
"Our bamboo drinking straws are grown organically and artisan-made in Northeast India exclusively for Brush with Bamboo. Bamboo straws are traditionally used in this hilly part of India to consume beer. You will notice the difference between our fine hand-made straws and other lower-priced machine- made brands of straws. Our artisans are treated like family and paid fair wages. 1 billion plastic, petroleum-based, non-biodegradable straws are used everyday worldwide. Our bamboo drinking straws are a fun and eco-friendly alternative to plastic that can be used with any beverage. The straws are made from real whole bamboo stalks – nothing re-compressed or processed. They are washable and reusable. Use a jar of warm water with soap to shake them clean, or clean with a pipe cleaner. A purchase of bamboo straws is a vote for sustainable materials. Each straw is 10 inches in length. The straws can last for years and years when properly cared for"
Sun Sand Salt will sell the straws in sets of two or four together with a small straw cleaning brush. We are also working on a small pouch made of handcrafted fabric in which you can carry your personal straw with you.
I want to explain with this blog, how we buy the Nepal necklaces and how we support a clinic in Nepal. Which we started to help after the big earthquakes they had in Nepal, but we continue to support them with small amounts when we can.
In a way we do twice a donation to Nepal. The first one by buying the necklaces directly from Nepal. They are all pre-owned, used, vintage and have some small imperfections and wear and tear signs. Not everybody likes that, but to me they come with a certain energy of previous owner(s), with authenticity and originality. It brings a little bit of Nepal to your life.
They are all made of glass, ceramic, wood, seeds, yak bone or shells. They are all handmade. They are all vintage. We sell only one of them, so you can not order more of the same design.
By buying the necklaces, we support with money. That is the first time.
AND WE KEEP SUPPORTING
Then after selling a necklace, we donate the full amount to a charity which supports a clinic in Nepal, the name of the charity and volunteer group is Fundacion Privada Vida Util.
They work together with Hari Bhandari, the founder of Clinic Nepal (in 1997), located in the area of Terai. He decided to start a small clinic to improve the sanitary conditions and he started projects to promote education. Also are they working on projects to create drinking water and to build water wells in the whole region. After the earthquakes they have been working hard on supporting the people and start rebuilding.
Click here for the Clinic Nepal Facebook page Each necklace is spectacular. The designs and colors are special and the necklace can even be used as decoration in a ceramic or wooden bowl, or just hanging somewhere.
We will frequently buy new ones and upload them to the shop.
During both our trips to Marrakech (March 2015 & March 2016) we booked a Riad (Boutique hotel style in a traditional Moroccan house with interior patio). Both times they were located convenient close to the Souk of Marrakech. And besides doing business and looking for products, we also checked the Museum for Photography (with beautiful old black and white photos) and the Gardens of Yves Saint Laurent ( a lush garden in stunning colors), we booked the Hamam treatment in the Riad, we had some excellent home cooked dinners and one nice dinner in Le Foundouk, which everybody recommended to us. But to be honest, the dinners in the Riad fresh and handmade by some lovely local ladies (most of the time already starting to cook in the morning) while you are sitting in nice areas of your own accommodation...........to me that was even better and more original! With menus, plates and tastes that keep surprising you. And yes, wine is available, but quite expensive. The Riad houses were nice oasis type of places, to come back to after a day of heat, people, chaos, traffic, sounds, colors and many other over-stimulations which you get in the Marrakech square, streets and souk
BACK TO BUSINESS
During both Marrakech visits we went to the Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech. I have read the below text on a site and I could not explain it better, so please find here a copy of that text:
"The Ensemble Artisanal (Handicraft Centre) in Marrakech is a government sponsored complex of artisan workshops established to teach their trade to apprentices and who at the same time also sell their creations direct to the consumer at fixed prices that are deemed reasonable. It is located on Boulevard Mohamed V just a few minutes up from the Koutoubia Mosque and Jemaa el Fna if you are heading towards the new town of Gueliz. The best artisans are selected to work here – inside the complex you will find more or less one artisan representing each specialty you would normally find in the souks. (leather, jewelry, felt, ceramics, glass, tassels etc.) The variety of choice for some items is smaller than that found in the main souks, and it also lacks the vibrancy, smell and atmosphere of the souks, but on the plus side, the quality is excellent and prices are fixed at a reasonable price, taking away the hassle and element of awkwardness that many people experience when it comes to haggling over the price of something. The artisans also benefit directly from any sales they make." (Source: Dar Zaman page)
WHAT DO WE BUY THERE?
Both times, we mainly bought Tuareg and Berber jewelry and leather products in the Artisan Center. Also did we see the place where they work with Sabra silk. We sell small cosmetic bags made of Sabra silk, from another supplier in Morocco, but it was nice to see this atelier. Sabra silk is made of the Agave Cactus and is not made with animal products, so it is a 100% vegan product. And the fabric is beautiful with a special shine.
The people of the shops, ateliers and workshops are very friendly, happy to show their work and skills, happy to tell about the business and yes, the prices are in general a bit higher than in the Souk, but at least you know that what you pay is reasonable, the people are checked and protected by Government so it is not the crazy zoo like in the Souk. Which of course has its own charm, but so many "original Moroccan products" are now made in China, better to buy it directly in China, together with all the standard souvenir products of Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris etc. Also when you have a business and want to resell products, you need to have invoices or official receipts, which are harder to get in the Souk. Anyway, everybody is free to buy where he / she wants but I prefer to support the people of this center and to interact in a more personal way.
To hear how much time it takes to make the product, how they treat the materials, what they think about tourism, the sellers in the Souk, the copy & fake -products etc. It is interesting and gives an extra dimension. The center has a small bar / restaurant where you can eat a very tasteful and cheap lunch, there are good toilets and there is an ATM. Discounted prices are still negotiable when you buy bigger quantities.
It is worth the visit, even to just see what reasonable prices are for good en genuine quality products, so you do not step in all the tricks and cheating later on in the Souk, where you have no idea if the price is reasonable or if the Berber rug is original or not.
AND THERE ARE ALWAYS SURPRISES
One time, while walking back to the Riad - we were passing this little shop actually every day - I saw the most stunning leather tassels. It was a standard souvenir shop, with for sure many items made as mass production. But these hangers looked different and were made of nice and soft leather. I asked the boy who worked there if I could buy them all (around 12) and he looked surprised. He explained to me that he had made them himself. That he tried to sell them in this souvenir shop where he was working. He said that his father had a leather workshop and that the left over leather was great to make the tassels. He was proud to tell me this, the price was good and I left with all the tassels. A shop full with cheap souvenir stuff and postcards, had also these stunning handcrafted tassels. You never know!
This morning I had to go to the Correos (Spanish Post office) to arrange a Western Union transfer to my Moroccan supplier Youssef. I can not pay with credit card or bank transfer to him, so we only have the cash or Western Union options. And this brought back memories of how we met and how we do business together.
In March 2015 - I just started with the business (how that all happened is good for another blog!) - and did not have the first web-shop creation on-line yet. But I went together with my mother - who is meanwhile running my office and business in the Netherlands - for a midweek to Marrakech / Marrakesh. Planned as a birthday gift for her, not yet as the business trip which it eventually turned out to be.
During one of our days of wandering through the labyrinth style Marrakech Souk, we ended up in the tiny little shop of Youssef in the center of the spices soukl. We entered with a question about a product and we ended up spending several hours with Youssef, who explained us in detail about the benefits of his products, got us excellent and very sweet Moroccan mint tea and slowly we tried and bought more and more products. Then with full bags we left, promising to come back the next day as we did not have enough cash with us to pay for everything and we also took already the daily allowed limit from the ATM. To get this trust from Youssef, for total strangers, was special and we treasure that relationship. Also the exchange rate between Euros and Dirham made that we talked about a considerable amount for him.
AND THEN THINGS GO WRONG
So we went back the next day, paid for the products which we already had in our suitcases in the Riad (guesthouse / hotel), bought a little extra and said goodbye with the promise to stay in touch. And off we went, on the plane back home with a suitcase full of Argan oil, Rosewater, Menthol crystals, Scrub gloves and the indescribable handmade Amber and Musk soaps that reminds me of trips to Qatar.
So here I suddenly had a new collection of products for my web-shop, Hamam & Wellness. Maybe not really related to Beach life, on the other hand, to take good care of skin and hair after a beach day, is not unimportant.
After some time I decided to order more products from Youssef and we tried to do that by mail, not huge quantities, but some Argan oil, Beldi black soap - you have to try it, it is amazing to exfoliate your skin - and some soaps. And that went completely wrong.
I paid Youssef for the products and shipping costs with Western Union and waited and waited and waited. After some time and still no package, I tried to chase the shipment with the number. And I got my information. The package was stuck at customs in Madrid, nobody ever informed me about it and I had to get paperwork filled out (needed to show all my business papers and to organise an import license). After organising all this, they wanted to send the package, but I had to pay, 150% of the value of the shipment. That means that for me it would be impossible to make any profit on the products and it would actually have been cheaper to buy me a ticket to Marrakech again and get the stuff. So I refused the shipment and they returned it to Youssef. This whole process took 6 months. Ridiculous. Lesson learned -> to send cosmetic products and liquids etc. between Morocco and Spain is a big NO NO.
BUT THERE ARE ALWAYS SOLUTIONS
I will spare you all the details, but I got the shipment which got returned to Youssef, through another new Moroccan friend Salaheddine, who came by car from Morocco to the Jerez Moto GP, where I was working one of my last races and for that occasion I decided to help someone who is a big fan, with passes for the paddock. And that was Salah. And when he asked if he could bring something for me from Morocco, I thought about my shipment in Marrakech. Then Youssef put the package on a bus from Marrakech to Casablanca and Salah brought it to Jerez. Isn't this a lot more romantic than a boring Correos package?
Last year in March we went again to Marrakech, now 100% as a business trip. And we stayed again many hours in Youssef his shop and saw Salaheddine who came all the way from Casablanca to meet me for a tea in my Riad.
Isn't this what the business is all about? The connections, the international relations, helping, sharing, enjoying, friendship...........no matter how crazy the world and its humans is becoming right now, I treasure how I meet people, how they come in my life and also how they stay in my life. Not on a daily base, but with a genuine base of friendship!!!
My name is Anneke AND I STARTED in January 2015 with my business "sun sand salt". In july 2018 I started with this web-site. I am a Beach & sea lover, traveler, STORY-TELLER, COLLECTOR and social entrepreneur. Dutch but living in spain, always looking for new products, tips and ideas worldwide.