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A Day in the Life: Ethique's Brianne West

Brianne West is the founder and CEO of Ethique, a Christchurch-based plastic-free and sustainable beauty company that produces handcrafted solid shampoos, conditioners, face and body and solid beauty bars with zero-waste packaging, ridding the beauty industry of plastic bottles one product at a time. The company has diverted 500,000 plastic bottles from landfill to date, and recently signed an $8 million deal to stock its products in more than 420 Priceline stores throughout Australia. Here's how West gets through the day, organises her time and handles the madness of business.

What time do you wake up?

Depending on how well I slept, usually between 6.30 and 7.30am.

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

When I’m in New Zealand and not travelling for work, I try to get to the gym three to four times a week in the morning for a personal training session, which does set me up for a good day. Otherwise, it’s simply getting to work and seeing my smiling team.

Do you have any morning rituals?

I’m definitely not a morning person, but the essential cup of tea helps.

How soon do you begin doing work-related things, such as checking phone or emails?

Like most people these days, as soon as I open my eyes. I check through my emails and our customer service desk for anything that needs an urgent answer.

What’s your media consumption or interaction like from the morning onwards – do you listen to podcasts, radio, watch videos, read books and magazines, or visit new sites?

I read a lot, usually one to two books a week in the evenings or when I’m on the plane. I graze various news sites throughout the day and of course, spend a bit of time on Facebook.

What kind of work do you do?

I’m the CEO of Ethique, a plastic-free and sustainable beauty company, ridding the world of plastic bottles!

What’s unique about your line of work?

I founded Ethique back in 2012 when I began figuring out how to make shampoo and conditioner in a solid bar form, negating the need for plastic bottles. Since then Ethique has grown, and I now split my time doing things that you would find any CEO doing, as well as developing new products so we can continue disrupting the world’s beauty industry.

What responsibility does that involve in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?

Being a small company, I wear many hats. I am responsible for product development and quality, marketing and brand oversight, and alongside my amazing chief operating officer, international market development. This amongst the many other things that come up with the day-to-day running of a business as well.

Who do you see and talk to?

Although my days are never the same, I typically will see my wonderful team, suppliers, shareholders, customers, distributors, marketing and PR partners, and stockists.

Where do your best ideas come from?

My best ideas usually come when I have had a couple of days that have been less hectic. I find I have the headspace to be more creative.   

Ethique continues to grow, which for me, is great evidence that we are continuing to push for change and disruption in the beauty world. The ultimate for me is for beauty bars to be the norm instead of plastic bottles.

What are the most important tools or programmes you use for your work?

For me the most important tools I need are Evernote, Microsoft Planner, social media for monitoring customer feedback, and my phone.

How do you juggle all your responsibilities?

I am better at juggling some days than others. There are days when I feel like I don’t achieve very much at all, but thankfully I have surrounded myself with much cleverer and more organised people who bring me along with them.

What kind of breaks do you take throughout the day?

When I’m not at my computer or experimenting in the lab, I will often hang out with the team in the shop or spend time in the staff room with other team members.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

I enjoy getting creative in the lab, or if travelling, arriving in a new place. Team meetings or spending time with PR/marketing teams and stockists are great too.

What about the least enjoyable?

Anything to do with banks or lawyers.

Do you procrastinate? Is it good or bad?

Yes, and usually bad. I have a fabulous PA though, who ensures I get things done.

Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?

Now that there is a whole team behind Ethique, I’m kept on my toes. Ethique continues to grow, which for me, is great evidence that we are continuing to push for change and disruption in the beauty world. The ultimate for me is for beauty bars to be the norm instead of plastic bottles.

Is there anything you think is unique about your day?

I’m often working in a different country from one week to the next. No day is the same for me – I am extremely lucky to have a life that I love.

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mother/partner/friend?

Of course, you can. There are plenty of examples of out there. I think that you just have to accept some days are better and easier than others. I am not great at keeping in contact with friends constantly, but I know when we do catch up every few weeks or so, it’s just like no time has passed. I am very close to my parents – my Mum works with me and my Dad pops into the office a couple of times a week to see what’s going on.

Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?

I don’t get stressed very often actually. I tried meditation once and found it frustrating. I prefer horse riding to destress, but I don’t tend to get too stressed regardless.

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?

I don’t really like to switch off. I am always available on my phone and by email and I am very happy to be so.

What time do you go to sleep?

Ideally around 10pm.

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