Q&A: An ethical approach to babyware

This week we chat to Elysia Hansen, founder of Melbourne-based brand and online destination for linen essentials and nursery décor, Wildflower & Oak. Spotting a gap in the market, Elysia set up the venture in 2017 to combine consumers’ refreshed loved for linen with the booming world of artisanal babyware.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you setting up Wildflower & Oak?

EH: I was searching for neutral swaddles during my second pregnancy and felt underwhelmed. I felt there was a gap for something better in this space, beyond the traditional baby blue and pastel pink. I thought these items could be luxurious, high enough in quality that you would pass them down from baby to baby. I felt linen was the perfect fit. And, so, Wildflower & Oak was born.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise up and running?

EH: My work had previously been in digital marketing so I entered into the manufacturing process very, very green. Finding ethically minded manufacturers from afar was one of our biggest challenges as there are far fewer in the marketplace and the majority aren’t featured in the same channels that many brands use as a resource.

ISB: How does your determination to use only ethical products manifest itself in the business?

EH: We have chosen to work with ethically minded manufacturers in the production of our products. We seek out partners that take care of their staff and are mindful of their environmental impact in the manufacturing process. We like to keep that consciousness going through the POS with our donation to Midwives for Haiti for each item sold.

ISB: What is the motivation behind you reinvesting a proportion of your income to a midwives’ organisation in Haiti?

EH: My husband and I spent time working for an NGO in Haiti before we had kids and the challenges facing women and in particular mothers there never left me. There are severe shortages of doctors and midwives in Haiti and access to medical facilities particularly in the rural areas is limited. As a result, Haiti has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate of anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

Many women give birth with the support of what is known as a “matwòn” or a traditional birth attendant. Often these men and women will have many years of experience but very little (if any) medical training. Midwives For Haiti work carefully within local customs to teach safe birthing practices. As part of their training program they distribute clean birth kits with essential sterile equipment which is what we help to fund.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of Wildflower & Oak in the next couple of years?

EH: I’m excited to keep expanding our product line to give mums around the world beautiful versions of things they need. Essentials with meaning. Our next collection is currently in production with a fresh palette and the same beautiful fabric our customers have grown to love.

We have also been collaborating with fellow makers around the world to bring limited edition nursery pieces to the store which has brought a fun new dimension to the business.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one piece of advice you’d share with others looking to start their own ethics-based business?

EH: Stay the course. It may take a little longer to find the right partnerships and to get to the final product to completion but the result and the story you can share with pride to your audience will be worth everything you put into it’s creation.