Being time poor – it is the catch phrase of our time. We never seem to have time for ourselves, for our family, for the good of something other than ourselves. When Nicola started Real World, a range of plant-based products for the home and body that started with dishwashing liquid, the intention was to gently mitigate cracked hands from constant cleaning and tidying with 4 children. But what has developed from the business values of having a light foot print, combined with a luxury experience, has created purpose and place for people to be good, do good, and feel good. She shares her insights.

Real World essentially started as a solution to cracked hands. I have four children, and my hands were always in water, cleaning, bathing, moping. I tried a lot of dishwashing liquids including the eco versions, but none were soothing enough. It really opened my eyes to the chemicals in products. I remember seeing a blue bubble bath for children, and thinking how bad, how incredibly bad, that must be for a child.

My answer for myself and my family was to create my own range of products based entirely on plants. But I also wanted to add an element of luxury, designing them to look good in the now-familiar open plan spaces. I created the range in glass, because it not only looks great, but it’s better for the product and for the environment with our refill option.

I called it Real World because it’s all about being real. The products have no additives to lessen the cost of the product. It’s not tampered with. There isn’t much left in the world that is real, and it turns out, that in a world of mass production and artificial everything, people really are yearning for something real.

When we launched two years ago, we knew there was a market for people who were aware of our impact on the environment and very conscious about what they give their children. We knew commercial operations and gift stores would enjoy the luxury look and feel of the product. But what we didn’t quite expect was how the products would come to represent a time out, a do-good moment for people. We were quite surprised at how quickly we got traction.

In the early stages, we set up a makeshift store in our home, so that clients in the Hawke’s Bay could refill their glass bottles. Friends would come by and have a chat as the bottles were being refilled. Sometimes if customers had a few bottles to be refilled, we’d share a cup of coffee. For some it became a ritual.

We realised that it wasn’t only about the product anymore, but about taking time to be positive to oneself, to the world around us, and to each other. It was a moment to stop, to be part of a community of people that care about themselves and the environment. In busy schedules, it takes some organisation to do this – to get the bottles, drive to our house and refill, but people did it. It’s fascinating.

For me, I think there’s a whole feeling of positivity in the simple act of refilling a glass jar instead of throwing it away and buying another. It’s a positive output that you get. Yes, you’re treating yourself but by doing a good thing for the environment it’s an even greater reward.

It’s also about deliberately slowing down, and I think that’s therapeutic to people these days. We lead these complicated lives, and so I think we gravitate toward things – experience, acts – that force us to slow down, simple pleasures that make life seem less complicated.
Whoever thought refilling a glass bottle could have such benefits?!

That’s the way we create our products. By making really small batches keeping everything fresh. We’re not interested in mass production, and running things as fast as we can. That’s what’s special about this whole process and the relationship we have with clients and customers, is that we are also conscious of what we are making, our output. We don’t just provide a product, but we are part of that community that is consciously slowing down, appreciating the small simple pleasures, minimising the waste, and treasuring what’s important – ourselves, our family and our environment, and being part of something that however small matters on a larger scale.