In 2005 Jem Skelding started Naissance in a spare room in his house on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
He had grown up in Africa and his vision was to create a company that offered a great selection of natural products and ingredients for health and wellbeing that were traded on a fair and ethical basis with farmers and growers in developing countries.
Naissance trades primarily in plant oils, butters and waxes for food and personal care use on the retail market. Naissance and the ingredients it uses are certified organic, vegan and cruelty free and its processes and production facilities are ISO9001 and Food Standards Agency 5-star food rated.
Naissance is also involved in a variety of social and ethical projects around the world, with a particular focus on supporting farmers and growers in developing countries. The company is still based in South Wales just a few miles from the Brecon Beacons - although its premises have grown somewhat over the years - and all production is done on site.
"If you do good, you feel good"
Naissance’s goal is to give customers the choice to buy high quality natural health and wellbeing products with a clear ethical focus. Chantal James, Naissance's Head of Procurement and Ethical Policy, comments: " We believe that 'if you do good you feel good.' We are all about educating our customers about the natural products we provide and showing them where they are grown and made, so they can see the difference they are making by choosing to buy from an ethical source."
Long-term supplier relationships
Naissance sources materials from all over the world, from as close as Cornwall to as far as Papua New Guinea and many countries in between. Its aim is to develop long-term relationships and partnerships with suppliers, so they can grow together and support suppliers to build their business, whether that's via technical support, financial support or just providing an outlet for their products on the worldwide market.
The Naissance team works to build up interest with commercial customers and increase sales as the supplier increases their production scale.
Supporting sustainability and growing together: the story of a women-owned shea butter business in Ghana
One project Naissance has been working with for a long time is in Wa in Northern Ghana. This project started around 12 years ago with a small group of women producing shea butter. Chantal James explains: "At first we were only buying 100kg at a time, which is all the women could produce. Since then we have been working with them to increase the volume, which has created more jobs for the women in the local communities. They've also gained organic certification, which is no easy task when the majority of the workforce has never been taught how to read or write."
The project is now owned and run by a cooperative of over 800 women and the business of supports a community of over 1,400 people.
In order to support these women to grow a sustainable business Naissance pays an extra 10% for every kilo it buys. This has funded pumps providing access to clean drinking water in local villages, and the construction of a production facility, so the women have a large, clean and secure building to work in and store their goods.
The women have also built a nursery school to start educating their children and to offer childcare, giving the children of the local communities a bright future.
Naissance now buys 20MT containers at a time and its regular orders and extra 10% social fund give the project security and the means to plan for the future, to expand and to explore other products they can grow and produce locally, such as essential oils.
Foundation Stage aims
One of Naissance's key aims within the first year of ETI Membership is to map out its whole supply chain to ascertain its strengths and our weak points, to help the company focus on the areas it needs to improve on.
"We are looking forward to accessing expert advice and guidance from the ETI team and we're determined to achieve this," says Chantal James.