The Rise of Britain’s Gen Z Entrepreneurs
It’s always interesting to look at the differences and similarities between the older and younger generations, both in life and in business. In our most recent interview, we spoke to Chloe Taylor, CEO of Eartheia.com, a vegan fashion and beauty retailer, about her background and what separates Gen Z entrepreneurs from older generations.
What is your background and what inspired you to start Eartheia?
I’ve loved fashion for as long as I can remember – studying it in both secondary school college and University. Whilst studying at college in California, I found out first-hand the environmental impact of the fashion industry. As I was also passionate about sustainability, it broke my heart to know the true extent of the negative impact the fashion industry has on the planet.
As part of my dissertation at University, I created Eartheia (formerly unearthed). This came to light following further research into sustainability – when I saw that going vegan is the number one thing an individual can do to reduce their environmental footprint – I turned vegan overnight. As I looked to launch the business, I realised that finding true vegan beauty and fashion products was difficult amongst the many greenwashing initiatives in place. With that in mind, I launched a website where every single product listed is vegan certified. I aimed to solve the problem of finding vegan products – and bring back consumer trust to the industry.
What role has social media played in helping you to develop your brand?
Social media has played a huge role in developing Eartheia! TikTok has been incredible for our growth. We’ve used the platform to build up a close community this year. Also, a few months ago I was crowned the winner of ‘The UK’s Next Great Entrepreneur’s – a TikTok competition. Part of my prize was access to 12 incredibly successful entrepreneurs as mentors, as well as a £10k cash prize to grow the business. Without that, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are now.
What was it like working for Michael Kors and how beneficial did you find speaking to their executives?
I loved my role at Michael Kors. Although it was in the cutthroat retail world, I had a great relationship with our district manager as I could not stop talking about fashion and the designs which I’d created at college. My passion for fashion was so strong that I was flown to New York City to interview for a junior designer role. It was an incredible opportunity, however, in the end, the role didn’t feel quite right as I wanted to prioritise family over work. Having mastered the creative side of fashion, I chose to learn about the business and marketing side of the fashion world. I had a dream that one day I would set up my own fashion brand through sheer determination and hard work.
What was it about the ending of your relationship that prompted you to start putting your business first?
To be honest, I don’t think that it was the relationship ending that led me to put the business first, I have always put my business first. But the relationship in question was an added and negative distraction from where my mind needed to be. Turns out that I definitely made the right decision for me. As soon as I ended it, I was more focused and have since have been featured in multiple media publications, asked to speak at events, invited to founder’s meals, and crowned the winner of ‘The UK’s Next Great Entrepreneur’.
What challenges have you faced running a business at your age and what advice would you give other young people who are thinking of starting a business?
There are so many to learn from! Raising capital was not my main issue – it was knowing where to invest it. I wasted A LOT of money on ads and marketing which gave no ROI. In hindsight, I wish that I put that money into our product line and freelance content creators. Growing an online community is so much more important than a paid brand awareness advertisement campaign – and original content is key for a successful online presence.
Being a female founder in her early 20’s, I’ve come across a lot of prejudice for my gender and age – with people thinking that I don’t know how to negotiate business deals – or even understand what I’m talking about! With that, I wish it didn’t happen but inevitably it does… My advice is to take it as a compliment that you’re smarter and more successful than haters can fathom. Stand your ground and prove them wrong with the facts. And if you’re thinking of starting a business – just do it. Don’t wait for perfection. Learn along the way and if it flops, you’ll still learn a hell of a lot and do better the next time.
How has the vegan market changed in recent years and what future trends do you see?
The vegan market is growing rapidly and will continue to do so. Not just in the food sector, but in beauty and fashion too. More and more brands are thankfully realising that they can no longer ignore the voices of gen Z- or without running the risk of losing their loyalty. Brands are now striving to go vegan and pledging to be more sustainable – all change in the right direction.
Sadly though, this also means that a lot of huge fast fashion brands are bringing out -conscious collections’ – heavily greenwashed to look like positive CSR. That’s why our site wins on customer trust. We only stock vegan certified and sustainable brands, so our shoppers know and trust that they’re not paying for any false claims on our products.
I was at an e-commerce expo last week – listening to huge brands such as Selfridges and Unilever speak about future trends which seem to luckily all be working in our favour. Veganism is on the rise, as is sustainable fashion and cruelty-free cosmetics. Gen Z voices are being heard and are driving change which apparently – and not my words – if brands aren’t currently on a marketplace or looking to do so in the next 3-5 years, they’re essentially screwed.
People want to shop multiple favourite brands most quickly and in the easiest possible place. Long gone are the days where consumers have 12 Google tabs open at once to compare a product across multiple online stores. Marketplaces solve that issue – it’s quicker and more efficient.
What separates Gen Z entrepreneurs from older generations?
I’ve had to evolve and adapt as my business has grown, utilising technology as I go. I’ve watched Youtube tutorials to learn about managing a growing website and had to take things in my stride. I’ve leveraged social media when it comes to marketing as that’s logical for someone at my age (23) to do.
People my age are accustomed to using Instagram and TikTok and I think this use of technology is what set Gen Z’s apart. We understand how to communicate and utilise the potential on these platforms, more than any other generation. I’ve worked with older people who have struggled to get their head around social media marketing. For example, I promoted a vegan cosmetic client on TikTok, which went viral, causing an upsurge in sales – when I informed the client about why their sales will have increased, they responded by saying “we don’t use TikTok, our customers aren’t on there” which made me laugh.
I think more and more businesses will utilise technology and implement the kind of strategies that I have thought because of the upsurge in Gen Z’s starting businesses– a Gen Z study by WP Engine found that 66% of Gen Z plan to start a business in the future, so they’ll be more business leaders my age who are more accustomed to technology and social media.