22 Aug Finance Matters Meets Entrepreneur Martha Silcott, CEO & Inventor of FabLittleBag™
By: Ulrica Svensson
Martha Silcott is the inventor of FabLittleBag a patented fully biodegradable disposal bag designed with the purpose of preventing aquatic pollution caused by the inappropriate disposal of sanitary products. It is estimated that 60% of women in the UK flush tampons down the toilet equating to an estimated 1.2 billion tampons each year. Inappropriately discarded sanitary waste frequently contributes to major blockages in the sewer system as it sticks to other non-biodegradable items such as wipes and cooking oil to form vast fatbergs. When sewers are blocked, or there is heavy rain, sewers are designed to overflow into rivers causing water pollution affecting both wildlife and humans.
Martha spent over 20 years working in the financial services industry in London before taking the entrepreneurial leap 3 years ago to set up FabLittleBag (‘FLB’). The move from working in financial services to creating a new product and business must have been daunting.
Martha, what have been the biggest challenges along the way?
Firstly, raising funds. I started out on a shoestring budget which meant a constant balancing act and being reliant upon favors. I always had a vision, if money was no object, but setting up a business from scratch, money is always an object!
Second, learning whilst doing. Trying to understand every aspect of setting up a business for a new invention, including manufacturing, branding, legal, marketing, shareholder interaction and navigating the retail landscape when I had no background in any of these aspects. Convincing buyers in retail to stock the product was a challenge initially as FLB was a new product and a new category.
Innovation and technology is changing the supply chain. In what way do you utilize this to your benefit?
We are in the final stages of developing our dispenser for the B2B market and 3D printing has played a key role in this process.
You were a finalist in the Business Green Awards in 2016, what does this entail?
We put our case forward that FabLittleBags existence is helping to prevent some of those 1.2 billion tampons from entering the sewers, rivers, seas and ending up on our beaches. Being partly made from sustainable sources as well as biodegradable demonstrates our commitment to providing a fit for purpose solution for women but not without consideration for the planet. We continue to look for even better material solutions with a focus on sustainability.
You have charitable distribution via projects in India and Sierra Leone, has philanthropy always been important to you?
It just makes perfect sense to me – any business that is profitable should allow for some of that profit to support other fledgling business or communities who are struggling. We do not live in isolation on this planet, and I believe that no act of kindness is too small. At present we do this on a small scale, as we are focusing on growing the core business, however as that changes we have big plans.
For a reader toying with the idea of starting their own mission based entrepreneurial company, do you have any general pieces of advice? Is there something you wish you had known before starting your journey?
Spend some time analyzing what you want your key goals, aims, outcomes to be. What words would you use to describe, what images would you use to depict, this will help to get a true sense of ‘your baby’. If it is just a ‘nice idea’ or something you think sounds good or like fun, frankly forget it. You need to have utter conviction, passion, and tenacity. Even if something starts off as ‘a nice idea’ you need to feel intense about it before making the sacrifices as they are huge. In terms of the time spent working, the initial lack of money, the ‘my brain is full’ feeling, the amount of rejection and curve balls that you receive etc. Also, unless you don’t need money at all – is it really commercially viable, many fabulous ideas simply can’t make any money.
To be honest I am glad I didn’t fully realize how it has been as I may not have jumped! Ultimately, it is a privilege to have this opportunity, but do not underestimate the 24/7 nature of it, surround yourself with positive people and develop the skin of two rhinos and you’ll be just fine!