Strawberry & Cream is an online supplier of beautiful, 100% organic cotton bedding. I asked Sam and Shivani a few questions about their fledgling company and was impressed by their company ethos and their story.
Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds and how you came to set up Strawberry & Cream?
Shivani and I are both born and brought up in Kenya. Kenya is a beautiful country with a varied landscape and blessed with beautiful weather. It is heavily reliant on agricultural produce and being a tropical country, water scarcity is common. Whilst growing up in Nairobi, (Kenya’s capital city), it was not uncommon for us to experience water shortages.
Shivani: I have vivid memories of using a water heater to heat up just enough water to bathe with as well as being in the kitchen with my mum and cooking and cleaning with stored water as at times the water rationing was such that there would be no water in our kitchen tap for a few hours a day.
When we chose to set up our business to sell cotton bedding, we were shocked to learn how water intensive cotton growing is (it requires over 10,000 litres of water to grow 1kg of cotton), especially considering that it is mostly grown under irrigated conditions and mostly in countries that already experience huge water shortages. To put that into perspective, India’s (the world’s largest cotton producer) cotton exports alone, use enough water to be able to supply 85% of its 1.24 billion population with 100 litres of water a day!
We were also shocked to learn that cotton is grown by using huge quantities of toxic synthetic pesticides that are injurious to a farmers health. It is alarming to think that growing cotton accounts for over 2% of global water consumption and over 5% of global pesticide and insecticide use. Since most cotton is grown on small scale farms by family run households; farmers, their families and farm workers are unskilled in the use of handling such toxic synthetic chemicals. Hospitalisation and fatalities among farm workers are quite common because of exposure to harsh chemicals.
Conventional cotton is usually grown as a mono crop, and farmers invest heavily in chemicals to combat pests. They invest using borrowed funds, quite often on repayment terms that are unsustainable. However pests e.g. bollworm are increasingly becoming resistant to pesticides, thereby destroying the cotton crop. Crop failures (either through destruction by pests or by weather) often result in farmers being unable to pay their loans, leading to tragic cases of farmer suicides.
Organic cotton, in contrast, prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and insecticides. To combat pests, farmers use leaves from the neem tree which are non poisonous to human health and are eco-friendly. Furthermore, crop rotation is practiced to combat pests. Crop rotation (whereby food crops are grown alongside the cotton crop) ensures that farmers enjoy a diversified income and are therefore not as prone to crop failures, as well as ensuring that farmers are self sufficient in their food needs.
The soil that organic cotton is grown in is more fertile compared to that in which conventional cotton is grown (the spraying of toxic chemicals on conventional cotton plants poisons the soil and drains it of nutrients). Since the soil that organic cotton is grown in has more nutrients, it is able to retain water better. This ensures that the organic cotton crop is less reliant on irrigated water (reducing the need to use irrigated water by up to 90%), as its water needs are met by rainfall.
Sadly less than 1% of the total cotton production in the world is of the organic type. Living in a world challenged with climate change, we feel that we can make a contribution to help improve climate health by making people aware of the benefits of organic cotton – considering that around 10% of all textiles used globally are in bedding and homeware.
Where did the name Strawberry and Cream come from?
Strawberry & Cream is a classic British favourite. Simple yet elegant, it evokes feelings of happiness and nostalgia in most people when they enjoy this classic combination. It is well known that a good night’s sleep can energise and refresh anyone. Good quality bed sheets can significantly influence the quality of sleep one gets. Our bedding is luxurious and buttery soft (the “Cream” bit). Getting a good night’s sleep is sure to energise and refresh anyone – ready to face the day (“Strawberries” are refreshing & mood boosting).
Our bedding is not edible, but once you tuck in you will find the experience “heavenly”. Our company tagline to reflect our name is: “Make bedtime a treat”
Why did you choose bedding for your business journey?
We spend up to a third of our lives in bed. Sleep is as important to human health as good nutrition and regular exercise. Mental health is also increasingly becoming important to people. Sleep quality has a direct and significant impact on mental health. Our cognitive abilities, relationships with friends and family, and our decision making abilities are significantly influenced by the quality of sleep we get.
Mental health is as important to us as climate change. It is fair to say that collectively, we can only make important decisions and help contribute to a better, more sustainable lifestyle if we are happy and at peace with our mental health. Whilst mental health is a complex issue, getting better sleep can help solve many of the challenges that people face. Sleeping in good quality bedding can help with better sleep and therefore, to an extent, help with better mental health.
What makes your bedding unique?
Our luxury bedding is made from the finest single ply, long staple 60s yarn organic cotton. Woven in a sateen weave, our bedding has a luxuriously smooth, buttery feel. It is beautifully soft and cosy to give a great night’s sleep.
What’s more it is made from eco-friendly organic cotton, that does not harm the environment, does not negatively impact farmers health and well-being. Our bedding is ethically made in factories where child labour is prohibited and worker welfare is prioritised. The knowledge that one can get a good night’s sleep without ruining someone else’s, and with the added satisfaction that you have done your bit for the environment to be a better place is very comforting.
Our bedding comes in neutral colours that match most bedroom colour schemes and decor. Our bedding looks stunning in matching contrasting colours.
Can you tell us what makes the cotton you use organic?
We only sell bedding made from organic cotton. Organic cotton is free from harmful synthetic pesticides. The organic cotton we use in our bedding is certified to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) standards & the factory we work with in India is also GOTS registered.
Factories that make products to GOTS standards get audited annually by the local GOTS authority in that country. Strict standards have to be met by these factories e.g. where their organic cotton is sourced from, how they recycle water and treat dyes in their production process, among other requirements.
Child labour is prohibited, and workers are paid a fair wage. We also test fabric material independently with reputed international quality control agencies to check for quality and other parameters – before we agree to bulk production.
You are obviously passionate about sustainability. What else do you do as a business to reduce your impact on the planet?
Off-cuts that arise during the manufacturing process often end up in landfill. With our goods, we try to lessen the amount of material that ends up in landfill by making bags from these off-cuts. These bags are re-usable and can be used for multiple purposes e.g. as a shoe bag, vegetable bag, to store toys, socks etc.. All our products are packaged in these attractive drawstring bags.
We also realise that there is an environmental aspect to getting customer orders delivered. We have therefore teamed up with DPD to be our delivery partners. DPD have a ”clean, green” delivery strategy in place and are actively working towards having an all electric fleet of vehicles as soon as resources and logistics permit.
We have always placed great importance on the need to sell quality products at a fair price. Good quality products are longer lasting, avoiding the need to replace often which causes wastage. Fast fashion, poorly made and cheaply priced products unfortunately create a lot of waste most of which is not recycled.
We are still a young business and are constantly looking at ways of improving our eco-friendly practices and increasing awareness about the need to buy products made from organic cotton.
On a home & personal front we have changed some of our own shopping habits to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle as well as a buy less buy better approach.
You are a husband and wife team. How do you make this work?
Sam: When we are working, we treat each other as professional colleagues. We sometimes differ in opinion on many business decisions but always find a way to work through these differences. Shivani deals with the social media and IT side of the business, and I look after the accounting, finance and other not so interesting parts of the business. We share the admin tasks between us.
We’ve taken a timetable approach to our working week where we block out chunks of time to different areas of the business that need our attention. We decide between us who will be responsible for a certain actions so there is no ambiguity over who is doing what and to ensure that priority tasks are not overlooked!
We are passionate about customer service, and it gives us immense joy when we get reviews from satisfied customers commending us about our products and customer service.
We work hard and play hard. There is nothing more we love than relaxing on weekends, (when we can!) and watching a great series on Netflix or cooking an elaborate homemade meal as we both enjoy sampling different cuisine. At these times we do not discuss work at all. It is purely “us” time and we concentrate on enjoying each other’s company.
Are other members of the family involved in the business?
On a daily basis, it is just Shivani and myself. Our 8 year old son is our official “bed sheet testing consultant”. Whenever we get new sample bedding from our factory, he is the first to sample the sheets by sleeping in them. When he struggles to get up in the morning to get ready for school, because he is too snug and comfortable, we know that the samples are great! My son’s consulting role is an unpaid one!
What do you do to switch off and relax?’
We love the outdoors and make it a point to go hiking or on long walks as a family activity. We find it very therapeutic to be in nature as it also allows us to completely switch off. Thankfully our son also shares our passion for the outdoors. Some of the best walks we have done are in the Yorkshire Dales. The scenery is simply stunning.
Oh…and having a cosy lie-in tucked under our beautiful Strawberry & Cream bedsheets – especially during cold winter nights.
Sam: Playing a challenging game of chess with our son also gives me a break from business mode!
Shivani: I also enjoy baking when time permits. Being a very hands-on activity, it gives me much needed escapism from screen time not to mention the end result which we all savour while the treats last!
To Shop 100% organic cotton bedding visit Strawberry & Cream