blog-feature-image-rechelle-coombes socielle

Female Leader, Rechelle Coombes, Socielle

Socielle Founder, Rechelle Coombes is a woman after our own hearts. Socielle is a social enterprise dedicated to discovering and retailing beautiful products from socially conscious businesses. Rechelle is a fellow retail disrupter. Socielle allows consumers not only to buy from socially conscious not for profits, but to also allocate ‘shopfunding’ loyalty points to their favourite cause. We caught up with Rechelle to find out more about her journey to entrepreneurship.

What led you to create Socielle?

The idea came during my 10 years working in corporate marketing roles. I was working with The School for Social entrepreneurs as a mentor and marketing facilitator where I was educating these amazing people with inspiring businesses on how to “market” more effectively. I wondered if there was a way I could promote these providers and raise money at the same time. 

Socielle (pronounced so-shel, a play on my name and being a socially responsible brand) is a culmination of performing this work, plus extra curricular volunteer work and a love of business. I spent months on research from late 2015 till May 2016. Socielle is an omnichannel retail store. I promote and distribute socially conscious items that have mainstream appeal. I want to educate consumers about the importance of knowing more about what they are buying.  We provide a portion of sales (not profit) to a charitable cause that each consumer they cares about, because people align to different social causes.  We piloted from early 2015, to test and learn and understand our market and we’ve continued to pivot since then. 

How will Socielle drive global change?

By creating an end to end ethical retail platform. We’re promoting the work of the most ethical brands worldwide, we leverage eco friendly printing and packaging wherever possible and carbon offset our deliveries. We also educating the market on why ethical shopping matters. The clothing and beauty and FMCG industry has a long way to go in terms of educating the customer. The organic food had its movement around 5-10 years ago, and we’re just at the tip of the iceberg for other retail industries to follow suit.

My vision is to impact the lives of 1 million people by the end of 2020 in a number of ways. By giving them fair paying jobs, allowing workers to support their families, or through our charitable giving program. 

How do you ensure your suppliers adopt ethical work codes?

Our ethical values system built into the shop model allows us to vary between different value sets because right now, there are very few brands that perform all aspects of ethical production perfectly. Our model is to ask our suppliers what values their business adopts. Are they cruelty free? Do they use non-toxic ingredients? Are the products made from recycled materials? Is their packaging biodegradable or recyclable or recycled? Are their workers paid a ‘fair’ wage? Do their products improve their community by providing jobs/resources? Do they fund any charitable projects themselves? We also rely heavily on checking certifications like Fair Trade, GOTS, Cruelty Free, B Corps. 

We make this transparent by describing the specific values and details behind each product. 

Name some of the charities Socielle has already supported.

The charities we’ve been able to support so far include: Wildlife Warriors, Sunshine Butterflies, OzHarvest and Sisterworks. We will expand and change the charities we support as we grow. 

What are two must-have Socielle products for summer?

Any of our tote bags! We have a huge collection from a number of different fair trade brands. Some have been made by survivors of human trafficking, and others are fair trade made and hand block printed in India with the most beautiful designs. They are a fashion statement and also help the world by allowing you to say no to plastic bags.

Secondly, our words with heart journals made locally in Australia. Each gives a day of education to a girl in need. They are splashed with empowering messages and a great way to capture your goals and resolutions for the new year! 

What has been your biggest challenge?

Educating the market as to why shopping ethical is so important. Some of our consumer tribes just get it and need no explanation. We have loads of Vegan customers and it’s ingrained into who they are. Mainstream consumers still have so far to go in understanding why it matters. We’re building our content strategy in 2017 to close the knowledge gap, so that it just becomes a part of human nature and is the accepted standard. 

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moments are usually when I am out working at the markets and I get to meet and greet my customers live. I get to tell them the story, and see their excitement and love for our products and what we do. It’s the every day pats on the back from the people who mean most to us that make this worthwhile. 

We’re going to be taking our new sustainable mobile gift-a-van around Australia throughout summer. It’s a roving caravan with all of our gifts and hampers, and a wrapping station. I’m super excited about all the amazing people we will meet. I rebuilt it leveraging predominantly recycled parts and using eco friendly paint. It was a big job but I’m thrilled to share the final product! 

What would be your advice to a future female leader?

Follow your heart, be guided by your morals, listen to your gut and give more than you get. 

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.