Growing a sustainable new business

Brothers, high-end fashion experts and young entrepreneurs, Oliver and James Slacke are on a mission to tackle the impact of fashion on our global environment from their office base in the heart of Rye.

Oliver and James Slacke

Across the UK and the EU, fashion has the fourth largest environmental impact, coming only second as the largest polluter after oil. Dedicated to raising global awareness about the impact of the fashion-industry on our planet, in 2017 these young entrepreneurs decided to take matters into their own hands, by launching the successful clothing brand Swole Panda.

Whilst studying Geography at Kings College London, Oliver became passionate about sustainable development and the impact humans are having on the natural environment:

“It led me to explore alternative resources, which can help to minimise our impact without drastically changing our everyday lives.”

Oliver adds that: “Growing up through a period of time where climate change has been at the forefront of the media really sparked my interest in what can be done to minimise the human impact on the planet.’’

Oliver had always been a hard-worker driven by his ambition, juggling multiple jobs alongside school and even becoming an accounts manager for a packaging company before his university days. His entrepreneurial mind-set came into use when both Oliver and James identified a gap in menswear fashion for a premium accessories brand.

Driven by the versatility and novelty of bamboo as an eco-friendly substitute, the brothers sold their first range of bamboo sunglasses online, receiving a warm welcome from retailers and consumers alike.

From sunglasses to socks, the Swole Panda brothers swiftly began to invest in more sustainable bamboo to include polo-shirts, t-shirts and scarves following the rising popularity of their products across the web.

James is a firm believer that “having a genuine passion and reason for starting your business is the most powerful motivation”

Why bamboo?

“Bamboo is one of our planet’s greatest phenomenons. The inherent natural growth pattern of bamboo, which requires no pesticides or fertilizers and has a massive yield per acre and is probably the most sustainable crop in the world, and the massively net positive carbon impact of the process as a whole (with the tree planting program) greatly reduces environmental impact, and the pandas aren’t fans of that type – so we’re not taking any of their food!”

Moso Bamboo has advantages over cotton when it comes to sustainable farming potential. “We adhere to ISO14000, an ethically principled environmental management standard (as well as the international quality management standard, ISO9000).”

What’s the story behind the unique name?

Oliver explains, “Swole means strong in the urban dictionary and as a brand, we have strong visions of what we want to achieve. Bamboo is also so strong in its natural form that this was inspiring to us. The ‘panda’ part really emphasises the fact that all of our products incorporate bamboo in some way, just like people tend to correlate pandas with bamboo.”

How we helped Swole Panda 

 Through the South East Business Boost scheme, Swole Panda was able to access free 12-hour business support, which allowed the business to plan their financial forecasting for future years and look in-depth at their profit margin, stock control and supply chain.

On their experience with the programme, James said “Having 12 hours free advice from experienced financial experts is so valuable when you are a small business.

Our business mentor, Tim Brammer, has given us the guidance to plan how much product we would need to hit our targets and meet projected growth. We have been able to plan ahead in much more detail then we would have been able to do ourselves.”

“It has had such a positive impact on our business” 

Tim Brammer, Business Planning Specialist at Business East Sussex commented on his time working with the brothers:

“It has been a pleasure to work closely with James and Ollie, supporting them with the development of a business plan for sustainable growth. They are entrepreneurial and ambitious, achieving impressive results in just two years. Having now helped them to identify and focus on the key drivers of business performance, both short and longer-term, they should now be able to the allocate their time and energy appropriately during the next stage of development. We have focussed particularly on financial management, creating a model that can be used for planning/forecasting and for decision support, but have also been able to offer guidance on various aspects of business development.”

From their Sussex based office, Swole Panda is an interesting and dynamic new business. Part of a wider movement, these young entrepreneurs are pioneering for a greener future by making use of one of the most sustainable natural resources on the planet.



Comments (1)

  1. Hi there
    Really impressed by your achievements, as a small business trying to establish itself in Rye I would like to know if you have any advice for me and what services you may offer to small businesses.
    I work in mental health and well being and could tell you about how I could support your initiatives around this.
    Warm wishes

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