"Empowering others is the secret to making a sustainable impact."

Interview with sustainable Scrubbies founder & Bird X Scrubbies partner, fabulous Kerry Mackay.
  1. Why Scrubbies – what was the moment that you thought, I'm going to launch my business and get plastic free sponges out into the world?

Just over 2 years ago I had to move house with my 10 year old son. My landlord needed to sell our old house and I could only move what i could lift. I couldn't afford to hire a van so big things like my washing machine and wardrobes were left behind. With a new rental deposit, we were struggling. It ended up in me having to use the foodbank where I cried like a baby. A real low point.

I had given up my career in aerospace as an analytical chemist 9 years ago, never knowing my life would bring me to such a low point,  I knew I had to do something to get us out of that situation, so I designed my first Scrubbie. Not only to get out of poverty, but also to create something that had an environmental impact while being affordable - two luxuries often denied to people in financial hardship.

  1. Do you have a sewing background?

When I left my aerospace job, I bought my first sewing machine and spent the next few years making patchwork blankets, pencil cases and purses. Nothing very innovative, just enough to pay the bills and allow us to spend our days outdoors, exploring nature. Anything beyond straight lines tests my sewing skills!

   3. Who helps you make Scrubbies?

At the moment, just my mum. I couldn't have got this far without her. She cuts fabric for me and helps with sewing. I watched my mum work so hard all her life for little reward and I think helping me achieve some success helps her too.

  1. What does making an impact look like to you?

It can be hard to quantify any level of success. For some, it's a big car and a nice house but when you've struggled your whole life, just overcoming the smallest of barriers represents success. I know, in my heart, that I have created a product that has a big impact on the environment. If a Scrubbie only lasts 3 months (and some of my have lasted over 12 months) then that's 6 plastic sponges not being used for every one.

For me, it's not just about our environment, it's about our communities too. I have helped create a community food cupboard, open to all, I work with the prison to help create more opportunities than I can write in a small space, my fabric designs are created by independent designers and I keep my prices as low as possible to support wholesale to other businesses. I will never be rich, that only makes an impact on my life......empowering others is the secret to making a sustainable impact.

  1. How many scrubbies have you made so far?

So, I had to calculate this a few months back and it was at 60,000. I have no automated system to tell me. I write every wholesale order in a book. Let's go with 60,000 Scrubbies (30,000 sets). I am very tired!

  1. What's your favourite fabric to work with and why?

Well, it's one thing to buy fabric and create Scrubbies but my most favourite fabric is Bird Kitchen Clothing offcuts. I can literally see where other garments have been cut out and realise why those offcuts are too small for production. I relish every Scrubbie I cut from that waste fabric because i know it's being used to not only create a plastic-free product, but also using up waste. 

  1. Top tip for washing up?

Next to my sink I have bulk washing up liquid, a solid dish-bar soap and a constant rotation of Scrubbies. No hiding here, I only use Scrubbies and haven't bought a plastic sponge since creating my first one (my first protoypes are actually still in circulation in my house....2 years on).  My over-riding advice is : just leave it until morning!

  1. The dish you cook on repeat?

Not exactly repeat, but if I ask my son what he wants he will always say pasta, bacon and cheese. I may not do many things right in life, but I do make a mean cheese sauce from scratch. Flour and butter, slow addition of milk then enough cheese to feed a rugby team!

  1. Tell me about the charity you've chosen to donate to from our collab.

I chose to plant a tree with every purchase. Those trees cost £1 each, mainly because they are in developing countries (Madagascar, Haiti and Kenya), where the cost of producing seedlings is much lower. But they are on the front line of climate change, which is why it's important to me to support them.

  1. What does it mean to you, to be working on this project with Bird?

Once I clawed my way out of poverty and found a safe place, I realised that I'd created something bigger than myself. This realisation came from conversations with other business owners who saw their own goals in what i was doing. The biggest, for me, has been the collaboration with Bird Kitchen Clothing and Vicky who runs it. Two businesses coming from different start points yet colliding in the online world through a need to impact the planet and everyone who lives here. Customers see an end product but behind the scenes we have big ethical and environmental magnets drawing us together, And that's what's happened here. A small, ethical company bumped into another and great things emerged. Bring it on BKC, you are amazing :)

 

"Empowering others is the secret to making a sustainable impact."