Meet milly&sissy – the eco-friendly brand you didn’t know your home needed
At &Keep we always have our ear to the ground when it comes to new eco and sustainable brands arriving on the market. When we heard about sisters, Milly & Sissy, and their incredible range of sustainable and eco-friendly skincare products, we knew we not only had to stock their products, but we HAD to talk to them about their personal journey and what’s next for the brand.
Their range of hand washes, hair and body wash, shampoos, and shower crème’s come in powder form that you add water to and mix at home, reducing water transportation and giving the brand a better carbon footprint. They’re also vegan, cruelty-free, SLS and paraben-free as well as zero waste. That’s our kind of brand.
We caught up with Milly from her home in Bordeaux where she lives with her husband, two children and ever-growing number of animals. She currently has 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 chickens and a hamster.
Hi Milly. Thanks for chatting to us today. First of all, can you tell us why you decided to start milly&sissy?
Of course. I have a background in buying and product management for a large beauty corporation and have travelled around the UK and Europe for my job. Sissy has a background in healthcare and working in hospitals. We both wanted a fresh start and, because we’re really close, we decided to pursue our mutual passion of reducing plastic waste and creating products with a conscience.
We have both been meat-free for around 35 years and it seemed an obvious choice to start a business that highlighted our personal values and that may help other people to make more mindful shopping choices. We felt that supermarkets and larger retailers tend to argue that people aren’t prepared to pay for eco products or to make the change to a more sustainable lifestyle. However, we believe that people are becoming more conscious of their impact on the planet and just need a bit more education about it so they can make better choices.
Whilst the supermarkets have lots of offers on toiletries, they mostly contain lots of plastic. We can’t compete with those price points, but we’re happy that our products are more ethical and we think they look and smell great too!
How long has milly&sissy been going?
We started trading in January 2020 so it has been just over a year now and we’re delighted by how well it has taken off.
How easy do you find it to be eco-friendly and sustainable?
It’s not that straight forward. I tend to buy different items in different shops because I can’t get them all in one place. I also drink lots of tea so, now that it has been revealed that a lot of teabags contain plastic, I use refillable cotton bags that aren’t as convenient. That being said, we both find that our bathrooms are much more eco-friendly because of our products. The bathroom and kitchen are the two hotspots in the house where being eco and sustainable are tricky because so many products found there can contain plastic or the packaging does. We’ve removed the need to even think about it due to our range of products, that includes re-usable bottles you can mix the powders in at home.
Tell us more about your ranges and how you choose the scents
If I’m honest, I’m really lazy and have always used hair products as body wash. I like the convenience of one bottle doing everything I need it to so the hair and body wash is my personal go-to. We’ve then added different hair types to our shampoo range and then there’s the shower crème and hand washes.
When it comes to choosing scents, we like floral, fruity and fresh scents. We basically base our scents on ones we personally like and then brief our fragrance people. We wanted the scents to be quite unisex so more people would be able to enjoy them. We do plan to add a few more unisex ones into the mix shortly. The candied tangerine, zesty lime and sweet cherry are our personal favourites. The sweet cherry reminds me of cherry fizzer sweets.
We made the choice to avoid using essential oils in our products because they can be allergenic and irritating to sensitive skin. They also tend not to biodegrade as easily as other fragrance options. We use 0.2% synthetic fragrance in our products, half of which is biodegradable making it better for the environment. Some of our customers work in healthcare and struggle with cracked, sore hands from over washing. They love our hand wash because it’s really gentle on their skin.
Why are you pleased to be stocked on &Keep?
We have a close relationship with our online and eco retailers because they’re like-minded and believe in making a difference. Natasha is passionate to her core and &Keep isn’t just a website, it’s a place where people can buy products that will make a big difference to the world we live in. We believe that education is key in the eco/sustainable world and we love that &Keep helps to provide that education as well as some amazing products. It’s a perfect match.
What is your top tip for anyone wanting to become more eco-friendly?
It can be a bit overwhelming when you look at the broader picture of eco-friendly and sustainable living and that can sometimes put people off. Therefore, our top tip would be to start with one product or part of the house at a time and, over time, you’ll gradually learn what to avoid and what to look out for. We also think that having conversations with people is important. Learn from friends, family, colleagues who may choose eco-friendly products and then share your learning with others. That circle of knowledge is so important because it’s individuals who have the power to change the world. Taking that extra time to think about better ways of doing things is pivotal.
People spend ages choosing toiletries – thinking about which one looks and smells the nicest. Most of these products are plastic and, once they’re empty, they tend to get thrown away. There are also certain parts of the bottles that can’t be recycled so they end up in landfill. It actually takes longer to read a label and to recycle than it does to buy eco products from the off. We equate it to going to a vegan restaurant. You don’t even have to think about what to order or worry that animal products may make their way into your dish. Buying eco-friendly products is the same. It’s all been worked out for you so you can rest assured it’s good for you and the planet.
How do you find working together as sisters? Has it changed your relationship at all?
We’ve always been really close, but this has definitely brought us closer. I’ve moved around a lot over the years and Sissy has remained in the Midlands, but our different working experiences and skill sets really complement each other. Sissy is more pragmatic, whereas I’ve got the product experience. We would never let business damage our relationship, but as it stands, we’re really enjoying being on this journey together.
What does a day in the life of milly&sissy look like?
As Sissy and I don’t live geographically close together, we FaceTime a lot. I tend to get up around 7am to walk the dogs and am at my desk by 9am. We usually speak at around 10am and discuss each other’s plans for that day and the week ahead. We then each get on with our own tasks before another chat later that day or the next to catch up on any developments.
What is the eco and sustainability scene like near you?
The French are actually pretty good at sustainability and being eco-conscious. They’re really proud of their local produce and it’s always clearly marked. There are no plastic bags in supermarkets and any bags they do have are compostable. Our local radio station is running adverts encouraging people to recycle and think about the planet. I tend to shop in bio shops that have refill services and where I can get vegan products. If people are passionate about food then that tends to go hand-in-hand with being conscious of the planet and how we treat it. People in France take time to shop, support local independents and enjoy making meals from scratch. It’s great.
In the UK there are very few eco products in the supermarkets and the ones they do stock, tend not to go on offer. The overarching attitude is about attaining more and appreciating less. Therefore, people tend to buy standard products for the lower price point, without really thinking about the environmental impact. There is definitely more work needed in England.
What’s next for milly&sissy?
We have some really exciting plans for the brand. We are just about to launch our brand new Bottle for Life. It’s aluminium so will last for a lifetime and is very durable. Our current bottle is made from 45% recycled glass, but some of our customers didn’t like the idea of having glass in the shower in case of breakage. The aluminium bottle is a great alternative and looks just as fab.
We also have some new ranges on the horizon to diversify the current categories and the addition of new fragrances.
What do you think the future of zero waste looks like?
Whilst we think it’s great that big brands are helping to make changes to their packaging and product ranges, enough still isn’t being done. We think that they really need to change their mindset and embrace the eco market, rather than just dipping their toe into it and not fully committing. They have the resources to make quicker and really significant changes. A broader product offer on eco-friendly ranges with good customer communication in supermarkets and large retailers would help the consumer to make better choices.
We all have a part to play in being more eco-friendly. We think that Coronavirus may have helped people to be more mindful about the throw away culture that has been adopted in this country. It has given everyone a chance to take stock and appreciate the simple things, but more education is definitely needed. We need to keep sharing our messages and ideas about how to make small, but significant changes, and the community of like-minded people will grow.
Which business owners do you admire or consider to be role models and why?
We love animals and nature and believe that these two go hand-in-hand. Therefore, people like David Attenborough, Jill Robinson, Jane Goodall and Jarvis Smith, from My Green Pod, are people we really admire for their education on conservation, climate change and ethical ways of living. It’s shocking to see the devastation caused to the rain forest through human ignorance and pollution.
We thoroughly enjoy the ‘nature tv’ section on My Green Pod and the escapism it provides, especially whilst we’ve been in lockdown. It is almost like a form of meditation watching sheep roaming around in a field!
Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, is also worthy of a mention because she really spearheaded the idea of vegan, cruelty-free toiletries and refillable options, to cut down on plastic waste, long before other retailers started doing it.
And finally – has lockdown been challenging for you as a business?
Well, as mentioned, we have only been trading for 13 months so we don’t really have a ‘normal’ year to compare it to. However, we did adapt our business model to be more online-focused which we think has helped because more people seem to be taking the time to seek out eco-friendly alternatives to their usual toiletries.
The eco community is all about supporting each other and we’ve been embraced by people within that market. It isn’t really like that in other retail sectors or markets and we love the fact that we get to work with like-minded people who want to support each other as well as improve our world.
Shop the milly&sissy range here.