As part of Wandsworth Together on Climate Change Festival and Global Entrepreneurship Week, we spoke to a local environmentally conscious entrepreneur.
Tanya de Afonseca is a Tooting resident and founder of BYO. She launched the business to help the local community gain more awareness of climate change and its relationship with throw-away waste culture.
How would you describe your business in one sentence?
BYO is a zero-waste food shop and Refill Station – reducing plastic and food waste.
When did you launch and who is behind it?
I launched the business September 2018.
When did your ‘lightbulb moment’ happen?
Whilst travelling in Asia I saw mountains of waste and plastic where children played. When I returned the UK, I began researching where our waste went and it wasn’t a pretty picture. Only a small percentage of waste is recycled, most of it is shipped across the world or burnt – which is awful.
What did you do prior to starting your business?
I worked in Telecoms in a sales role.
What type of support have you received since starting your business?
The support has mostly been through the local community. Tooting is an incredible area with a large number of people who really care about the environment, locally and beyond. They have helped promote our little shop and made changes to refill with us.
Why should more businesses consider sustainability and what some of the first steps they can take?
I don’t think we have a choice anymore. We all have to take a stand and begin to make small changes. If everyone makes a little effort, then we will begin to see huge shifts. For example:
- Considering where we are sourcing our products from.
- Asking local suppliers to change packaging.
- Encouraging people to use their own containers, packaging or bags.
- Encourage companies to make changes, like using electric cars.
- Ensuring the ingredients in the products we use aren’t damaging to our health or environment.
What would you say were three of the most challenging aspects of setting up the business?
Change, finance and building momentum.
What happened to your business during lockdown?
Tooting Market was closed during the first lockdown, so we offered a delivery service, which we ran from our home. It was extremely makeshift and not very sexy, but it meant that we were able to offer our customers products to their door safely without wasting any products.
What business lessons have you learned from Covid?
Well I guess the biggest lesson has to be that we have to live in the moment more. Planning ahead or waiting for the perfect time to do something can be taken away from us in an instant. There was a lot of general awareness about single use packaging and waste before the pandemic, and I felt that people were trying to make a difference in how they shopped and spent their money. I think that due to covid we now have different priorities, so this has changed somewhat. But I think it will return at some point.
What type of support (if any) have you received from the council in relation to your business?
The businesses in Tooting Market received grants, which was a lifesaver for most of us, especially as footfall in the market has decreased massively over the last 18months.
If you had the opportunity to do it all again, what would you do differently?
I originally wanted to be on the High Street and have a bigger shop with more options available for our customers – that was the plan before Covid. However, I am so glad to be in Tooting Market, surrounded by like-minded people. If I had to start over, I think I would create a co-op rather than go solo, as this would help us to be a real community project. Hopefully that is where we will get to in the future.
What three tips would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do your research to understand your target audience and whether they would be interested in what you are offering. Find out what support is available for what you are trying to achieve – there are many different options available. Speak to and connect with like-minded people who have perhaps done something similar – working together and helping one another is so much better than competing.
Finish this sentence. I like being based in Wandsworth because…
I don’t think there is a more supportive, caring and wonderful community anywhere else.
How can people find you?
Instagram & Twitter: byo_london