Sophie Stevens, 30, and Pete Oswald, 32, are co-founders of the environmental paper stationery business Little Difference, where 1 tree is planted for every single product sold. So far they have planted 45,000 trees towards permanent reforestation in Madagascar.
Why did you decide to start up Little Difference?
We wanted to produce something we were proud of and we really wanted to give something back to the environment and create a beautiful product which people would both want to buy and receive from a friend. We also needed a business which we could fit around and complement our nomadic outdoor lifestyle. These are our 3 mission statements we created right at the start..
Why the focus on cards?
Soph has always made cards for friends and they were so well loved. Cards are a relatively low value item which meant we didn’t need any investment at the start and we could grow the business completely organically. We also love the personal touch of giving someone a card in a world so full of technology, and you get to give someone a tree!
Why did you choose to plant trees?
We spend a lot of our time outdoors, surrounded by nature, and we realise the importance now more than ever that we all need to try and do our bit to protect it. Planting trees is one of the most important and impactful things we can do to help mitigate climate change, and as we are producing a paper product, even though it is recycled we thought tree planting would be very relevant!
What challenges did you face as an ethical startup?
As with most start-ups, having enough in the bank to try and keep the business afloat is always a challenge! But we can say the business has grown completely organically with no outside help. We also had some sceptics at the start about the tree planting, and we had to be very wary about making sure the money went exactly to the correct place, but now we have been there, met the people and witnessed it first hand we have full confidence that the tree planting is happen as it should, it is having a far better impact than we could have imagined, environmentally and socially.
How much did you raise in your recent crowdfunding campaign and what will you do with it?
We recently Crowdfunded £11,748 which was 118 per cent of our goal so we are super happy! All of this will be invested back in to the business and be used to create new products such as our new notebooks and calendars which have just been released.
Are your products recycled/recyclable?
Yes! All our products are made from 100 per cent recycled card and wrapped in 100 per cent biodegradable cornstarch bags and the cards come with 100 per cent recycled envelopes. Also, for every single product sold, 1 Tree is planted in Madagascar towards permanent reforestation.
Where are the trees planted?
The trees are planted in Madagascar where they are cared for, and protected to maturity. The mission of Little Difference is to plant as many trees as possible, helping to restore land which has been deforested. Not only is the tree planting helping to reforest the landscape, it provides jobs to local people, paying them a decent wage and lifting them out of poverty. This also teaches them how vitally important the protection of the forest is, as it’s now also their livelihood and they depend on it for a living.
You’re a dot org so does that mean you’re a body for profit? charity? How does the business side of things work?
We are a business making a profit but we donate a portion of our sales to a reforestation charity called Eden Reforestation Projects which does an outstanding job. We have a strict count of all products sold or even products which we give away, and make sure at least one tree is planted for every single product. We are not trying to trick anyone, we are openly a business making a profit and this is how we survive, we are just trying to do it the best way possible for people and the planet!
How did you both meet?
We met in Queenstown in New Zealand in 2010 the first conversation we ever had was Soph telling Pete about a bear that broke into Soph’s house when she lived in Canada while she was trapped inside. We left the bar and skateboarded around the town together until late in the evening and have been traveling together ever since.
Do you have other jobs or are you committed to this full time?
Pete is a professional freeride skier and we are brand ambassadors for various products but other than that Little Difference is our baby and our full time mission!
To see more head to www.littledifference.org, all products can be shipped world-wide.