Counter Culture Store: ‘We are about progress, not perfection’

by | Dec 13, 2022

Google searches for ‘sustainable beauty’ reached peak in November. In the same month Counter Culture, a new sustainable e-commerce platform, started to carve it’s own space out online.

Here, founders Wendy Martin and Mark Wisniewski reveal their strategy and positioning

The sustainable beauty landscape has become increasingly crowded and competitive with numerous brands opting for planet-positive initiatives to future-proof their businesses and attract new customers.

Many would think it too risky to launch into the sustainability arena in this period of saturation, however Wendy Martin and Mark Wisniewski seized this unmatched interest to create a digital platform enabling consumers and businesses to make ‘one small switch’. But why?

‘We wanted to create something at the crosshairs of sustainability, an industry that could impact consumer change and where the ability and propensity of consumer shopping was high and frequent,’ start the duo.

Martin, who spent 28-years mastering consumer checkout at Visa and her business partner, who started his career developing wind farms, knew they wanted to do something to drive societal and environmental impact. Martin says: ‘We knew we had to focus on sustainability and beauty just fell out of that because there are a number of issues in the industry but consumers continue to buy health and wellness products everyday. This means there is lots of opportunity to drive change.’ 

Plastic and water waste, inclusivity and sourcing are only some of the challenges facing the beauty industry, however the founders knew they couldn’t tackle them all at once. So, they set out to educate the consumer.

As someone coming in to the industry, there were huge paradoxes that we found that we couldn’t navigate,’ explains Martin, pointing to the lack of knowledge consumers have around what really makes a product organic and the differences between organic and cruelty-free. They go on to say: ‘So, we knew we had to focus on trying to make it easier for people to have the confidence and trust to shop sustainably and discover new brands that they haven’t tried before.’

But, how do consumers know that what is stocked on Counter Culture Store really is planet-positive? Here’s your answer: ‘We have a number of criteria that we look at but it largely comes down to trust, and having open conversations with all of the brands we stock,’ starts Martin. The website is a melting point for planet-conscious beauty with high-end brands receiving as much lime light as indie start-ups.

From Seeds of Colour to Bloom and Blossom, ‘we have a vision of stocking everything from B-Corps through to very small brands that are all striving to make real change,’ the pair continue. ‘Some brands will be cruelty-free and plastic free but there will be some other sustainability boxes that they don’t tick. This doesn’t stop us from working with them – we are all about progress, not perfection.’

On top of championing a healthy Earth, Counter Culture store is tackling female representation in the beauty industry too. ‘In the UK today, around 9p in every pound actually goes to female founders,’ explains Martin. Wisniewski finishes her sentence saying: ‘It is famously hard for women in this industry to access VC money and we wanted to change that.’

As well as nailing its D2C strategy, the founders are working hard to clean up the traditional B2B2C model too. Its corporate gifting capabilities answer businesses’ needs for sustainable rewards. Martin says: ‘Gifting is a huge investment, so what better way to do it than sustainably? It says a lot about your brand.’

The platform is female-charged, accessible to both consumers and founders, and the team is thinking beyond the parameters of their own company to cultivate wider change. Martin and Wisniewski are forcing a ‘shoulder to shoulder’ conversation which is rarely seen in industry.

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