Meet the member-owned brands in our Soho Boxes
Four of our members, whose products are included in our second edition of Soho Boxes, reveal the stories behind their brands and how they navigated lockdown
By Emma Page Above image: Soho Boxes (Soho Home) Thursday 27 August, 2020 Long read
Many doubled down on their efforts to stay agile. Some members, whose products are featured in a new shoppable range of Soho Boxes launching this week, had to change course unexpectedly, redefine their strategies or respond overnight to the altered buying patterns of lockdown. All of them learned valuable lessons about dealing with the unknown.
‘We knew that the pandemic would turn everything upside down, but couldn’t imagine the extent of the disruption,’ reflects Nick Doman, cofounder of Ocean Bottle, whose product funds the removal of tonnes of plastic waste per year from the world’s coastlines.
In Doman’s case, hundreds of local plastic collectors faced the need to self-isolate, with an immediate impact on their primary income. Doman and cofounder Will Pearson moved quickly to mitigate the effects. They launched a new limited-edition bottle originally earmarked for a later release, via a COVID-19 relief fund, to help tide workers over while they were unable to work.
Sajani Amarasiri had barely finished perfecting the recipe for her Super Green Latte in her mother’s Sri Lankan kitchen when the pandemic put paid to her plans. But she decided to launch Kola Goodies, her powdered wellness drinks range, anyway. ‘We had to change our approach instantly,’ she says. ‘Although we are largely an online retail brand, we planned to do much more in terms of partnering with cafes and shops. Instead, we refined the messaging to focus on the home care element of the drinks and switched distribution channels to embrace influencer partnerships and brand collaborations.’
It’s been a learning curve like no other, but San Francisco-based Amarasiri believes her passion for the product is key. ‘It’s about authenticity,’ she says. ‘It’s an ode to my childhood and heritage, inspired by the breakfast porridge, Kola Kanda, that my mum made me as a child. I feel that there’s still room to bring that South Asian wellness ritual to a Western audience.’
Nevertheless, lockdown has been tough on the wider team who are working remotely, and their wellbeing has been high on Sexton-Wainwright and cofounder Lauren Leask’s list of priorities. ‘Kindness is crucial when running a business, and empathy too,’ they reflect. ‘We are a young, small company, used to being agile. COVID-19 has reminded us how important that is. We took the opportunity to lean into our brand DNA and ensure we felt happy with who we were. That led to a greater drive to commit to a more sustainable ethos, lately incorporating organic linen and bamboo satin into the collections.’
The unexpected grounding led Rubinoff and business partner Billy Melnyk to reappraise. ‘Every business associated with hospitality has had to rethink how they share their products during COVID-19,’ says Melnyk. ‘You have to find different ways to surprise and delight.’ The duo refocused on online training, as well as spotlighting responsible drinking with friends and family at home.
The new collection of Soho Boxes is available for purchase now via sohohome.com