Sarah: OK, so welcome, guys. Tell me a little bit about yourselves and what your biz is.

Aimee & Jane: We are Figgy & Co. and we are Aimee & Jane (hello) and we are specialists in natural cleaning supplies. Yeah, so we help you reduce the chemicals in your home when it comes to cleaning your home.

Yeah, absolutely.

We fundamentally believe it’s what you do every day that counts, it’s those patterns and behaviours. And so we’ve really zoned in on everyday cleaners that have much reduced chemical burdens, chemical loads, because we think like with less chemicals in our home, in our home environment, we’re all better off for it because we spend so much time there right.

Sarah: 100%. So Figgy & Co. is a massive part of my life, as you guys know and our lives here in the office as well.

So what motivated you guys to get started?

Aimee & Jane: Well, we are both from health backgrounds, Jane and I worked together, we were both paramedics prior to ever being anything remotely close to Figgy & Co., Jane’s alwayscbeen quite DIY, quite green focused. She’s got such a good knowledge base. And I came from a different kind of household where we just walk down the supermarket aisle and brought whatever was brightest and cheapest and without giving it much thought.

But we both had good knowledge of the human body. And so then when we had children, about the same time, one of my children had really bad eczema and Jane said, “why don’t you make your own laundry powder, like that just might help the balance a bit”.

So from there, we kind of played with a bit more recipes and ingredients and making a broader range beyond the laundry powder. But we were finding it really hard to get all the supplies that we needed for like, truly paired back cleaners, easily.

And to get a good price, like you had to go all around town with a three o’clock screaming baby in the back.

Yeah, yeah.

To make multiple stops, to get everything you need and literally over a cup of tea Jane was like, there has got to be a better way.

Yeah, it’s got to be more convenient than this because otherwise your best made plans you just end up not doing it because it’s just too hard, goes in the too hard basket.

And yet the idea of having a safer home environment is so important, you know, it should be you’ve got to make it accessible so people stick to it.

Yeah, have the ability to stick to it.

Sarah: Yeah, 100 percent. We all just seem to be becoming more and more time poor, you know.

Aimee & Jane: Right, that’s right. And so people can offer convenience, but it’s often at a trade off. So you are giving something away for that. So it might be a higher chemical load because you have to do less cleaning or fast food is a great example. So it’s convenient but, you know, it’s not nutritious.

So I was like, OK, how can we get this right for people? That they are cutting down their chemicals, but it’s easy as well.

Yeah.

Get it delivered to your door.

Yeah. Yeah.

We wanted to be the helpers to solve the problem.

S: Was it scary like going into business together? Obviously coming at things from a friendship perspective, because I guess it’s a common situation people find themselves in where, you know you’ve got an idea maybe with a friend or a family member or something like that, and then taking that step and going into business together, obviously there can be massive risks in doing that.

A&J: I think we were lucky in a way, because we were already work colleagues in a different sense, so we trained together, we worked for the same organisation.

So we kind of already had a history of being collegial with each other and in a work environment that was focused on problem solving. Because when you’re in a when you work as a paramedic, you go to a job, there’s a patient that needs to be assessed and treated and transported. And in amongst that matrix always comes up lots of things, problems that need to be solved. So we came from a working background where we were solutions driven.

Yeah, and so that actually more than you might think, transferred into starting a business.

She’ll be right. We’ll get through it. We’ll just, one step at a time. But I mean, there was a large amount of….faith. We’ll just give it a go.

Ignorance is bliss.

Yeah, yeah, but also I would add to that, that being a paramedic is very linear in a sense, and that you’ve got one job in front of you at a time, like you have to have a wide knowledge base, but you’re pretty much applying it in a linear fashion. Where here, it’s like, I feel like we’ve got so many tabs open. We’ve got so many little projects going. Like, in a way it’s actually, it’s more Problem-Solving.

Yeah. It can be quite chaotic to choose. I guess it’s like triaging.

It is, it is. Who’s getting the care first.

Yeah, absolutely.

S: I guess then one of the key elements for you guys will be really good communication and managing that type of thing.

Do you have any, I guess, formal systems in place around, you know, monthly meetings or anything like that that you guys do? Or is it just because you’re always, always around? It’s just always communication stations.

A&J: Yeah, like we don’t have a fight night, like some couples have we don’t need that (no)

I think the communication is real, it’s more just ongoing ad hoc, we’re always working together. And sometimes, like I’ve come to learn that, particularly for Jane, because she would she is more creative than me, just just letting it go. Letting her be present, gives her room and then she can be like I’ve just had an idea.

Whereas I would naturally like things to be more structured, but I’m learning to teach myself actually, for our duo, that’s not the best, most productive way to be.

She needs space to be creative, so let it happen.

I love a good tangent.

S: That’s probably a good balance, though, and probably how you found that synergy between you guys as having each other to both balance that out and to go away and say, hey, you can take care of that and go and be creative over there and I’ll make sure that logistics are organised over here because that is very linear in process to make.

A&J: Yeah, it is.

That is so true. But and also, like when we first started, we were super busy new mums, and we were time poor. And so like, like a foundation was empathy. Like we’re always very empathetic with each other, you know.

So part of the communication, when problems come up or need to be solved either on a business or family level or whatever, it starts with just that, empathy of just giving someone the space to be their best, you’re not judging. Like the communication is what it is. Might be, bit titchy one day. But you’ve probably just had like a really, like, tough night at home or whatever, do you know what I mean? Like there’s.

Yeah.

And we don’t take anything personally

I think there is no baggage.

Yeah.

And I would add to that that there’s huge value, like just in honesty. And what I mean by that is, is actually very easy to come into the office and say, I had a terrible night, I’ve had no sleep, I’m probably not myself today and it’s like OK we all know where everything is at.

I put the kettle on.

Yeah. Yeah.

Whereas it’s actually quite easy and I know I’ve had other working relationships in the past where that level of communication isn’t there.

And it’s like that’s all it takes is

That I give you that space aye, 

Yeah that little sentence of honesty of where you’re at, can solve so many problems down the track, I think so.

S: Sounds like an amazing relationship.

I’m going to come hang out with you guys. 

A&J: It’s pretty cool.

S: How did you guys name Figgy & Co.?

I don’t think I know the answer this actually, do I?

A&J: It’s such a funny wee story.

Once we had the idea that we were going to start a business, we wanted a, you know, like a fun kind of name that didn’t have any greenwashing associated with it that was easy to remember, easy to spell or do you know what I mean?

And I don’t know if it was because we were running or not much sleep at the time, with all the little bubs at home. But we just, we could, we could not think of anything and we racked and racked our brains.

And anyway, as a side project, I used to do some sewing and to zhush it up a little bit, I got these little woven labels made and the little name I put on it was ‘Figgy’ because it was like just fun and light, it was just a word that rolled off the tongue and I liked it.

And then Aimee said, well “Would it be OK if we use that?” “Because I like that” and I was like “Well I like that too!” Well, would would that be OK? It just

So officially, I guess it’s Figgy, and Co.

S: It makes sense. It’s cute.

A&J: And I think too like just touching on what you said about having a name that stands alone was really important, at least for me in naming the business, because I like to think of, for our brand moving forward that we will just be synonymous with natural cleaning one day.

Much like McDonald’s is a name for fast food, it actually doesn’t say anything about burger or fries or chips. But everybody knows what McDonald’s is. 

S: Xero accounting, all of those sorts of things that are just a name.

A&J: That’s a much healthier example Sarah!

S: Well, they’ve got the challenge of spelling too. They went out on a real limb there in getting brand recognition.

Yeah.

What did you guys want to be when you grew up?

A&J: I wanted to be a Forensic pathologist. Believe it or not.

S: Oh, my gosh

A&J: I love all of that kind of stuff. Just I love yeah the problem solving, the detail.

I love human anatomy. The human body. I love a good whodunit.

S: Yeah I was going to say I feel like I know what you watch and read already.

A&J: Even like when I was in 4th form, I went and did work experience at the local funeral parlour. I went and visited the morgue just the whole lot.

And then I got to like 5th form. And I was in the hostel and it was a bit tricky at home. And I went and saw the guidance counsellor and she was like, oh yeah, your looking at like 12 years of study after high school and I was like, I can’t do it. And it never got explained to me properly that you do your 3 years and then you do another three years working in the hospital. And then you would go on to more training after that.

Like, I think guidance counselors have upped their game since then.

Look, I went through wanting to be like such a huge range of things. As a young teenager, I wanted to be, like the woman behind the Clinique brand, you know with the white coats, the red lipstick. Like very pretty girl.

Then I wanted to be an air hostess then, you know, then I wanted to be a lawyer. I mean I’ve gone through everything, but as I got older, I had a real affinity for science. I had a real affinity for the human body. Like, it really interests me and fascinates me. But I also just in my personality, like, kind of. 

Yeah. Coming back to problem solving and puzzles and riddles. And I don’t know once I stumbled upon para-medicine I felt like I had found my thing because, you know, you’re out working remotely. You’ve only got so much information to work on to try and figure out what’s going on. It’s centered around the human body. Like I thought I had found my thing for life.

Oh, yeah. It’s such an awesome job. Being a paramedic is amazing. It was such a good fit for both of us.

Yeah.

So hard to give up.

S: Yeah.

I found it hard to give up.

Yeah I, I, I did and didn’t like there are bits of it I do miss, but I think too it’s like I always had this idea that you had to have like, like a job with the title if you like. Like a lawyer, like a paramedic, like a teacher.

And it’s like actually this is ticking all those boxes but adds so much more to my life in terms of like wider family balance, working hours, not being accountable to anyone except yourselves, like 

Because night shift is grueling.

Yeah.

Yeah.

So I would say, all in all, I have no regrets. Oh, it’s just taking a transition to get to that point.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

S: Yeah, definitely.

A&J: I needed to taper off.

S: It says a lot about you guys as individuals too and the complementary skills and things I think both from what “I wanted to be when I grew up” through the whole journey to, to where you are now as well.

Let’s say that one of you guys best friends is starting a business. And what are some of the top advice that you’d give them if they were starting now, that you’ve learnt?

A&J: Go for it, yeah, yeah, like what are you waiting for kind of thing, but also I would say, like I know personally, I found it really difficult at times less now, but in the early years of actually like putting yourselves out there and reaching out and giving things a chance, like I would always feel like “on no, they will think that we are just too small fry” or not, you know, not authorities on this. When actually we probably know more or as much as anyone does know about natural cleaning.

And we were in authority back then. I just didn’t have the confidence to go out and, you know, yeah.

You do, you do grow a lot as a person. So I definitely think if I had a friend who wanted to start a business, it would be absolutely just start and you will feel your way into it. It will grow. You will evolve.

It will be OK.

Just, just put yourself out there and do it.

Just maybe maybe don’t mortgage the house, but start.

S: Do some testing, see how the market responds.

A&J: Yeah exactly.

S: I guess that’s exactly the process you guys have gone through over your growth. You start off small and sort of see how the market responds and then you allow allows you to grow from there to the point, you know, with the new equipment that you guys have just got in to that point and something that you never probably would have even considered when you guys first started.

A&J: Well, when we first started, we were just doing solely DIY and we must have done it for about three months or so. And then we just had a like a barrage of people saying, I love it, I love what you’re doing, I love the less chemicals, but I don’t want to do the mixing up for myself, Either people just really time poor, like more time poor than we were or just didn’t have the inclination to do it. They just wanted to have the convenience. 

S: Too lazy

A&J: yeah, yeah. And that’s cool. But they still love the idea of less chemicals.

So and then it was like out of the blue 18 months of R&D for products that would be formulated, that were bottled, that were labeled.

Yeah. That could be shipped. That still held that basic ethos of not putting in extra chemicals in the formulation, you know, because then you’ve got things about shelf stability and how will it travel. And when they open it up, what will it smell like?

So it was it was a massive, unexpected project, in its own right. 

And we had to decide, like, what ingredients will be in there and what won’t be in them because there’s a lot of ingredients you can put in to make a product look beautiful, you know, all emulsified and bits and pieces. But at the end of the day, you will trade off for health benefits.

So we went with a formulation that you, like so for example, the bench spray, you give it a shake before you spray it.

But in order to have like a happy shake event at home without the bottle leaking, we spent a lot of time finding a trigger that was leak proof.

So we support people to have less chemicals, by making it easy with the hardware. You know, we we really did and we do continue to try and be very thoughtful in that user experience space.

S: I think that’s pretty evident through your journey as well. When your clients said to you, customers said to you “hey, we we want some ready-made products” You said, “OK, cool, so how do we do that?” And that’s allowed you to grow by just listening to your customers because they have all the gold for the direction to go next.

You don’t need to look anywhere else. And I’m sure you get plenty of, plenty of feedback on the next direction to take on any project that you’re working on within the business.

A&J: Yeah, that’s right, I mean, we one good example is people have wanted things automated, so we are really close and through the help of you guys at Daisy Digital to be able to launch some subscriptions soon. So watch this space So we are, we are, we do take feedback on board and we sit back and think, OK, how can this work? So it’s good for us, but it’s great for the customer.

Absolutely.

S: Yep. And there’s almost always a solution that can work for everybody when you just just listening to what people are saying, it’s pretty awesome.

So this years obviously been really strange. I know there’s been a lot of, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, quick response to really unforeseen circumstances and situations that I don’t think anyone was really prepared for in any sense of the matter.

What would be one or two things that you guys have learnt during this year about your business or about running a business?

A&J: It’s been a pretty wild ride this year to be honest.

Yeah, and we’ve both had some ups and downs.

Yeah, we’re quite lucky in that it’s not very often that we’re both feeling really like down or anxious about the business, we normally bounce, we usually fluctuate, bounce off each other.

If I come in being like, “oh, it’s all too hard, it’s too hard” you know, she’ll pick me back up.

It’s ok. We’ll be right here. Look here are all the positives. It’s fine.

Yeah. Yeah. And vice versa.

I think I have learnt patience, like with regard to the business, like, like there were weeks there, that it just felt like, yeah, this is all too hard. Like it’s too unpredictable. Sales are unpredictable. When there’s a global pandemic going do people still care about natural cleaners? Is everyone going to convert to like this high chemical load, that actually, we know from a science point of view doesn’t change.

Well, the only thing that changes is you end up with way more chemicals in your life.

So it was just like learning, like okay be patient, like let’s ride this out. Things will recalibrate, things will come back to normal. And I think we are we’re finding that now.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But I also think we’ve learnt that I think it would be really easy for say if you’d lost your passion about your business to maybe use that as a good time to think, OK, maybe it is time to step back or, or tone things down or shut up shop at the most extreme level. But we never, we never even encountered those thoughts.

So that’s kind of something I reflected on afterwards. And I was like, oh, like the love for Figgy is still there.

Yeah.

And if we get a day with there’s not too many orders that come in, like Aimee will say, “oh, it’s a bit of a blessing. We can get on with all that other stuff that we need to do, the list of things to do”

Let’s just make the most of it. And we just keep on going.

Yeah.

S: Beautiful combination of the the natural inclination to pull each other up, which I think even if you, if somebody comes into work and they’re feeling slightly lower than the other person that actually brings the other person up, because they want to bring positivity all around them, pulling each other forward and no doubt the challenges have been extremely.

Yeah, not something that anybody could prepare for this year, so we just sort of, everybody’s dealt with things different in different ways. And there’s definitely people that like you say, for you guys, it’s affirmed that you’ve still got the passion for what you do. And it’s great. And I think you’re definitely right Aimee when you say that people have used that opportunity to reflect on whether they’re doing the right thing and for themselves, and that’s only a good thing, I think, for clients and customers and anybody’s business to to know that everybody’s still got a passion for what they do.

A&J: Yeah, absolutely. Peels back those onion layers and just renews you.

Yeah.

S: Yeah. Amongst the, the stress and anxiety. 

A&J: The chaos. And your brain never turning off.

Yeah, yeah.

S: Yeah, yeah. Definitely.

On a little bit of a lighter note, what are some of your favourite Instagram accounts?

A&J: Mine are random.

S: That’s good!

A&J: All right, so yeah, OK, so I have a few like business ones that I like to follow.

I like wastednz. They’re a duo that have a real focus on reducing waste and being quite conscious consumers in that manner.

I like there’s a lovely little business in Wellington that we’ve come to know called I feel natty She’s, Kat, she’s hugely creative. She make, she makes all sorts from the like greeting cards to jewellery to tea towels. And she’s just got this wit about her designs that I love

S: Oh Christmas sorted.

Christmas sorted

A&J: Yeah, yeah.

Actually side note, for my 40th birthday, Aimee actually had Kat do an illustration of me from a photo that’s really special.

And on like a personal non business level there’s this account that I follow and his name is Gary Janetti, I think. And he has got a massive following. And he’s made a career out of making memes out of the royal family. Not like I like the royals, I like the royals. It’s just so witty and so funny, I can scroll his feed for ages and have a good old laugh.

S: Really cool.

A&J: What about you?

Oh, I’m so bad with thinking on the spot to be fair.

S: That’s okay

A&J: I, yeah I, I love gardening. So I follow Kath Irvine who’s edible backyard, she’s got an amazing social media presence actually and she’s just so bloody clever in the garden. She’s just a guru.

I also like to, I’m quite into like herbal stuff so I follow an American account called, She is of the woods which might be a bit out there, but I love it, I love it. And April who’s on that account she’s an American born but of Irish traveller descent so she’s got a really cool perspective of life.

There is a few sewing accounts that I like to follow.

So, closet core. Which used to be called, closet case patterns. And paper theory. I don’t know, there’s just so many awesome accounts 

S: Do you have time to sew anymore?

A&J: Well I don’t have much time, but I’m like a you know, someone will make something amazing and I’ll just daydream of like, oh my God, that jumpsuit yes, make it up for Christmas Day. And it’s like, well I I’d better have something back up just in case.

Yeah, well, I think that we also follow Daisy digital and this is totally unorganized, I find, you’re laughing, but it’s true like I find value in everything I reckon, I have seen everything you guys have ever posted or storied and I just can’t get enough.

S: We try to do more and some days are a bit light on it just like anybody else. But it’s our daily commitment to turning up on stories in some, some way or another. 

A&J: Please don’t stop! No don’t stop. We need it, we need it.

S: You guys neither.

Especially all the beautiful graphics. So anyone that hasn’t seen Figgy & Co.’s Instagram feed – go and check it out. It’s, it’s gorgeous.

They have really, really lovely graphic design going through their feed and it looks really pretty. And of course, they share great tips as well.

A&J: I’ll give a plug to Aimee 

S: The content is good. 

A&J: Yeah, it’s Aimee. Aimee does our social media for the very large part, we we have a powwow. We talk about ideas and bits and pieces. But, um. But Aimee brings it together in the analytical scheduled approach, that only she is possible of doing.

I’m much better just at ad hoc storying every now and then. Whereas, Aimee, she you know, if a post needs to go out or there’s a message that needs to be shared, she’s the one who’s dependable. For sure. 

Let the people know. 

Let the people know.

S: I feel like you guys are like the perfect combination of businesswomen doing the perfect activity for your skills and a perfect division of labour. It couldn’t be better.

A&J: Thank you.

It certainly feels like that. Like we are so different and it works. 

S: And how many years has it been now?

A&J: Yin and yang.

It’s been, we are coming up six years, but I would say it’s been full time for say 18 months, loosely.

S: Six years is pretty exciting. 

A&J: Those first few years were kind of, we were serious about it being a business in a shop, but in terms of time to import and development, it was very much on like a hobby scale. So the 6 years is a bit misleading in a true sense of it.

Yeah, we never went and got like a bank loan to start, so we started small, did some trading, reinvested and that trading and reinvesting, was ages aye, it was a slow burn but. Yeah. So it’s organic.

S: 18 months ago, the big shift for you was that literally with location, with how you guys approach things, the age of your kids, all of that stuff sort of aligning all at once.

A&J: So age of the kids was like a biggy. 

We have 5 children between us and the baby turned five. We moved out of Jane’s house, like a year ago. Talk about scope creep. It started in one room and then poor old hubby had no garage left.

Yeah.

And it also timed in with Jane scaling back and then finishing up her ambulance work. And I was doing some contract work for ambulance as well. And that finished and I kind of said that it’s, I’m not doing anything else. Figgy is it. Let’s make it go. Let’s make it work.

Yeah.

So it was multifaceted.

S: When you commit to moving out of the house too, with something like what you guys do, it’s like this is a real massive line in the sand. Mentally more than anything else. 

A&J: We pay rent girl!

S: Yeah, exactly. Mentally it changes everything.

A&J: It’s bloody hard having a business out of your own house, not having that space. Like I would say to Aimee “Like I can’t even be domestic in my own house” Like I finish and I don’t really want to do anything in the kitchen. I don’t feel like doing any sewing. I don’t want to get in the garden. Like it was just, it was just, too many forces. 

S: It’s all merged. 

A&J: Yeah It was just too much. So I know I feel as though not only did I gain an independent business with its own address, I also gained my house back when the two were separated.

So, yeah, it’s been a lot of, like a lot of big changes, a huge transition for us.

S: I think a lot of people don’t realise the impact that that can actually have moving away, that the exact same things that you just spoke about. I know I felt myself when I went through that same process. And it’s it’s incredibly positive, a really positive thing on your whole life, taking that step I think, for most people. But you sort of, you hum and ha for so long for a huge variety of reasons. I mean, you look back and it’s one of those things where you’re like. No regrets about changing that up and and moving into a dedicated space.

A&J: Absolutely. 

S: The little things.

Well, thanks so much, guys.