Co-founder of ethical.market, Raquel is on a mission to live a more sustainable lifestyle

Sunday, 6 August 2017




'Thanks I Love It' is not just a gift brand, Danielle and Sarah have built their business supporting the British industry. As well as having a passion for ethically made products, from fairtrade chocolate to organic skincare, each box of treats offer something completely unique, taking gifting by post to whole new levels.

I wanted to meet the female duo creating waves in the ethical gifting arena and find out more about the brand, as well as their work with Women's Aid.


Q. So who’s behind Thanks I Love It?

We are Danielle Fenton and Sarah Kinsey-Learoyd, the two-woman team who run Thanks I Love It.

We met around eight years ago in Leeds when we were both just out of university and volunteering for a conservation charity. We went our separate ways into careers in marketing (Danielle) and the voluntary sector (Sarah) but stayed close even when Sarah moved away from Yorkshire.

Gift giving is something we both love to do, but it can take days or even weeks of planning to find the perfect present, with busy lives often getting in the way.  Sometimes it’s tempting to nip to Tesco for a bottle of fizz and a card, which is nice, but not quite the thoughtful gift we originally had in mind; we’d also prefer to know our money is going directly back into local communities.

So, Thanks I Love It was born! We want to make meaningful, thoughtful and beautiful gifts easily accessible. We put a lot of consideration into the story behind each product; who makes it? Where does it come from? Will that purchase make a difference?

We share almost all of the work we put into Thanks I Love It, although we both have our own areas of expertise. Danielle is mainly responsible for developing the commercial side of the business, continually developing new growth ideas, PR management and digital marketing. Sarah is responsible for managing business operations, developing and maintaining supplier relationships and managing production and distribution. What we both love doing is finding new designers and makers to feature in our boxes, and building strong relationships with them. We’re constantly scouring Instagram and attending trade shows to find exciting, innovative and ethical suppliers.

The business is currently split across two sites, one in Hampshire, and the other in Leeds. Working normal 9-5s and running a business long distance has its own unique set of challenges - there have been plenty of video calls, late nights and very full weekends trying to fit everything in. But we’ve had a lot of fun along the way, learned an enormous amount and we’re changing, developing and hopefully improving all the time!

Q. What’s ‘Thanks I Love It’ all about?

At Thanks I Love It, we create high quality, thoughtfully curated gifts that bring together fantastic products by independent designers and makers and arrive beautifully wrapped, direct to your door. We give a proportion of our profits to charities that do vital work in local communities, so the money our customers spend is invested back where it is needed.

We created it with people like ourselves in mind – women in their 20s and 30s who might live away from friends and family, enjoy treating their loved ones and put a lot of thought into the gifts they buy and the stories behind them.

When we develop a new box, we start with a person or personality trait in mind and go from there. 

We have The Lush (an early favourite of both of ours!), which is full of alcohol-themed treats including Prosecco-flavoured sweets and a martini glass charm bracelet (Ivy Lace London).


We have The Glam, which contains a selection of luxurious make-up-type treats including rose gold nail varnish (Mrs Cross Nail Shop) and an organic cotton makeup bag.


Our current favourite is The Minimalist, which has a beautifully muted colour-palette and includes a luxury gold foil notepad (LH Designs), a rose gold concrete tea light holder (Naturecraft Moulds) and a screenprinted storage pot (Mellybee), but we have hundreds of ideas we can’t wait to work on, and we’re really excited for all the boxes yet to come.


 Q. Did you always know your brand would be one with ethics at the heart?

We met when we were volunteering together at an environmental charity, and charitable giving, whether it be time, money or resources, is part of who we both are, so I suppose it was inevitable that ethics would be at the heart of Thanks I Love It! We aim to make our gifts matter, giving our business a further purpose and intention.

Giving back doesn't necessarily mean donating money, it can also include giving your time, knowledge, resources or advice, and if donating money is how you choose to give, it doesn’t have to be a huge amount if you can't afford it at the moment. Small actions can lead to big change, and every pound spent is a vote cast for the cause you believe in. We want to bring this into gift-giving, to make giving back as simple as possible – that way, you give twice!

Q. What makes you different?

We want to support UK businesses, so all of the products in Thanks I Love It gift boxes are UK designed or made, and come from small independent suppliers. We look to build strong relationships with these suppliers in order to support each other, and we do this right from the start, from our #tililoves hashtag series on social media, where we hold each product up to the spotlight, to our Supplier Stories blog posts; we appreciate a good background story.

We love our suppliers, because of their fantastic products but also because of the faith they’ve shown in us as a new business. From product development to support on social media, we really appreciate the work they put in.

Additionally, we’re really proud to be female owned and female led, and we’ve found ourselves working with a lot of female directed businesses in turn.

Naturally, we want to provide a brilliant product and service, so all of the products are well designed and of exceptional quality, as well as being unusual or even exclusive to Thanks I Love It. We want the products in our gift boxes to be loved, used and enjoyed, so we sample and test each and every item before including it, gathering feedback from our focus groups and ensuring that we delight in it as much as we hope the receiver will.


This approach goes right down to our packaging – all of our boxes and printed materials are designed and made in the UK from recycled and recyclable materials, and we work with small local designers and printers to produce our packaging and marketing materials.

And we’re really proud that for every gift sold, we donate a proportion of our profits to charity, so every Thanks I Love It gift gives again and again.

Q. Tell us more about your chosen charity who you currently donate to

We’ve chosen to work with Women's Aid as our first charity partner. Women’s Aid work to provide life-saving services and to build a future where domestic violence is not tolerated. The projects they run, the campaigning they do and the training they provide all sit alongside our own aims and fit with our main customer base; in the vast majority of cases, domestic violence is experienced by women.

Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, or disability, but some women who experience other forms of oppression and discrimination also face further barriers to disclosing abuse and finding help.


They are a grassroots federation, and this is important to us; putting resources into local communities is vital, because as well as providing support for those in need, local charities have a unique understanding of local needs.

They aim to empower women who have been affected by domestic abuse to live independent lives free from fear and abuse. We’re really proud to support them, and proud that every gift bought contributes to the fantastic work they do.

Q. What is your top tip for gift buying for that person who seems to have it all?

Danielle: We all know that friend who is tricky to buy for – I certainly have one or two I can think of! The first thing I think about is giving a gift that’s a little different, maybe there’s something more to it than meets the eye. I love brands that have a story.

Sometimes it could just be chocolate, but it’ll be chocolate that’s handmade from organic fairtrade ingredients, or with beautifully-designed packaging. Even though it’s consumable, they know it’s come from a good place. And that’s the approach we take with selecting products for all our gift sets.

Sarah: I’m a big planner, so if someone’s got a big occasion coming up, a milestone birthday or a wedding, I try and think about it weeks or sometimes even months in advance, to give me time to find that perfect gift. There really is something for everyone these days, but finding it can be so time consuming! I have been known to make entire Pinterest boards dedicated to the perfect gift; Danielle’s 30th gift was nearly a year in the planning and making!!

That’s why we’re really excited to have recently launched our first build your own gift set, where you can choose from some of our most popular products and create the perfect gift for that person who has it all. You can really tailor your gift to suit the tastes and personality of the recipient, which we know our customers love, and our build a box is exclusive to ethical.market - you won’t find it anywhere else!



 If you'd like to know more about 'Thanks I Love It' or you'd like to buy one of their beautiful boxes, visit their shop HERE



Wednesday, 26 July 2017



Love this so much from the late great Maya Angelou that I figured it was a great #WednesdayWisdom quote to share with you all.


Monday, 24 July 2017



Katie's Krops is a social enterprise teaching kids how to grow fruit and veg, whilst also giving back to their communities.

Founded by Katie back in 2008, the story began when Katie (then 9 years old) took home a tiny cabbage seedling from school. Nurturing and growing the seed until it grew to an incredible 40lbs, Katie did something wonderful and donated her prized cabbage to a soup kitchen where it was used towards a meal for over 275 people. Encouraged by what she had done, Katie decided to start vegetable gardens and donate the harvest to help feed people in need, which is when Katie's Krops was born.

Check out the video below to see how Katie is helping kids and communities alike (via NowThis Her).


Thursday, 20 July 2017



Now I do love a bit of urban gardening so when someone briefly mentioned the Brooklyn Grange to me I knew I had to find out more!

An urban rooftop farm, Brooklyn Grange takes growing veg to new levels. Located over two rooftops in New York City it is the second largest rooftop soil farm on the planet spanning over 2.5 acres.

They describe themselves as "an urban, rooftop farm offering relief from the CO2-ladened trappings of transported food."

Check out the video below to see more (via Curbed)

Friday, 14 July 2017



I wanted to share this video with you by the wonderful people over at Sustainable Human. "When whales were at their historic populations, before great numbers of them were killed, it seems that they might have been responsible for removing tens of millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year."

You can watch the video here>>


Thursday, 13 July 2017



The people of Seattle seem to know where it's at when it comes to bringing the generations together. Providence St Vincent provides an award-winning child care programme, the Intergenerational Learning Centre.

Five days a week, the children and their senior residents come together in a variety of activities like dancing, art, storytelling amongst others. Providing mutual benefits for both generations, it enhances opportunities for children and people of all ages to have frequent interaction.

See more in the video below via The World Economic Forum

Wednesday, 12 July 2017



According to The Guardian a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute across the world. When you consider that on average one plastic bottle will take approximately 450 years to fully degrade, that's a lot of plastic waste!

What about recycling? Well, "fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles" (source). Sadly most plastic bottles that are produced end up in landfills or our oceans.

On that note, with plastic waste in the sea set to outweigh fish by 2050, I think it's time to change how we do things.

See more in the following video via The Guardian>>

Tuesday, 11 July 2017



OzHarvest in Australia have come up with a solution to their 4 million-tonne food waste problem. From shepherds pie to a black bean stir-fry, it's all available free to feed yourself and/or your family. How are they doing this? They simply rescue perfectly edible food from supermarkets and airlines amongst other suppliers, which would have otherwise been bagged and binned. 

Shockingly, a third of the world's food is thrown out each year, so it stands to reason that we really do need more sharing enterprises like this all over the world to encourage a less wasteful and conscious society. 

See more about their pop-up in Sydney in video below via AJ+


Sunday, 25 June 2017





Co-founded by Liz and Gaynor, Best Years is a wonderful fair trade and eco toy brand.  I spoke with Gaynor to learn more about how the business started and the pivot they made from a toy company supplying the giant high street stores, to one that partners with social enterprises, ensuring ethics is at the very heart of their business.
 
Q. Tell us a bit about Best Years

Best Years was set up way back in 2001. Liz and I met when we were buyers at Disney and liked working together so much that we decided to do it on a full-time basis

Q. What makes your toys different?

When we first started we specialised in supplying toys to the big high street retailers such as Next, New Look and Mothercare. However when the recession hit in 2008/9 and all the shops demanded better prices we realised that we had to make a fundamental decision about the direction we wanted to take the business.

Most toy manufacturers just resourced to cheaper Chinese factories to meet the demands of the multiples but ethically this was not something we were prepared to do. We, therefore, decided to focus our efforts on our distinctive knitted range of toys. We lost over 70% of our customers but gained some fabulous producers as partners and by focussing on supplying Independent retailers with distinctive and ethical toys the business is now larger and more successful than it was before the recession.


Integral to the whole move from volume manufacturer to working with hand made producers was our partnership with Pebble. Pebble had a vision to create skilled employment for people in rural Bangladesh so that they did not have to leave their homes and villages to seek work in the factories in Dhaka.

They were our first partner, we were their first wholesaler and we have grown together so that Pebble now provides fair trade employment to 6000 people across Bangladesh. Visiting Bangladesh and making friends with the people who have put together such a remarkable organisation has been the absolute highlight of our business and a real priviledge.

Q. Prior to this partnership, did you know that fair working practices was going to be at the heart of your business or did it develop from your work with Pebble?

No, our business was a normal manufacturer when we started. It's only as the business progressed that we saw what was done in the name of commerce, and conversely what could be achieved through ethical production that we moved to being a company with ethics at the core of all our product decisions.

Not all of our production partners are fair trade, but our key parameter is “would we let our own children work here”. We visit all but the very smallest of our Peruvian partners to ensure that they all conform to this very simple requirement. It’s a difficult concept to put in a procedure manual but it's central to who we decide to partner with



Q. Was the partnership with Pebble easy to establish?

We first started to work with them before they had even begun producing their first range. They had been making toys on an own brand basis for larger retailers but wanted to produce their own designs and have all the year round manufacture rather than being at the whim of a buyer. They needed a partner who would stock their toys and create a market for them, and we were completely smitten with their business model, their ethics and their toys! It has been a fantastically productive partnership. 



Q. What has been your biggest achievement that you’re most proud of?

Opening schools in conjunction with Pebble. Drowning is the single biggest cause of death for kids under 5 years old in Bangladesh. Although the concept of a childhood without constant supervision sounds great to us here in the UK where we are surrounded by kids who won’t move too far from their electronic devices, it comes with it own dangers. Kids wander off and can fall in a ditch and drown in 3inches of water which is what happen far too often.

Working with Pebble we have funded 2 pre-schools so that while the ladies crochet the Pebble toys their children are being cared for and given the start of an education. There is nothing that we have done which has made us more proud than these schools


For more information or to shop Best Year's fair trade range of toys CLICK HERE

Sunday, 18 June 2017




Last summer I was given some Seedballs and decided to grow them on my patio box, I grew some delicious peppery salads, useful herbs which I used ALL SUMMER and even some herbal teas. It was loads of fun watching things sprout and coming up with different recipes. More seeds appear to be coming up already which hadn't sprouted the first time round, it's the box of seeds that keep on giving!

On that note, recently I have been reading up on the idea of re-growing fruit and veg in your kitchen, from existing fruit and veg.

Last year, I successfully grew an avocado plant from the pit, of course, I am not expecting avocados anytime soon (not with our British weather), but it is a beautiful green houseplant all the same. But what it has done is peaked my interest in what else I could be growing from leftovers.

I found this great video from Tasty Vegetarian which is a great introduction to re-growing fruit from your kitchen:




For more information about eco-seedballs including bee & butterfly friendly flowers CLICK HERE

Friday, 16 June 2017




I loved this animation so much I wanted to share it on the blog. The Animation Workshop produced this short video to highlight the problems we face with plastic pollution in our oceans.

It is estimated that every year 10 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean, so it's time to step up and fight the war against plastic pollution. For more info visit the Plastic Change website here, but in the meantime, you can watch the animation below:

Thursday, 15 June 2017




I first found out about Liter of Light through Tech Insider UK. For those not in the know, Liter of Light describe themselves as a global, grassroots movement committed to providing affordable, sustainable solar light to people with limited or no access to electricity.

Volunteers teach marginalised communities how to use recycled plastic bottles to illuminate their homes and communities. To date, Liter of Light have lit up more than 850,000 homes around the world through the power of upcycled and locally sourced materials.

See more about how it works here (via Tech Insider UK):


For more information about 'Liter of Light' click HERE

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Ethical Living is your destination for ethical fashion, sustainable living and top tips for an ethical home. With interviews and guest blog posts, it's the perfect addition to your coffee break! Ethical Living is brought to you by ethical.market

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