A women entrepreneur (Founder of Bare necessities), TEDX speaker, University of Cambridge alumna with a background in environmental planning, policy and law. In our journey to find gooutofbox influencers, we are happy and excited to share the story of Sahar Mansoor, a woman with great vision with gooutofbox.com community. We wish to be a part of Sahar’s vision and if we can transform those values into our children. We ensure that reading this interview will change your thoughts and influence your life in a different dimension.
1. There is a strong vision behind every successful company. Can you please give us a brief introduction about Bare Necessities and your vision?
Bare Necessities is a B2B and B2C zero waste social enterprise and also Bare Necessities is a one stop shop solution provider for zero-waste products and services. Products include a range of zero-waste personal, home care and lifestyle products (such a compostable bamboo toothbrushes and stainless steel straws). Our raw materials are ethically sourced apart from this all of our packaging is recyclable or biodegradable, which means nothing ends up in a landfill. Similarly Using a people-centered and earth-centered approach, BN addresses serious flaws in manufacturing, distribution, and consumption, by innovating and providing sustainable solutions to waste, and proposing problems that more companies need to address if they want to be innovative and socially-conscious. Services include; waste consultancy services for corporate, events and restaurants.
I felt overwhelmed with India’s trash problem and I was confronted by it every day- seeing piles of garbage on the streets. Spending time with local waste pickers and watching them sort through waste with their bare hands. This made me think about the environmental, health and social justice issues associated with our garbage problem.
I wanted to stop being part of the problem and I also knew I had to address my own trash problem first. My solution was to live a lifestyle that best reflects the values I cared about. I had called myself an environmentalist for about six years at the time and I studied environmental policy at the University of Cambridge and I had worked at the World Health Organization, but I decided I needed to live a life fully congruent to my environmental and social justice values. I needed to walk the talk and I knew I had to start living a zero waste lifestyle.
I am an accidental entrepreneur, through I come from a family of serial entrepreneurs. Bare Necessities (BN) started in the pursuit of zero waste living and also living a lifestyle congruent to my own values.
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3. Your brand communicates about the importance of zero waste lifestyle. Why did you choose the name Bare Necessities as your brand name?
At Bare, we make daily use, simple and everyday products in fact. All of our raw materials are ethically sourced from farmers I worked with at SELCO, helped solarize agri-equipment and other local vendors. Our entire supply chain is zero waste, from sourcing to giving it to end users! also these products are the bare minimum needs of our everyday life and if we do not start with these little changes from the scratch, we can never go anywhere. Hence, the name Bare Necessities.
4. We all know that persistence is the key to success. How much time it took you to build Bare Necessities from the idea to a successful brand?
My 3rd year of college in 2012, I watched a video of Bea Johnson in Professor Chris Chapples’s World Religions and Ecology class. I remember being blown away by the Bea and her families lifestyle; but I also remember thinking to myself, she can afford to shop at “Whole Foods” or she must a lot of free time to make her own products. I also remember conclusively dismissing I couldn’t live a zero waste lifestyle while working 3 jobs, maintaining my grades for my scholarship, having a fun social life and exploring my new city I came to call home.
Nevertheless, this course was turning point in my environmental journey. It left me wanting to learn more! and also I remember walking into my Dean’s office and telling Dean Zaleeza, “You don’t have the major I want” and he smiled and said, okay grab a chair, let’s create one! I added “environmental planning” as my second major and took some amazing classes in environmental engineering, environmental ethics and policy!
So far, waste to me was of course an environmental issue and a health issue – looking at it through my Cambridge and WHO lenses. But moving back home, forced me to think of our waste problem as a social justice issue. I moved back home to Bangalore in 2015 and was working at solar energy (social enterprise) called SELCO Foundation working on energy solutions for the underserved. One community I was working with was this community from West Bengal, who where waste pickers. I spent time shadowing them and what I was most confronted by was the social justice issues of our waste problem! Similarly every day thousands of waster pickers segregate broken glass, sanitary napkins and needles all with their bare hands. I wanted to stop being part of the problem.
The first step
I started taking my first few steps in April 2015. The transition was incrementally, for instance when I ran out of soap instead of buying store bought ones, I would experiment and eventually learned how to make my own. However, I am not still not completely zero waste – and I doubt I ever will be. It is good to know your boundaries.
5. Your advice to those who have an amazing idea or passion towards doing something different?
- Invest in people
- Dare to dream
- Nothing you can’t Google and self learn today
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Write down your goals
7. Women are known for their ability to multitask. As a women you must be dealing with different roles in your life. What is your secret to multi-tasking?
Be kind and compassionate. My mornings are sacred and I try not using my cell phone from 6 am to 10 am. I wake up at 6 O’ clock in the the morning, run in cubbon park twice a week. Functional fitness thrice a week that has lots of Japanese Jujutsu influence and football everyday Saturday with a a badass all women’s crew. I come back home cook myself a healthy breakfast (the only meal i cook) while listening to my favorite podcast (How i Build This – unpacking stories behind some of the world’s best known companies; weaving a personal narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.), shower, meditate and then start my work day! This helps me restore balance in my life =)
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8. Unexpected challenges are part of entrepreneurship. What are the challenges you faced? And how did you turn them into opportunities?
In my zero-waste journey, I realized that it was impossible to find personal care and home care products that didn’t contain harmful chemicals and weren’t packaged in plastic. In response to this problem,I wanted to create a company that mirrored the values of zero waste, ethical consumption and sustainability also. I wanted to make it easy for other people looking to consume more mindfully and to encourage others to produce less waste. Bare Necessities was born.
9. There is a great quote by Jack ma (the founder of Alibaba)”You need the right people with you”. How did you find the right talents for Bare Necessities?
The entire current team is based out of Bangalore. We were almost a completely women run enterprise! The way to doing good work is through patience, practice and passion along with hard work. We basically look out for people with these traits and the rest just falls into place.
10. There are many talented moms around us. What is your advice to moms’ who want to launch a successful business or brand but are unable to do it due to their high family responsibilities?
Family and responsibilities will always be there. But, learn to take care of yourself and your goals. No one else would walk the path for you. Prioritize, plan out and go ahead with whatever you wish to do dearly. Take care of your family as well. But, balance is the key. And, time is way too precious to be wasted.
11. Many people talk to us about the importance of a mentor when we chose entrepreneurship. A person who inspired you the most in your life?
I strongly believe that peer sharing is one of the most powerful tools of learning; CWE network allows us women entrepreneurs to candidly sharing our learnings and challenges so other women entrepreneurs don’t make the same mistakes we did.
The CWE Nasscom incubator and Sanjay Prasad’s mentorship has been immensely helpful.Sanjay specifically mentored me on business Strategy, Re-eningeering, Transformation and Scaling.
Sanjay’s weekly mentoring and ability to keep a smile on his face when asked “are you busy?” provided a bedrock of support to me during my entrepreneurship journey.
Sanjay helped bring much needed structure and streamline processes to my enterprise in the early days. Sanjay’s vast knowledge of the start up arena coupled with his hard-working, goal-oriented, WE-can-do it attitude was extremely helpful to me as a first time entrepreneur.
Having Sanjay to practically guide me and shares my worries with — often replacing my fears with his years of experience was an invaluable to say the least.
Having run his own businesses, Sanjay is in the perfect position to give positive and soothing words of advice when things don’t go as planned. Not only does Sanjay have the right words to share, he also has ideas to help me navigate my way to success. I personally have benefited immensely from working with Sanjay and his dedication to excellence and mentee success and his mentorship and encouragement has been instrumental in me achieving the goals of a little girl I was and the budding entrepreneur I want to be.
12. Success demands patience. What is the success mantra which drives you?
Keep going. In spite of highs and lows, it’s ok if we do not put a smile on our face everytime. We are human beings and so we would be having our days. And, being an emotional person myself I can never direct anyone to be fake. But, a goal and working towards that goal is very important. And, that’s what keep me going. Taking Bare to newer heights every moment.
The most important way to showcase and that’s the most important thing for startups to gain that popularity and success.
At Bare Necessities, It’s not only selling products but also about encouraging an earth friendly lifestyle. In the larger sense, BN seeks to change the narrative on waste in India. In the future, Bare Necessities seeks to becomes an interdisciplinary hub, a home for product designers to design products with a cradle to cradle philosophy, a place for policy analysts to work with local government on policy recommendations to manage our waste better, to reduce our waste and also a place for behavior economics, ecologists, researchers and consumers alike to build the ecosystem towards a circular economy.
We believe this inspires you and us to come up with more influential stories!