Kresse Wesling CBE is the co-founder at Elvis and Kresse, the designers, manufacturers, and sellers of their range of sustainable and ethically produced luxury accessories and homewares. Founded in 2005 they now sell via Shopify. They donate 50% of their profits to charity – and last year they donated over £100,000 AND saved over 14 tonnes of materials from landfills.
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Getting Into eCommerce
Kresse mentions three reasons why the business got into eCommerce after it was started:
- They didn’t think anyone would sell the belts they’ve made out of decommissioned fire hoses for them
- They didn’t want to join fairs to sell their products
- There was a way they could get online by coding with Dreamweaver
The Story of Elvis & Kresse
When Kresse moved to the UK in 2004, she tracked down the information on how much waste material would occupy landfills that year, after touring the Victorian sewers and visiting the waste transfer station in Battersea.
After finding out that the UK had 100 million tons of waste materials, she visited as many landfills as she could and saw fire hoses at one of those sites which made her curious.
Her interest grew after attending a course on Environmental Auditing, where she met two guys from the London Fire Brigade who told her that hoses were a big problem for them. This led her to Croydon, where majority of fire hoses were brought to be assessed.
She saw an opportunity to solve a problem, and this became the start of the brand, Elvis & Kresse.
From Roof Tiles to Handbags
Kresse’s initial thought upon seeing the fire hoses was that they looked like they would make great roof tiles. However, after doing research, she found that fire hoses are not fireproof at all and can crack after exposure to the sun for about ten to fifteen years.
In the process of her research, she also discovered that nitrile rubber – the main material of hoses – were being used by French luxury houses for their collections.
Kresse worked on that discovery and used the luxury potential of the fire hose as a way to challenge the industry in terms of environmental and ethical performance.
Fire Hoses and More
While Elvis & Kresse started out with fire hoses, they’ve now expanded to using other waste materials for their products.
Such materials include failed parachute panels, coffee and tea sacks, printing blankets, and even leather offcuts. For the last several years, they’ve even worked with Burberry for their offcut leather.
Kresse adds that for those who would like to get into this circular economy, you have to find a problem that’s local to you. Find out everything about it and how much is available to you, because the information you get will help you formulate a solution.
Kresse believes that hope comes from action. So even if there is news that brings you down, it should also move you to make bolder actions and to make them faster.
The only way to solve any problem is not to be sad, but to do.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model by Ray Anderson
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Transparency, honesty, and telling the truth are at the core of Elvis & Kresse’s marketing and these have been very effective and compelling.
Tool Top Tip
- Slack messaging program for the workplace
- Social media platforms for their immediacy and portability
Growth Top Tip
- At a time when traction was really low, Kresse says finding new ways of driving people to their website became important. Additionally, she says telling their story and the story of the fire service community in an authentic way have driven traffic to the website and made the business take off.
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