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Credit: Tanya Goehring

Kamila Alikhani brought much-needed change to the flower trade

Winner

Bloomiér

After a few years as a business analyst, Kamila Alikhani decided that she wanted to do something else but wasn’t sure what, exactly. “The typical millennial problem,” the 35-year-old says with a laugh.

Having just given birth to a couple of children, Alikhani thought that maybe being an ultrasound technician was for her. But while taking prerequisites for a university program, she stumbled across a book called Designing Your Life by two Stanford University professors. “At the end of the book, they make you write your ideal job description—not the position, the description,” Alikhani says. “And mine was to create beautiful spaces for people.”

She ended up working part-time at a flower shop and fell in love with the job. “I just felt like it was for me, and I was super comfortable,” she remembers. “But there was always this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. I could see how much waste was created, and not that I was zero-waste all the time in my life, but the amount of it was disturbing. So I just thought, This is it, I’m going to do it.”

Alikhani, who is originally from Uzbekistan, founded Bloomiér in a West Vancouver home studio in June 2019, with the goal of creating a zero-waste flower shop. The first piece of that is its subscription model. Alikhani and her team of three part-time employees don’t keep flowers on hand to fill out the storefront display or for walk-in customers. They only cultivate as many as they need to fill their orders, which currently go out weekly, biweekly and monthly to some 40 clients big and small.

When the company has a large order for a wedding or corporate event (which isn’t as often lately, for obvious reasons), it collects the flowers and turns them into smaller bedside bouquets for hospices and seniors homes (thankfully, plants can’t carry coronavirus).

Though Alikhani had some doubts about the business at first, it took her six months to break even, and Bloomiér has been growing ever since. “A lot of it was, will people understand what I’m trying to achieve? Will people see value in it? Is the industry too set in stone that people won’t see the difference? I think that worry was in the back of my mind. Yes, it’s an actual business that makes money, but I wanted to still bring some goodness to the world.”

Along the way, Bloomiér has saved some 6,000 flowers from going to waste. “We have never thrown one out,” Alikhani says.

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Credit: Courtesy of Natural Pod

Natural Pod helps classrooms go greener

Runner-up

Natural Pod

To hear Christopher Roy tell it, environmental responsibility and stewardship have been baked into Natural Pod’s DNA from the outset. The company was founded in 2006 with the goal of making high-quality, environmentally sound toys. Although the product has since changed–it now produces sustainable classroom furniture–the main objective hasn’t.

Roy, a partner as well as director of marketing, is one of 15 employees at Natural Pod. While most staff work from home, the company’s facility is based on Vancouver Island. “We try to make a product that looks simple and elegant, is made in Canada, but benefits the natural environment because of the way the material is sourced and, while being more durable, really ensures better air quality,” he says. (Unlike typical furniture, Natural Pod pieces don’t contain harmful chemicals that get released into the air.) The business has created some 15,000 learning spaces impacting nearly a million students across the globe, Roy adds.

Because of the way Natural Pod works, it was prepared for COVID. Many of its clients found themselves in a different situation, though. “We were quite concerned, of course, because we sell education furniture, and during the pandemic, especially the early part, lots of schools closed their doors,” Roy explains. But because governments in B.C. and some other places deem construction an essential service, the renovation and building of schools has continued, benefiting Natural Pod.

“A lot of customers have looked at this as an opportunity, and there’s been heightened concerns around air quality and decisions around climate,” Roy says of COVID. “Because we’re a value-based business, we’re going to be dealing with uncertainties. But the pandemic has been kind to us.”

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Credit: Courtesy of Tru Earth

Tru Earth founders Kevin Hinton (left), Brad Liski and Ryan McKenzie have cleaned up the laundry detergent game

Runner-up

Tru Earth

Everyone from Steve Jobs to ESPN personality Erin Andrews has told us that success doesn’t happen overnight. Then along comes Tru Earth to send that notion to the compost bin. In fairness, it took more than a few nights for the Port Moody eco-friendly laundry detergent outfit to get going, but its rise has been meteoric.

Founded in April 2019 by Ryan McKenzie, Brad Liski and Kevin Hinton, Tru Earth had seven employees and about $5 million in revenue at the end of that year, when Canadian Business magazine named it the second-fastest-growing firm in the country. Turns out the publication was right on the money: by the end of 2020, there were 186 staff, and Tru Earth was a $40-million operation.

“People in this company have a huge passion for what they want to do, and we have over 200,000 customers who feel the same way,” says head of public relations Anita Spiller. “It’s the movement, really; it’s the environmental sustainability path.”

Because it’s a paper strip, Tru Earth’s laundry product eliminates the use of water, which comprises the majority of most liquid detergents. And it’s packaged in an envelope rather than a jug, eliminating plastic and reducing transport-related emissions by 94 percent.

But the company has no plans to stop there. “Both fortunately and unfortunately, we’ve been buttonholed into being a laundry strip company,” says Spiller, who notes that Tru Earth has more than 20 other products on offer online and at retailers across the world, including dryer balls, beeswax food wrap and disinfectant strips.

“The goal is to not just be in the laundry room but the kitchen and bathroom as well,” she adds. “Imagine the stuff you use that comes in plastic in your bathroom and kitchen, and that’s where Tru Earth is heading.”