Champions of Change – Aerende

Champions of Change – Aerende

We’re proud to introduce Emily Mathieson, founder of Aerende, as part of our new Champions of Change series celebrating entrepreneurs making a positive impact.

A passion for beautiful, locally-made homeware is what drove Emily Mathieson to found the online interiors shop Aerende (pronounced air-ren-day) in 2016. Not only is it a special place promoting slow living and British heritage skills, but it also acts as a social enterprise bringing purpose, pride and revenue to the makers through considerate business practices. Operating from Emily’s home office in Hertfordshire, the business follows the tagline ‘life-improving homewares’ which reflects its commitment to sourcing and designing limited-edition products sustainably crafted by people in the UK facing social challenges, while bringing joy and utility to its customers. 

Why did you decide to start Aerende?

In 2016, people were talking a bit about sustainable fashion and food but people weren’t really talking about what it meant to be ethical in the interiors sector. I’d always wanted to have a shop and wanted to create something that didn’t yet exist and that would inspire conversation as much as it would sell beautiful products for people’s homes. 

Tell us a bit about you and how you balance work and life?

I’m a single mum of two so that means I have to balance everything quite carefully. I have decided to set up my life so that I can be very available for my children when they need me without feeling stressed about work. What that means is sometimes just accepting that things won’t get done on what some people would consider as being a conventional time scale. I’ve realised that if you don’t reply to an email at nine o’clock in the evening or if you don’t get that blog post written by the deadline you’ve set yourself, nothing too bad really happens. I think it’s ok to kind of adapt the ideals of slow living and apply them to business; to have a work-life balance that feels manageable and where one side isn’t always fighting with the other. So I work a lot in the evenings, I sometimes work on weekends but I often take a lot of time off in the week whether that’s going for a walk around the park or having a coffee with a friend or sitting with my kids and playing a game or watching the telly. And for me that works really well, I’m not aiming for world domination with Aerende, I want to create a business that is as thoughtful, sensitive, ethical and sustainable behind the scenes as it is in terms of what people see on the website and in the product and the stories behind them.

How is Aerende contributing to a more sustainable future?

Hopefully in lots of ways. Obviously our products are very sustainable in a way that I hope is very genuine and authentic. I really consider very deeply all of the elements of a product, from sourcing the original material and their traceability to the end of life. But I also think that contributing to a more sustainable future isn’t just about the products we put out into the world, it’s also kind of the way we model ourselves. The name of the business Aerende is actually an Olde English word that means ‘care’ or ‘message’. I feel that one of the ways we contribute to a more sustainable future is to really inspire people to have conversations and to really ask difficult questions both to themselves and to other people. That’s something we really try to do on our blog and in our social media posts, whether that’s discussing why we use sustainable palm oil in our soap and what the alternatives really mean, or how we’re powered in the business, whether using green electricity is the right thing to do, as well as really encouraging our partners to think more deeply about those things, too. So it’s very much about looking beyond the label, beyond the headlines and really being open to developing methods of working and running a business that are genuinely sustainable, not just in terms of the customers that receive the products but everyone in the supply chain and the planet as well. 

What is the best way to integrate a more sustainable approach into your life?

Probably the obvious way is not to buy too much stuff. And if you are going to buy stuff, buy items that have been really well made, that have been considered and that you will love forever. For me that’s really timeless things like this T-shirt from Ninety Percent, I know I’m going to wear it all the time, or a bowl from Aerende that I can use forever. These are products that have been designed not in line with fashion trends but really to be practical and usable. The way we shop is number one but I think the main way is to think a little bit beyond our own homes and what are the things that we can do that can have maximum impact. It might feel like getting a dishwasher tablet without plastic wrapping is a really positive move forward and I would really urge everyone to do that but perhaps if you’re going to spend 5 or 10 minutes researching those items, a letter to your MP talking about a green new deal – or encouraging them to push for that – might have an equal or perhaps larger impact. So I guess it’s thinking about how we can best spend our time to affect the change that we want to see. 

Can you recommend a book, podcast or brand that has changed the way you think about business?

There are trillions of books and podcasts out there about business. The one that actually changed the way I think about it is not a business book at all, it’s a book called Do Death For a Life Better Lived by Amanda Blainey. There’s also a podcast of the same name and what I found really profound about this book is that it’s encouraging us to talk about a taboo subject which is death and in doing so to really think about how we live our lives, what we want our legacy to be, what does a good life look like. The way that’s affected my business is that it’s enabled me to move away from the hustle and really think about the things I can do within my business that make me feel happy today and that might have a positive impact on someone else, also today. And it’s kind of liberating to think that way, to not really be on a linear path of making tons of money or getting the most number of Instagram followers but it’s about really living with integrity and responsibility, and how that makes us feel every day in the context of a death that will definitely come.