Brother and sister duo, Anna and William Brightman, noticed that more than 500,000 tonnes of used coffee grounds go to landfills each year in the UK alone. With this daunting fact in hand, they decided they wanted to create a product that would help to eliminate this waste. At the same time reports began to surface on the negative impact that micro beads from scrubs were having on the environment. Out of an eagerness to help change these environmental issues, Optiat was born.
Optiat stands for “One persons’ trash is another’s treasure” and it does just that. Optiat works to promote limited waste through a circular economy in which the brand recycles the coffee grounds from nearby coffee houses and uses it as a key ingredient in their clean beauty body scrubs. I noticed their product for the first time at the Natural and Organics Product show in 2017 in London, and was truly impressed.
The Brightman duo have taken action and created a unique clean beauty product by eliminating waste in their local community. With my consumer hat on, I’m a huge fan of clean beauty scrubs that smell amazing (try their lemongrass lifter). With The Clean Hub’s business and investor hat on I think – there is a unique, innovative product as well as disruptive business model. Watch this space!
Check out their website at https://www.optiat.co.uk or Instagram @optait_co. Check out our podcast as well to hear their story!
Now on to the Clean Chat podcast!
Raquel: Hello and welcome to the Clean Chat Podcast. I’m the host, Raquel Wing, Founder of The Clean Hub. Every Friday we are highlighting an exceptional Founder from within the Clean Hub program to share their inspiring story behind the brand. Watch out world because clean beauty is a force to be reckoned with, now onto the show.
Hello everyone, welcome to The Clean Chat. very excited for today, we have the fabulous Anna Brightman, co-founder of Optiat. Optiat is a UK based nature friendly, sustainable skin care company started by herself and her brother doing some really cool things with coffee grounds which we’re going to talk about later. Anna, how are you doing today?
Anna: Really well thank you, how are you?
Raquel: Good thank you. So excited to have you on today.
Anna: So excited to be here.
Raquel: Thank you. Could you tell us a little bit about your story and why you started Optiat?
Anna: Yeah of course. So it all started initially from a very simple idea. We were bought a cafeteria for Christmas. Living in a central London flat with no garden, we were brewing our own coffee every morning. Obviously this creates a lot of residual coffee grounds but we didn’t have plants or a lawn that we could throw those all onto. So we got to thinking, goodness this must be a bigger issue on a grander scale. Everyone knows how popular coffee is at the moment. We thought, what must places like Starbucks or Costa be doing with the huge amounts of coffee they must be producing. So we just decided to call up a coffee shop and ask. That’s exactly what we did. And then we found out they had to pay the council to have it removed and that a majority of it ends up in landfills unless you’re like the individual coffee shops have their own systems in place whereby they give them back to the customers or whatever that might be. But the vast majority ends up in landfills.
So we asked them if they ‘d mind if we took away the coffee grounds and they said yes. So we did. We started to research the uses for used coffee. It’s a great ingredient with lots of different benefits for different things. It has a whole host for your skin. So we tied that in with the fact that coffee scrubs have been very popular in Australia recently and have been used on the skin in the middle east for decades as well as tying that all in with the micro bead scandal that was happening with exfoliates and toothpaste and decided to create our own coffee scrub. That is where it all began for us.
Raquel: So it was about limiting people’s waste and recycling. I didn’t realize that. Everyone’s obsessed with Starbucks and where do those coffee grounds go? That’s an amazing idea.
Where did the name Optiat come from?
Anna: Yeah so Optiat is actually an acronym. It stands for one’s persons trash is another’s treasure. We thought it quite nicely and succinctly tied together exactly what we were all about as a company, finding ingredients from what people thought to be at the end of their service life and then trying to give them new life in the form our new sustainable skincare brands.
Raquel: Cool, so this is started by yourself and brother. How long ago was that?
Anna: So we launched the first range of coffee scrubs in November 2017. Obviously there was a fair amount of research and kind of branding stages that we went through before we got to the scrubs that are now currently available but that was no more than 6 months before that. so we’ve been going now formally for about 2 years. Still in our relatively early stages but has taken off and we’ve never looked back. It’s been a crazy 2 years (laughter).
Raquel: (laughter) Crazy and exciting.
Raquel: And why was it important for you, I mean you have this idea. You want to limit waste and coffee grounds, your products are all natural. Why was that important to you?
Anna: I think what’s really important to us as a brand is transparency and making sure our customers can be completely aware of what they’re putting on their skin and what our products include. And being natural ensures that things are kept nice and simple. We only use plant based ingredients in our products, they’re all hand made in the UK. We have total control of that process. That was really important to us. Lots of people have lots of different skin care needs. I think the more simple the ingredients the less likely you are to aggravate your skin or cause it any damage. Fundamentally natural is effective and I think our products prove that. we’re showing you don’t need to have these crazy man-made chemicals and formulas, there’s not some huge scientific secret. Actually these things are very simple and we even encourage DIY at home beauty because the best way to know what you’re putting on your skin is to kind of do it yourself. That was always really important to us and always will be moving forward.
Raquel: That’s awesome. Can you tell us then about your scrubs.
Anna: Yeah of course. So our scrubs range is call ‘For the Love of Scrubs’. It’s a range of 4 naturally scented face and body scrubs made from those used coffee grounds we collect from the cafes all over London. We’re now partnered with 50 or 60 small and independent coffee shops, primarily in North London that we get the coffee grounds from. So it’s actually been shown that the level of antioxidants in brewed coffee is even higher than pre-brewed so that fact that we’re using repurposed, recycled ingredients, those ingredients haven’t depleted in their quality in any way. In case of the coffee it actually increases. We combine the coffee grounds with things like whipped up shea butter, they’ll exfoliate but they’ll also moisturize. Also means that it comes in a mouse like consistency so that you can squeeze it out of a tube unlike a lot of other coffee scrubs that are much drier, don’t have the same moisturizing properties and come in less practical packaging. There’s also a touch of sea salt to prevent things like acne, spots and breakouts. And again, because they are hand made using those very simplistic ingredients there’s no reason you can’t use it on your face as well as on your body so it has that dual purpose as well.
Raquel: Nice. I’ve always been wondering this question, how often should you be exfoliating your face and your body?
Anna: I meant I think that’s really up to you. We recommend once or twice a week. Some people like to do it more often, some people like to a lot less. It slightly depends on your lifestyle as well. I actually use the vanilla scrub on my face, 3 or 4 times a week. It makes make up go on really smoothly and I also use it as my moisturizer as well. But if you’re someone who likes to use fake tan a lot then you might want to exfoliate more, etc. It really depends on the individual but our general recommendation is once or twice a week.
Raquel: Okay I’m doing zero times a week so..
Raquel: And then you’ve also started some new face masks. I think I was at a show last year, was it the Natural Products of London?
Anna: Yes, yes.
Raquel: I remember you were promoting your face masks, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Anna: Of course, yes. So we were key into not just be about coffee. You know coffee is a fantastic ingredient but there are so many others as well. that’s when we partnered with a co-operative organic farm based in Oxfordshire called Hempen. they farm hemp, they farm it for hemp tea, hemp seed, hemp oil but one of their bi-products is the outer husk of the seed. It has the exact same nutrient density as the rest of the plant but it isn’t used. So we took them away, we ground them down into a fine powder and combined them with things like activated charcoal which is obviously hugely popular at the moment and other natural clays as well to form ‘Hemp Collection’ which is a range of 3 certified organic hemp-based face masks.
Raquel: What are the benefits of hemp on your skin?
Anna: Hemp’s a brilliant product on your skin. We use it as a light exfoliator within the facemasks combined with the other ingredients it’s really detoxifying so it helps to draw out impurities, oil and dirt from the pores. We tailored the different skin masks to different skin types. So we have a purifying mask which is for more oily, combination skin types. We combine in with marine super foods like chlorella and kelp with a touch of Eucalyptus to scent. We also have a men’s face mask. Which is fragranced with cedar wood. It’s really good with things like razor burn and rash and slightly more tailored to male skin care needs. Then we have our nourishing mask which is great for more dry and sensitive skin. It’s combined with marshmallow root which is intensely hydrating and has lavender essential oil fragrance as well. So the core ingredients are again all fairly similar, we make subtle changes to slightly vary them to different skin types and different skin care needs.
Raquel: That sounds great, and so out of all those products you have your face masks and then obviously your scrubs, which is your most popular product?
Anna: I think it depends on the time of year really. So at this time of year we’re approaching the summer, The Mandarin is by far the most popular I’ve found. I think it’s got that nice sweet, citrusy scent. It’s a bit of an all- rounder. Some of our products are more suited to the certain times of day, for example The Vanilla is a lot more kind of soothing and calming, you might use that in the evening where is The Mandarin you can kind of use whenever. At Christmas however the peppermint is definitely the most popular. We call it the hang over scrub, it’s really popular as a Christmas present and in secret santas, things like that. Then again in January you’ve got the whole new year, new you vibes going on and so our Pick Me Up Lemon Grass Lifter, really zesty, really fresh and that one tends to do the best at that time.
Raquel: A pumpkin spice?
Anna: Yes, we’re always thinking of different flavour combinations for future products that we might bring out so I think that would really go well actually.
Raquel: I know, once the Fall hits everyone goes for the pumpkin spice.
Anna: Good idea.
Raquel: And so, obviously like you mentioned earlier you started this 2 years ago, you’ve never looked back, full speed ahead. Is there any advise you would give to somebody who was starting a natural beauty brand that you wish someone would of told you when you started?
Anna: I think for us we were always nervous that perhaps we couldn’t do this if we didn’t have real expertise in the precise field. When we realized we had this coffee ingredient, we weren’t necessarily sure that we were going to form a skin care brand. We just new that something had to be done. It was more about the ethical and environmental standpoint. Neither William or myself have a background in skin care, as a teenager I did always want to be a makeup artist and so this is not too far removed from that. I’ve always had an interest in skin care products and natural beauty but before this I was working as a supermarket area manager, my brother was in finance working for bank. I think very often people might be put off starting a business or starting a brand because they don’t feel like they’re experts enough in it. But what I think we found is that you don’t need to be and with natural beauty in particular it’s all about simplicity. And so, you know of course we learn along the way but I’m so pleased that we did just take the plunge and give it a go because if we spent too long thinking or worrying then perhaps we wouldn’t. So my best advise really would be don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn along the way, you don’t have to know everything right at the start. It’s all about having the confidence to just go for it and I’m glad that we did that.
Raquel: I’m glad you guys did that too.
Raquel: So speaking of which, what are the next steps for Optiat?
Anna: So it’s a really exciting time for us at the moment. We’re at that point where we’re both looking forwards and backwards. We have 3 product ranges currently in the mix that are very shortly going to be launching. First of all we have our Chiai soap bar range. So again we’ve partnered with a family run Chiai tea company based in Bath. They brew a beautiful Chiai spice mixture but they can only brew it once. So the spices still smell amazing. We’ve taken those away and dried them out so we can use in a brand new range of Chiai organic soap bars. Those are coming out in the next couple of months so we’re looking forward to that. We also have lip balms and facial serums which are made from the oil which we extracted from the coffee grounds. So obviously the scrubs are hugely popular.
Raquel:(laughter) You guys are sustainable! That is awesome!
Anna: We just thought where else can we take this ingredient. It’s proven very popular but you know the possibilities are endless. So those are all coming out as well. Then at the same time we are looking back at the products we have already put out there and seeing how we can improve them even further. So we’ll be looking to release a few more flavours perhaps, slightly tweaking the formulations and moving away from plastic packaging as well because that’s something that’s really important to us. Whilst all our packaging is fully recyclable, we want also claim to be a plastic free company so very soon our scrubs will be house in aluminium which will be very exciting as well.
Raquel: Nice, okay that’s great. So where can people get a hold of your products?
Anna: Sure, so we sell all of our products through our website online and through Amazon as well. We’re also with Cult Beauty which is a good online platform. In terms of retailers we are with Topshop throughout the country. We’re with Booths up north and then in London we’re in Wholefoods, Planet Organic, As Nature Intended and we’ve got some exciting announcements with some major new national retailers coming on later on this year as well.
Raquel: Awesome, you guys are obviously rocking it. Well thank you for coming on the show today Anna.
Anna: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been really nice to chat.
Raquel: I’m so excited to see where this brand goes and very much like what your brand is doing limiting as much waste as possible and moving to aluminium packaging and obviously helping people live a more simplistic and conscious life. Thank you for what you’re doing and thank you everyone for listening to Clean Chat today.
Anna: Thank you, bye!
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