BWL etc.: UpCircle

BWL etc.: UpCircle

By Chloë Stewart

BWL etc.: UpCircle
It is funny to look back on a journey, sometimes.  Trying to identify those turning points, and pinnacle moments, that led to where you are today.  One of the first events I organised, was for Google Campus, for the Women on Campus networking event.  It was a 'fireside chat' and breakfast, catered by yours truly - a then big part of our business - with all sorts of deliciously upcycled breakfast treats, and the most fantastic panel; including, of course, UpCircle (then 'Optiat'). 


Upcircle have been at the forefront of the upcycling beauty revolution.  They epitomise authenticity, and really, their products speak for them selves.  To see how far they have come, so quickly - they even appeared on Dragon's Den last year - is hugely inspiring.  Whether you are an aspiring/existing entrepreneur, customer of theirs, passionate about skin care, avid sustainability advocate, or never even heard of them (have you been living under a rock), UpCircle are the ones to watch. 


I hope, you too, find their story as exciting and uplifting, as I have and do.

1. Can you give us an introduction - what is UpCircle about?
At UpCircle, we elevate leftover natural ingredients, bringing them back to life as beauty products your skin will love.
Our products are natural, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil-free, sustainable, handmade in the UK and housed in 100% recyclable packaging. But the key point of difference between us and other brands is that each of our products is made with a core repurposed ingredient. “Natural” is the new “normal” – we go a step further with our waste-fighting formulations.

    2. Where did the idea for creating beauty products from leftover coffee grounds originally come from?

    It all started about three years ago now. My brother William (my co-founder) used to make his own coffee each morning using a cafetière. Living in central London he didn’t have a garden and so didn’t have enough plants he could use the coffee grounds on, so instead he was simply throwing them away. He asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites.
    He decided it was a great starting point for a business idea, but wasn’t sure what that idea was – that’s where I came in. Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so… lightbulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products?
    We began our journey collecting coffee grounds from one coffee shop, we now collect from 100 coffee houses across London – our list is always growing!

      3. What is one thing you wish people knew about UpCircle?

      We are challenging people’s perceptions of what they consider as waste, which is a particularly challenging mission when you consider that we are tackling it within the beauty industry. The zero-waste movement is really picking up momentum, people are eager to minimise the impact we are having on our environment. However, convincing people to use unloved ingredients in their skincare regime can be challenging. What I always want to reiterate is that the ingredients that we repurpose are of no lesser quality than fresh ingredients. Waste is often not synonymous with beauty and glamour, and we are pioneering a new by-product beauty trend. Being one of the first to do something will always come with its challenges!

        4. Describe your workplace in 3 words:

        Dynamic, bustling and banterous. (Sibling co-founders… say no more!) 

          5. What's the long term, big picture dream, for UpCircle?

          To have an UpCircle product in every bathroom… dream big right?!
          I’m eager for us to be able to offer a full skincare offering, to cater to whatever skincare concern you may have. I’m also highly motivated to continue sourcing varied ingredients that are ending up being thrown away prematurely. Saving used coffee grounds was a great starting point for our brand, but we’ve since made products from brewed chai tea spices and powdered fruit stones left over from the production of culinary oils. Nothing is safe from being UpCircled – only our imagination can limit us!

          " What I always want to reiterate is that the ingredients that we repurpose are of no lesser quality than fresh ingredients. "

            6. How do you hope to make a difference?
            Creating a positive environmental impact is at the heart of our product and business. We want to leave the world better than we found it. When it comes to the environment we are constantly bombarded with intimidating doom and gloom headlines. The scale of the problem can feel so daunting that it’s all too easy to give up before you’ve even begun. So, at UpCircle, we try to focus on positive change and keep an “every little helps” mentality. Since launching 3 years ago we have saved just over 90 tonnes of coffee grounds from going to landfill and we estimate that over the next five years we will have reached 1000 tonnes saved - and that’s just one of the ingredients we upcycle! And we’re only a 3 person team! We’re starting to have an impact on a bigger scale as a business and that’s exciting. Hopefully we are an example of the fact that we can all make a difference! 

              7. What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

              Ironically, to not feel obliged to take onboard everyone’s advice. No one knows your business, your personality or your life like you do, so trust your instinct. There’s no harm in listening, but you don’t have to take everyone’s advice and run with it!

                8. What's your favourite Autumn meal? 

                Gosh, which to choose?! I think it has got to be coconut, chilli and squash soup. The sweet creamy spicy combination is heaven. Nothing like a nourishing bowl of soup in the colder seasons and I use a homemade vegan kombu broth so it’s super grounding and filled with minerals. 

                  9. Where would we find you on a Sunday morning?

                  My sis is my absolute best friend and for the last couple of years we’ve lived together. Sunday is the day we spend together pretty much every week. Admittedly, we often have hefty hangovers to contend with, so the morning might not see a huge amount of movement, but we always head out for a walk when we’ve arisen - even if it’s just to get snacks!! We like to use Sundays to relax, recover and recharge for the week ahead. I love Sundays!

                    10. What's your number one food waste fighting tip?

                    I’m a big fan of making juice from the slightly less edible bits of my fav fruit and veg! Whack the stalks of broccoli, carrot tops, fruit core or skins, ginger knobs, citrus rind, coriander or mint stalks in a bowl, and once the bowl is full put it through the juicer. Tastes delicious, no waste and you get interesting flavour combos you never would have expected. A recent triumph of mine was grapefruit, ginger and fennel – delish!

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