08.05.17

Meet Anne Foster The Founder Behind Sustainable Bedding Brand Elkie & Ark

Have you ever slipped into bed and sighed with happiness and contentment because the sheets feel so soft and so luxurious?

If the answer is no, then you’ve probably not experienced the organic cotton goodness of Elkie & Ark!

Anne Foster, the incredibly driven and passionate founder behind Elkie & Ark, has built a business that makes products people actually need, want and love. Complete with a completely transparent supply chain which gives back to the communities she works with.

We spoke with Anne about how she came to create this incredible business what’s involved in building a sustainable brand.

The Beginning 

Elkie & Ark was created to give customers the option to buy the very best quality products out there for their bedrooms.

Our bedding is strictly certified organic at every single step from the farm to finished product and support every worker who works on them giving back to the people who make them.

I love hearing what customers have to say about how much they love them above every other brand they own!

From the farm to the finished product we make sure everything is the most indulgent and gorgeous high quality but also as sustainable as possible.

From strictly certified organic farming and manufacturing, reusing water and factory-floor waste, upcycling waste into other products, running factories on renewable energy and ensuring our packaging is plastic free, to paying living wages at each stage (so many stages we often forget, long before a product is ‘made’), supporting workers’ children with school scholarships, and paying back from every sale to support community projects in the regions where our goods are made.

We have a new line of wool products coming in soon, and they never leave Australian shores. This is incredibly rare. Almost all Australian wool is exported for cleaning, but, we wanted to make sure it stays here from the farm to the finished product.

I also want to make sure we support workers in two ways.

One in supporting rural workers in Australia and overseas, and particularly for overseas workers ensuring the conditions they work in and how they are paid and treated, but also to ensure they get a share of the end retail price.

We also donate our profits to charities.

Yep – you heard right! At this stage, we have paid every piece of our profits away to support anti-trafficking, critical relief projects around the world and health programs for things we often don’t think about. I quite like supporting critical but ‘less sexy’ charities that don’t always get the attention but are so vital.

"I am lucky to spend my days working in creating businesses trying to solve big problems in the world, working in a job I love every day. Having an amazing, healthy family and building a business to help fix some major issues in the world!"

The Catalyst

Quite a few things! From my work in anti-trafficking in South-East Asia and desperately wanting to help stop being the cause of it through shopping habits, to my life-long work in sustainability and as the final straw, being told for months our own daughter would die – and suddenly realizing what that would be like in a country where I didn’t have the facilities we have here to turn to.

It just seemed like a very simple way to help everyone to have the things they love – while giving back!  I have spent a lot of my life working in sustainability – from my studies to my work, building businesses in the clean energy, water, waste management and clean teach space.  I spend a lot of time working on the cradle-to-cradle impact of manufacturing and other industries.

When my second child was born, she was born with a very rare condition, and given a 5% chance of survival. While in utero, I researched a lot to try to find out what had caused her medical issues. We couldn’t pinpoint it for her, but what we found was that mothers all over the world near to manufacturing and farmlands were struggling with terminal issues for their children, often due to their exposure toxic chemicals used in pesticides, dyes and manufacturing. We had felt what it was like for nine months to be told your child would die.

I wanted to help other mothers like me – but who didn’t have the luxury of living in a country like Australia with the incredible medical and support systems that we have.

elkie ark organic

"I know we often throw around ideas like being ‘blessed’ and ‘grateful’ – but I wanted to solidify that. To give people a very easy way of giving back and helping others, without needing to change their everyday habits."

A Rewarding Journey

Seeing how much people love and support what we are doing. The way the business seemed to resonate from day one.

What I love more than anything, is when customers tell me that they love the product more than any luxury bedding they have ever bought. Which is the biggest win-win! Our customers help support so many people and families, yet still end up with products they obsess over!

elkie ark organic

The Future

We need more hands on deck! We have a lot of new stock and designs coming in, from pyjamas and robes, beautiful ethically made, organic flax linen, all Australian wool blankets. We have been working so hard finding partners who share our vision for making the best home goods, in only the best way.

organic bedding

"What do you want to look back on the day you die? Base your decisions in life on this. In the end, it all comes down to how happy you are, how much you love, how much care you have around you…"

Five Questions With Anne

What does a typical day look like for you?

Hectic! I have very young kids, so it is a 5.30 or so early rise for me to get to the gym before the kids wake up. Then back home and into the flurry of preschool readiness… I then start my work day after drop-offs (I work in private equity in some very exciting new clean energy industries!) before picking the kids up.

Evenings are spent like most families with young kids! Dinners, cleaning, reading stories – generally getting through I think! By 9 they are asleep and I then start working on other things like the business if needed, or catch-up on work or just try to catch a glass of wine with my husband! A rare moment!

What are you reading right now?

I don’t read much anymore but am in love with audio books. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Hurari is downloaded and next on the list…

What do you do to relax?

I wish I could say I get more relaxing time, but do any mothers with two young ones really get much time to relax? A shower and a hot coffee is a luxury in itself!

What’s your fashion style? Have your business values rolled over into your wardrobe?

Without a doubt. My style is very simple. Classic tunic dresses, 60’s style. Cutoff denims I rescued from the bin from my husband. White shirts. Lots of striped Breton! Sloppy and delicious oversized jumpers… I have always been the person who sticks to one style and wears clothes to death. I created the business because I wanted people to have that classic luxury look, simple, minimalist but beautiful, while being ethical and sustainable too.

I am strict now with my clothes buying habits. Mainly I just don’t buy much. But when I do, I shop around for brands really trying to do better. We are so lucky more and more clothing brands are creating beautiful pieces to wear that are more ethically or sustainably made too!

The world needs more…

Tuscan summers, good wine and friends.

Image source: Elkie & Ark

Kira Simpson

Founder + Director of The Green Hub, an urban green living advocate and coffee obsessive. She believes there is no one size fits all green lifestyle and we can all live more sustainably in a way that fits in with each of our unique lifestyles.