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How do you become a successful social entrepreneur? Jochem Hes, co-founder of Naïf, gives a glimpse into the genesis of the skincare brand on the way to their mission: to do good. About being a B corp, their fight against microplastics and how to leave the place where you are born better than how you found it.

oprichters van Naif, Jochem Hes en Sjoerd Trompetter kijken lachend naar de camera

The two founders of Naïf: Jochem Hes (left) and Sjoerd Trompetter.

Can you tell a little about your background and how you started Naïf?

“While studying in Groningen, I met Sjoerd (co-founder Naïf); we lived in a house together. After college, I joined Unilever in marketing, then went to Google. At Google, I submitted to the
fast movers
out what Google is and how they can use Google to achieve their marketing and sales goals.

But I was missing something in my hand; a tangible product that I could farm. I also wanted to set up something myself. At the same time – in 2013 – both I and Sjoerd became fathers. Of course, that changed everything and, in addition, gave us a clear entrepreneurial goal.

Because as we both became fathers, we suddenly had baby care products in our hands, two things struck us:

  1. There were no products of good quality; all the products contained ingredients that you could also pour into your car, so to speak. Not really something to smear on your newborn baby.
  2. Few of those brands were “gift-worthy. No brand stood out in branding. While the world of young parents is one in which there is a lot of gift-giving, think Bug a Boo strollers, children’s clothing from Petit Bateau, etcetera.

As a young parent, you are insecure, so you gravitate toward brands you can trust. There was no such brand in baby care products.”

About Naïf

Naïf was born from the vision to offer pure, natural and safe care products for babies (and now parents), without unnecessary additives. With a clear focus on simplicity, transparency and the importance of little ones, Naïf has quickly distinguished itself as a leading brand within the industry.

But you had no experience developing a product?

“I did have some experience, because at Unilever I worked in product development at
personal care
. So I knew something about product development, but didn’t have nearly enough experience to create an entire brand from scratch. This also seems very difficult at such a time, but because we found a good supplier, it worked out. Our story won him over.”

The philosophy behind Naïf is “do good,” for both employee and the world, how did that come about?

“That mindset has always been there with us; you don’t start a company to destroy the world. Wanting to do good became stronger and stronger, the longer we walked around in the personal care world, the more we found out how much is wrong with baby and child care products. 9 out of 10 products contain microplastics, too much packaging is used, shampoos contain harmful substances, I could go on and on.

We want to counter that with our products. We want to leave the place where we were born better than how we found it.

We also figured out that we want to be there for all parents, not just those in Old South. For that reason, we actively sought out initiatives that fit with this. And the more you propagate that mission, the more those kinds of initiatives come naturally to you as well.”

Drie tubes verzorgingsproducten van Naïf met een paarse achtergrond

Consumers are also making an increasing turn toward sustainable products, how do you see the consumer’s role in this change?

“Consumers indeed have a much more hand in this than in the past, there is an increasing demand from society to take the sustainable path.

On the other hand, I find that you also have to include the consumer in your decisions. Thus, every day we still learn new things that we explain to consumers.

For example, we found out that baby wipes are 70% made of polyester, or plastic. We didn’t know that either. We then put our heads together and came up with a good and natural alternative; eucalyptus fiber. To bring that realization to consumers, we drew the comparison that one pack of baby wipes contains as much plastic as two bottles of Coke. That’s how you make sure consumer awareness grows.”

Your mission is underscored by being the B corp, why did you want to become a B corp?

“When we started delving into these types of certifications, we felt the B corp membership was best, spurred in part by the
happy activists
such as Tony’s Chocolonely. Being a B corp goes beyond just product or company, it is a very broad certification.

In the past three years, we have increased in B corp score from 89.4 to 111.9. The nice thing is that such an increase in the B corp score does much more for our employees than, say, joining a new retail chain. The great thing about being a B corp is that you are forced to keep improving, it’s a continuous process.”

verschillende producten van Naïf op een paarse achtergrond

How do you see the role of tech in entrepreneurship?

“If you wanted to start a business 100 years ago, you had to go to the bank to raise money to get a good start. Meanwhile, there is a giga supply of affordable tech solutions that solve many things like accounting and e-commerce for you. Thus, as a start-up entrepreneur, you can reasonably
lean and mean
build a business.”

How do you think social entrepreneurship can make a positive impact on society as a whole? And why do more entrepreneurs need to think this way?

“We believe that business success is perfectly compatible with contributing to a better world. Not only for ourselves, but also for the next generation. This is not only in the ingredients of our products, but also in the packaging, shipping methods and how we operate in the office.

By making our audience and our team aware of how to do things in a different – better way, together we make that positive impact. An added benefit is that with this mentality, you also attract good people.”

Making a positive difference through social enterprise

One of the things that makes Brthrs Agency always go the extra mile is the will to engage our For developing products that contribute positively to society. As far as we are concerned, successful business goes hand in hand with making a positive difference.

With that in mind, we share stories about other entrepreneurs who share the same values. Stories that not only motivate, but encourage you to do the same.

Today we kick off with Jochem Hes, co-founder of Naïf, an innovative brand in sustainable personal care products. This interview is the starting point of a series in which we shine the spotlight on the impact of social enterprise.

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