HANNAH PEARCE / UN-RAP
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1. Tell us about you/your company/project.
un_rap is Falmouth’s zero waste, plastic free shop. The shop is designed to reduce packaging and food waste by allowing customers to refill their own containers. The ethos of the company is to reduce plastic pollution and give the consumer the choice to live more sustainably.
We also supply many solutions to avoid single-use plastics, for example, reusable water bottles, metal straws, reusable coffee cups, eco cleaning products, bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo bars and much more.
The shop was set up by me, Hannah. I studied to be a primary school teacher whilst setting up the new business so it was a very busy year.
The idea for my venture was born on a plastic-free boycott hike I did last summer. I walked 500 miles along El Camino de Santiago in northern Spain alone, refusing all single-use plastics. This included water bottles and food wraps. Whilst walking along watching some fellow pilgrims munch on energy bars, I wondered why we could no longer walk into a shop and not see plastic. When did plastic take over? And how did we not realise? This was the initial spark. By the time I finished the walk, I had a new threshold for exhaustion and I had discovered how much impact one individual can have when raising awareness of an issue. Despite being signed up to the PGCE course, I knew I was going to start my own business. So the journey began.
2. What is your deep reason for choosing the path you're taking? Your "why"?
A couple of years ago I was living in Sydney feeling very overwhelmed by the noise of the city and underwhelmed by the lifestyle. I had left my heart in Cornwall two years previous, and decided to head home. Having lived a very commercial life, I wanted to slow down, be outside and later decided to define my life by nature.
Despite being an introvert, I learned on my adventures that contributing to local community and helping others was very rewarding for me. I learned that I am happy when I am making a difference, raising awareness and educating others. So I decided to build something bigger than myself that gives choice back to the people
3. What is the big dream, or legacy you're creating?
The big dream is never final for me. The dreams just grow and change. However, un_rap’s mission is to reduce plastic pollution and act as a role model for other businesses and individuals. We want to demonstrate a lifestyle that is slower and more in tune with nature and traditions. Individuals have a huge impact on the world around them, so together we can make a tremendous difference for good.
We want to remind people of a simpler, slower lifestyle where they have control yet also freedom to make choices. In exchange we hope that they will remember the importance of nature and its beauty.
4. What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Always listen to the fire within myself and never let it fade. It will keep me on the right path and dulling it will land me in places with people that don’t make my heart happy. I made some decisions at 22 that led me to quite a boring and insular lifestyle for a few years. I’d tell myself to stay open to all conversations and people. Be a yes person, with good boundaries.
5. What companies/projects inspire you?
Emily Penn that set up ExxPedition is very inspirational to me. She has raised so much awareness around plastic pollution and she has achieved this through epic adventures. She also brings together and empowers women. What a lady.
Surfers Against Sewage. I am so proud to have begun my journey by raising money for these guys. They have taught me so much about conservation over the years and they have been leading the way to a cleaner future since before I was born.
Finisterre. I love that this brand was made in Cornwall. I often go to the events that Finisterre hold in their shops. One talk was held by a big wave surfer called Dougal Paterson. I had no idea what I was going to achieve at the end of that evening, but Dougall made me believe I would achieve something great.
Ross Edgley’s Great British Swim. This man is swimming the entire circumference of the UK. His bull-headed-ness is inspirational and relatable. A good level of crazy is necessary.
Manoj Bhargava. This man became a billionaire overnight, but instead of squandering his fortune and (in his words) ruining his son’s life, he reinvests the money into inventing and developing initiatives, machines or techniques that better the world.
Other people from history that have inspired me since I was young are Anne Frank, Winston Churchill, Cheryl Strayed, Forrest Gump.
6. What does your industry/cornwall/location need to see more of?
We enjoy a slower, simpler life down here in Cornwall. However this could be reflected in more areas.
I believe in a circular economy for Cornwall. This does not mean more recycling. This is businesses, organisations and individuals working together to exchange products, ‘waste’, resources, information and skills. Fixing the solution of pollution is more achievable when we work together. This will take time and require an awful lot of awareness raising. However I have met enough people to know this is possible.
7. What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on now?
I had some plastic free food dispensers made for the shop by a student on the Sustainable Product Design course at Falmouth University. I am continuing to work with the designer to improve the design and develop the idea – who knows where this could lead.
I also just unveiled the peanut butter machine in the shop. This took much longer than expected and took a lot of research, but we now supply organic peanut butter on tap with no nasties in it. I was a little kid the day I finally revealed the new machine. Customers love it and get very excited when they see it, let alone use it – SPREAD the joy. (Sorry).
The thing that really gets me buzzing is the prospect of talks, workshops and presentations. A big part of me has always valued education, but I have always wanted to do it my own way. My big dream is to talk publicly about plastic pollution and raise awareness with my story. I have a few talks lined up and I am working on more.
8. What problem in the world do you see that you’re fixing? Be it personal or professional...
un_rap is providing easier access to a more sustainable lifestyle. When I was walking with so little, I was happier than I had ever been. I wanted to give people the choice to live a simpler, lower impact life. I was also very angry that the choice to shop without plastic had been taken away from us without anyone really noticing. I wanted to do more than raise awareness and lead by example – I wanted to give sustainable choice back to the consumer.
9. If you could go back, what's one thing you would have done differently?
For the majority of the last twelve months I have been extremely frustrated that my time has been preoccupied with my teacher training course. Many evenings were spent fearing the shop would only ever be a dream, because I did not have the time needed to make un_rap a reality. I was getting up at 4.30am and going to bed at midnight and still could not find enough time. If I had to pick one thing to do differently, it would be postpone the training. However doing both has propelled me further and really I am immensely proud that I achieved both. A PGCE course teaches you so much about yourself, your limits, your strengths and your perseverance. You are introduced to people and situations you would otherwise never experience. It helped me to realise that if you work hard enough, you can be good at anything. Most of all, it taught me the frustrating lesson of being patient. I think I will be working on this forever… So really – I would change nothing.
10. Who has been the most help to you along the way? And why?
My mum - She has been my back bone through it all and continues to be there during the darkest days and the happiest moments. This project would not be a reality without her and I would not be the strong/wild person I have grown into without her guidance.
My friends - Two years ago I was feeling low. I was pretty lost and sad. My old friends took me under their wing. New friends boosted my self-esteem. Great friends pushed me to walk El Camino. Undeniable friends worked day and night to get the shop ready for opening. Many friends distracted me from the stress. The wildest friends made time for adventures.
Support networks are great, and I have the best of the best.
The guys in the hut on El Camino - One day on the hike I stumbled upon a random hut on the side of the road. There is no other place like it. There were two guys in there that spoke total sense to me and provided a space where I could open my eyes to my abilities. They asked me a question that changed my life and the answer continues to guide me every day.
The doubters - People that doubt the idea or shun my efforts make me stronger. They remind me who my support network are and they show me that awareness needs to spread wider.
Other businesses/organisations - The Peloton, Beacon, Vintage Warehouse 13, Michel, Finisterre, Surfers Against Sewage, Penny Come Quick, Blink, Stones Bakery, Willow & Stone, Lou Tonkin, As One Talks, Plastic Free Falmouth, Zero Waste Society, Unlocking Potential, RIO, Tevi, Penryn Produce, and many, many more! There are so many businesses in Cornwall and I am proud to have been accepted into the community.
Customers - They make me laugh every day and their excitement and feedback guides me in growing the business in the right direction.
CONTACT HANNAH, connect her to other champions:
I would love the opportunity to give some talks about my journey around Cornwall. I wish to raise awareness and educate other businesses and individuals. Some more leads on this would be great!