“I realised there was a shift towards goodness aligned with business” she explained, an understanding that compelled her to form her own business to empower, uplift, and help people long before it became the ‘in’ thing to do. After figuring out a model she believed would work, Natalie founded the visionary social innovation enterprise, A Very Good Company, in 2010.
Although the initial idea was to adopt a similar model to the Toms one-for-one model, the business firstly needed to generate some capital. “Cashflow is queen”, Natalie states, “so we became consultants to make money.” Yet, in what could be described as a serendipitous turn of events, AVGC became so successful in its consultancy work – with its first two clients being none other than Virgin Media and Marks & Spencer – that it was able to create a campaign known as ‘A Good Week,’ gradually evolving into ‘Tech for Good’, and positioning AVGC well ahead of the purposeful business curve. “That was the moment where my business purpose really solidified”, Natalie clarifies, “when I realised that you can run a business and do good.”
This crystallisation of her purpose in business motivated Natalie to launch Sussex Royal, the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, where Natalie would spend two years as the Director of Insight and Innovation before moving on to Belu.
With such a stringent focus on impact at her core – and having worked for, founded, or managed charities, social enterprises, and purposeful businesses – we were keen to learn which model Natalie thinks lends itself the most to delivering impact. “I’m absolutely convinced that the legal entity doesn’t matter”, she explains. “As long as you know what your purpose is and how to get cash into the business, it doesn’t matter.”
Belu’s refreshing refresh
Natalie joined Belu Water as CEO in 2020, just three weeks before the UK was plunged into its first lockdown. Belu’s fundamental focus was to create a brand of sustainably sourced water that would drive change throughout the water business. What many found to be the most interesting element of that goal was its commitment to donating all of its profit to Water Aid, but Natalie had much greater aspirations for Belu’s future.
“When I inherited Belu, the mission was to give as much money to Water Aid as possible”, she explains, “and while that’s brilliant and noble, I realised we needed to align our purpose more closely with what the business could become if it was to be sustainable.” Belu’s purpose should not have been solely about its donations to Water Aid in Natalie’s opinion, but to change how water is perceived worldwide.
“People are more in tune with the climate crisis nowadays”, she clarifies, “but it isn’t just about carbon. Not having water on earth, or having insufficient levels is just as detrimental. We’re trying to make people realise water’s importance because it is so often overlooked in the Western world.”