GREEN & CLEAN
Having enjoyed a high-flying career in advertising, Sam Whigham has been equally successful in setting up his own eco-conscious company that puts people and planet before profit, writes Jan Woolley
London-based entrepreneur Sam Whigham found inspiration from Columbia Road Flower Market when developing products for his progressive new company, which manufactures botanical cleaning products featuring essential oils from plant-derived ingredients.
Endorsed by a host of national publications including the Daily Mail and Ideal Home, Wilton London was founded by Sam in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2018 after years of research, that the products launched onto the market to much acclaim.
“Developing a product takes time. We’re using lots of new and interesting eco-ingredients so putting our formulas together can be a lengthy process. It starts by sourcing the right ingredients that will not just do a good job, but are also naturally derived and sustainable,” explains Sam, who was educated at Oakhill College in Whalley, where he excelled at art and design technology.
“I was always much better suited to learning by doing,” adds Sam, who went on to study Advertising Design at Salford University, where he won Student of the Year in the Drum Awards.
“I learnt how to creatively conceptualise adverts and when I left university I learnt how to be an ad man on the job,” recalls Sam, who during his university holidays, had badgered various advertising agencies for an internship.”
“It eventually paid off at an agency called VCCP, which created the ‘meerkat’ adverts. They offered me a job.”
In the years to follow Sam worked on many and varied advertising accounts including O2, Easyjet, EE, Meantime Brewery, Amazon and Asda.
But as time progressed, he found himself becoming more eco-conscious: “I wanted to work for a business that had a bigger cause than just making money for shareholders.
“I think I’m the generation that started being aware of their own footprint. That’s not to say it’s always been my main prerogative, but as the years have gone on and I’ve learnt how easy it actually is to be eco-conscious, it’s become really important to me. I think it’s about educating yourself from multiple sources”
“I love making stuff so rather than work for a business that I didn’t particularly care about, I started my own. It was a massive move. To start with I’m not a chemist and now I make cleaning products. I’ve had to learn just about every aspect of running a business from scratch – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes me laugh at how much I know now, about things that at one time would and flown right over my head!”
With all Wilton London products made in the UK, Sam is fully involved in every aspect of their manufacture.
“I know everything about my products and have gone through a lengthy process to choose the right ingredients – tracing supply chains right back to where the plants are grown.”
“We look at the formula, amending it to find the right balance of ingredients that perform best. But the bit that takes the longest is probably the fragrance. We develop our own unique fragrances full of essential oils, that’s why our products smell so good and are really different to other products you’ll find in the supermarkets.”
“When we think we have a couple of good fragrances, we hand samples out to friends and family who give us their very honest opinions.”
Sam is also involved with the packaging of products and is passionate about sourcing it responsibly: “It takes a long time because we’re always looking for innovative ways to reduce packaging. We use recycled plastic in our bottles, which isn’t very common and, we’ve worked with our UK bottle suppliers to actually reduce the amount of plastic in our bottles to half the normal weight.”
“We’ve just launched some new plastic-free sponges, they’re made of wood pulp but still soft and absorbent. It’s quite a unique product because nearly all sponges are made from non-recyclable plastic and if you find one that isn’t, it’s usually packaged in plastic. So, we had to develop custom packaging for our sponges.”
While many companies claim to be ultra eco-conscious they are sometimes not what they seem, as Sam explains: “There is a lot of greenwashing out there, where companies try to make it look like they’re creating solutions, when actually it’s just making the issue worse. ‘Biodegradable’ plastic is a great example of this – I could talk for hours about this!”
For Sam and Wilton London, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns meant that many households were unable to buy their usual cleaning products, and being a ‘green’ product, they decided to try Wilton.
“People have definitely been mindful of cleaning!” adds Sam. “We managed to stay in stock at all of our stockists during the first lockdown. It’s worked really well for us, as those who tried out Wilton London products for the first time, are now re-purchasing. I’ve had emails from new customers who have told us this, they said they didn’t want to try eco products, because usually they don’t work and they say they have been pleasantly surprised at how effective ours were!”
Wilton London’s ethics statement formulated by Sam, reveals the company remains mindful of the surrounding community, and that the company endeavours to give back as much as possible: “We’re still small but we’re engaged in lots of charitable causes and rarely turn down an opportunity to help. For example, we ran a promotion for Black Friday and called it ‘Bright’ Friday. Instead of offering our customers a discount, we donated cleaning products with every order to foodbanks, because it’s not well known that foodbanks need these kind of products. Last year, rather than a 30 per cent discount, we donated 30 per cent of sales to the Make A Wish Foundation.”
More recently Wilton London was awarded ‘B Corp’ status, something that Sam has worked hard towards achieving: “This is a really big deal and something that’s going to get talked about quite a bit I suspect! More and more products are becoming B Corp including Jamie Oliver, Pip and Nut and Ella’s Kitchen. As a B Corp we meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.”
“We’ve actually changed our company’s legal documents to make it illegal for us not to put people and planet before profits. B Lab, the people that manage the certification, delve really deeply into the business to make sure we’re doing everything we can to be truly eco-conscious and socially responsible – they even checked where we buy our pens from! The process took a year to go through. It’s really important for me as it’s teaching me how to grow a responsible business whilst we’re still small and it’s easy to make positive changes.”
“Being B Corp is a great way of showing consumers they can trust us and know they’re buying into a brand that’s putting the planet first.”
Turning to his northern roots to add more Wilton stockists, Sam approached Lakeland and Booths supermarket with whom he has enjoyed considerable success.
“The process of getting through to big retailers is really hard and takes a lot of perseverance – especially when you’re small. So, it was up to me to prove that we might be small but that doesn’t mean we’re not grown up. Some retailers like Lakeland and Booths are willing to support new brands and give them a chance, some others take a lot more persuading.”
“To get in with the larger stockists there’s been lots of pestering lovely buyers! Lakeland was our first big stockist and they’ve been really supportive helping us grow with them. Lakeland are a great match for us, they also prioritise the environment in the way they do business.”
“Booths has a soft spot in my heart as we used to do some of our weekly shops there as a kid, so seeing Wilton on their shelves felt like such an achievement! We launched with them in October. I love the idea that all my family and friends can now pick up a bottle of Wilton at their local supermarket!”