Meet the mumpreneur: Sari Winckworth of ethical Irish luxury company White & Green 2 years ago

Meet the mumpreneur: Sari Winckworth of ethical Irish luxury company White & Green

A good night's sleep is important for our mood, health and overall wellbeing. 

Our bedrooms – and in particular beds – should feel like a haven, an escape from our otherwise stressful lives, and be a space that promotes rest and peaceful slumber. Investing in some gorgeous bedlinens is a good place to start, but picking the right set can be a little overwhelming – especially if you are also concious of your budget.

I mean; what should you look for? What is tread count really, and is a highter number always better? And how can you tell that you are buying good bed linens? Does fancy packaging actually translate to quality?

All these were questions interior designer Sari Winckworth set out to answer, having seen a huge gap in the market for high quality bed linens at a price point most people could affford.

With the belief that everyone deserves the gift of good sleep, Winckworth, alongside her daughters Danielle and Rebecca, set out create the best bedding in the world. And after a year  spent researching the industry, coming up with the best designs and finding the right partners, White & Green, Ireland's first ethical luxury bed linen company was born.

We recently caught up with Sari, and were eager to pick her brains about business, bed linens and being the head of a family company of strong, fabulous women.

How did the idea for your company come about?

I was an interior designer for many years, but I often found buying bed linen a very time consuming and confusing exercise. I also had some bad experiences where I bought what I thought was luxury bed linen for my clients and after a few washes they were like rags. So I decided to investigate the bed linen world and find out what makes good bed linen and how a consumer can recognise it.

When did you start?

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After a long time of studying the cotton industry and the world of bed sheets, I set up my own line of luxury bespoke bed linen from Italy. My clients were over the moon as now they had the best bed linens that lasted for years and years and always gave the most beautiful sleep experience. However, I was conscious that my bed linen was only for the more affluent clients, and deciding that everyone deserves a beautiful bed to sleep in after a hard day, I set out to find a factory that could make luxury cotton bed sheets at an affordable price.

How did you get from idea to actually get the business up and running?

It was hard to find the right factory. I wanted the bedding to be Organic as the cotton industry is one of the highest users of pesticides in the world. Pesticides not only destroy the soil, they cause horrendous health issues for the cotton farmers. Then the chemical dyes that are used in conventional cotton flow into the water ways and destroy the eco system of the rivers and lakes.

My two daughters had by now become really interested in the project and came on board to create a younger more vibrant company that could reach a much greater client base. Rebecca and Danielle were adamant that our goods should not only be Organic but also Fairtrade. This means that all workers involved in production of our products get a fair living wage and mandatory fair working standards.

Any hiccups in the start?

The first major hiccup was when we received our first delivery of our gift boxes. They had left the factory in monsoon season and travelled by ship to Ireland. When they got here they were all mouldy! The entire shipment had to be disposed of. We have had other small hiccups but as there were three of us on board we were able to deal with them quickly before they became serious.

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What is the biggest lesson you have learned?

Setting up your own business is very rewarding, to see it grow from an idea to a household name. But you must enjoy the journey, it is really hard work without any financial rewards for a good few years. You have to be prepared for the long hard road. So you have to have fun along the way. If you are not enjoying it you will not last long enough to reap the financial rewards which will take several years to materialise.

What would you have done differently?

There is actually nothing that I would have done differently. When you are wading into a new world you just have to go head first and try. You don’t have the answers until you try and test things and if you don’t like the result you change. If you set out to get everything right before you start your business – it will never get started.

Biggest high to date?

Some very famous people have contacted us and have done their entire house with White & Green sheets. They have been so happy and their messages of thanks make us very happy. Hearing from people who constantly say they have never slept so well in their lives – that’s what really makes me know that we have succeeded in our mission to change the way people sleep.

Any lessons you have learned the hard way?

Don’t order products to leave a factory in Monsoon season! Check samples and colours and make sure you and your factory have agreed everything. Don’t leave anything to chance. Check and check again.

What is it really like running a family business?

Running a family business has its own unique issues. In a non-family business, you leave your family issues at home and work on a business level with your colleagues. In a family business – family idiosyncrasies come to work. Make sure there is one boss who has the final say and once a decision is made then you have to move on. Remember that most decisions can be reversed if things don’t work out, don’t waste time arguing over the small stuff. If you have a strong family bond then that will get you through the rough and the smooth – but remember the journey has to be fun.

What is next for White & Green?

White & Green is moving on to a new phase now. We have our core products that clients love, so now we hope to add a few more new items. We are launching in the UK this year so are looking forward to bringing Organic and Fairtrade luxury to our friends across the water. We are scaling up rapidly now so will be looking to bring in investment over the next year. We really want to educate people about organic cotton and spread the message so that everyone understands the need to look for organic cotton in everything they buy. Hopefully we at White & Green will play a small part in stopping the slow destruction of our beautiful plant.

Are YOU a 'mumpreneur' or know another fab mum who just launched or is already running her own business? We want to hear from you! Send me an e-mail at trine.jensen@herfamily.ie or tweet us at @Herfamilydotie