Quinn Koike is completing his International Business Management BSc (Hons) at London Met. He is also the co-founder and CEO of EthicalBox, a company that he started at London Met's business incubator, Accelerator London.
Quinn, aside from studying, you’ve been pretty busy. Tell us about the company you recently set up, EthicalBox.
Thousands of artisans and small retailers are creating unique and extraordinary ethical products but don’t have the channels to reach buyers. EthicalBox is an online marketplace that enables these ethical sellers across the world to create a shop. It’s an e-commerce platform connecting the fast growing ethical lifestyle groups such as vegans and organic lovers to brands around the world.
Your tagline is "Forget the ego. Embrace the eco". What inspired you to create an ethical company?
EthicalBox defines ethical as no sweatshops, no child labour and fair treatment of workers. This isn’t a revolutionary way of thinking at all. Why this isn’t the bare minimum required in supply chains is beyond me. Through EthicalBox, customers are able to find everything they want and have a positive impact at the same time. For us, it’s win win.
You started the business at London Met’s business incubator. How did that happen?
I was running a small project that analysed website data to increase traffic and donations coming into small charities across London with a friend of mine before I came to London Met. Once I started at the University, I was contacted by one of The Accelerator team to talk to a class about setting up and running a social enterprise. I was told about the incubator by this team member and when I came up with the idea for EthicalBox, I went through the application process.
What kind of support does the business incubator offer students who are passionate about business?
It has been an invaluable resource for EthicalBox. We were given office space, advice and access to a network of people and businesses that has proven to be vital. Our advisory board is built solely from the networks we have made at Accelerator.
How has your company developed since it first began?
I have built up a team and we are still expanding. We’ve managed to build an extremely powerful platform that’s simple to use, allowing any seller that meets our criteria to create and manage a shop in a matter of minutes. After we raised our first funding round we moved from the Hatchery space into our own office at Accelerator.
Was it difficult to get initial funding for EthicalBox?
Funding wasn’t easy to come by. We managed to win a few competitions quite early that gave us grants and prize money to build a really basic platform. Since then, we have raised an angel round of funding. We are currently preparing for a seed round of funding to close a larger sum, which will really allow us to scale up and challenge some of the larger marketplaces.
What piece of advice would you give to students wanting to set up their own businesses?
I would recommend trying out your idea if you have one, even if it’s on a really small scale. At the beginning when looking for advice, connections and help, people engage and invest in you and the idea, so if you can show you’re passionate and proactive, you’ll find you’re given much more help and guidance than you originally anticipated. I would also recommend applying for the next Hatchery intake and coming along to events at the Accelerator building and generally across Old Street and Tech City.