Lilla Soap: When Sustainability Comes Before Profit
Starting a building a vegan cosmetics brand in the European Union
By Nathalie Depari
Climate change demands that business and market tastes change. Therefore, sustainability is one topic that has gained more and more attention, including in Europe. Jumpstart interviewed Lilla Tasonyi, the founder of Vienna-based vegan hygiene company Lilla Soap.
“I am convinced that sustainability can’t be less important than profit,” says Tasonyi. “We produce and sell only such things that are good for the planet and it should be the motivation behind every business. We give back what nature gives us.”
Tasonyi, herself a vegan, is a person who always tries to do good things for nature. For her products, she uses natural ingredients such as herbs, essential oils, and minerals. When she was injured or sick during her childhood, her mother always used herbs which often alleviated her discomfort. Memories of these times, and the herb garden they owned, sparked Tasonyi’s decision to found Lilla Soap.
The idea of running her own company and making natural soap occurred to Tasonyi in 2015, when she was pondering her goals for the next five years. Exactly five years later, she achieved her vision, and launched Lilla Soap.
Building a business in Austria is not easy. Tasonyi, who is from Hungary and has no previous experience of being a founder, had to deal with the long progress of bureaucracy for the first time when setting up Lilla. In order to sell her soaps in Austria, she had to meet strict EU criteria for commercially-retailed cosmetics. For instance, the ingredients needed to be reviewed by experts to ensure the safety of the product for everyday use.
Although the process is long, EU policy is clear and transparent, making it relatively simple to follow the rules. One simply has to have the patience to fulfill all the requirements. In Tasonyi’s case, it took almost a full year from the start of the process until her license was approved.
Tasonyi has only used her personal funds for Lilla Soap–known as ‘bootstrapping’–since the beginning, because she was determined to start small and locally. That’s why Lilla Soap is a one-person company, with occasional help from Tasonyi’s husband in IT expertise and emotional support.
Lilla Soap started by distributing products to friends and family, but Tasonyi’s first big target is to build a strong customer base in Austria by introducing her products through various sustainability and farmer’s market events. She believes that small business and sustainability are very closely tied to each other.
When asked about what sustainability means for her, Tasonyi defines it as a way of living without harming the environment. For her, this means protecting natural resources and maintaining a circular economy, while also striving to uphold the ecological balance. It also means thinking harder before deciding to buy something new–potentially repairing or upcycling things before purchasing a replacement. Choosing biodegradable products is also a big step in the right direction.
Tasonyi believes that Lilla Soap is a sustainable business. It produces biodegradable soaps without chemicals and synthetics, and only works with companies that stand for the same values. Tasonyi donates 0.10 Euros for every soap sold to organizations that plant trees, such as Trillion Tree Campaign and Jane Goodall Institut-Austria.
Above all, she believes that the use of soaps made from natural ingredients is good for the skin and for the earth, and hopes that sustainable companies will become the new normal.