We’re deskside with Natalie Campbell, social entrepreneur and Co-CEO of Belu Water, for our latest instalment of From The Desk Of….
An award-winning social entrepreneur and HarperCollins authour, Campbell is also Co-founder of A Very Good Company, a global social innovation agency set up in 2011.
In March 2020, she added Co-CEO of Belu Water – a company that gives 100% of their profits to WaterAid to help transform lives worldwide with clean water – to her roster of impressive postings.
Below, she shares her daily routines, business principles, and discusses why “perfection is a deeply soul-destroying pursuit”.
How do you start your days?
With a habitual routine of opening the curtains, lighting a candle, putting on Classic FM (a lockdown discovery, they have some of the happiest presenters I’ve every heard), making coffee, and taking it back to bed to think about the day ahead. The pups are usually jumping around me for a cuddle and then we go for a quick walk before I convince myself to do yoga, go for a run, or get on my air bike. I meditate a bit more in the shower, showering is self-taught therapy for me, and I have my best ideas and most points of clarity before I’m done. Then I get to work. Currently, I live on Zoom. Literally.
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What’s your go-to uniform?
Anything black, white, grey, or navy. Sweats and wool jumpers during the winter and athleisure, but I look forward to dusting off the rest of my wardrobe over the coming months. I love linen, I wear it in winter too and I am trying my best to buy less and only where I can see sustainable practices and provenance. Footwear-wise I’m a converse or ankle boot person. In black, white, grey/silver, or navy.
Describe your workspace/ workplace…
Multiple spots in my Regency living room with a gloriously high ceiling and three full height sash windows that have a view of the square and sea beyond. I bought a flat in Hove last September – I had been plotting it since January and the pandemic gave me the boost to make it happen. I have yet to create an official workspace, but when I do it will be a dark (grey with purple tone), calm, enriching, library vibe with a proper work chair.
Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you (and why)…
The light, the view, and the sense of peace it creates. Peace and a sense of calm is underrated and underachieved in my opinion. I am cultivating it in my workspace.
What are your workplace essentials?
A candle. Quiet pups. Two laptops and a phone – at the start of lockdown I was dialling into two meetings at the same time and soon figured out that does not work but having two laptops makes working efficiently much easier. I’m switching back to making phone calls to break up Zooms, plus a few walking meetings.
What time of day are you at your most creative?
It used to be 11AM, but now it’s the morning over coffee, shower time, and whenever I can get a walk in.
What’s your go-to lunch order?
Lunch? What’s that? The day goes, coffee, a banana, Zoom, and dinner with wine.
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What is the most rewarding part of the job?
Making a difference. Hands down – to team Belu, our suppliers, and customers, and wider society through our monies to WaterAid, over £5million to date. Belu is an environment-first business and our purpose is to change the way the world sees water. To make this meaningful we’ve aligned our company governance to UN Sustainable Development Goals 6, 12, and 13. So I wake up knowing I can help at the same time as being an entrepreneur. I feel very blessed.
And the most challenging?
There is a lot to do, and we’re focussed on business recovery without much certainty beyond future dates that may or may not signal a return to the freedoms we enjoyed before. We’ve planned and planned for the plan not working. And we all need a proper rest in the sun.
What did you study in school/ university?
Consultancy and Independent Research with minors in Entrepreneurship, Education, and some other things I can’t remember. I thank my lucky stars for Lancaster University and the modular, U.S. style approach to building a degree. I wince when I say it though. What my first degree enabled me to do was start a business whilst completing my third year. I also have postgrads in Television Current Affairs Journalism from City and Social Entrepreneurship from Goldsmiths.
Where are you from originally?
Willesden Green, North West London. I’m a North West London girl at heart.
What was your first job?
Promotions for a record label at 14/15 (I think). I did my work experience there and they kept me on to fill envelops, organise expenses, and other bits around the office. I loved working then and I love it now.
In terms of career trajectory, was social enterprise always the goal/focus?
No, I wanted to run a record label like Puff Daddy but quickly found that I like helping people beyond creative arts.
Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?
Other than Puff Daddy back in the day… Not anymore, humans are flawed – and rightly so, perfection is a deeply soul-destroying pursuit – and I think we build people up only to be disappointed and tear them down. These days, I find inspiration in young people. Their ideas, views on the world, and energy sparks my curiosity. There are lots of really interesting people that make me smile. Michelle Obama and Rihanna sit atop that list.
What were some hurdles you had to overcome in the early days of A Very Good Company?
Advocating for co-design, inclusion, diversity, sustainability, social innovation, and more when the mainstream didn’t give two hoots. So many people didn’t get it, but I knew we were right. We even had four-day work weeks, back in 2011!
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
Other than cashflow being an ace card, ‘know yourself, be yourself, and look after yourself’ (Clore Social Leadership Framework). Empty leaders run companies badly. Curious, kind, low-ego leaders are where it’s at.
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What are you working on right now?
We’ve just launched Belu Tonics and Mixers and filtration in Hong Kong. It’s all hands on deck getting stockists across the hospitality sector, workplaces, hotels, and anywhere people come together to enjoy life.
What’s next for Belu?
Awesomeness, namely recovery and making sure that Belu is famously mainstream because then it means we’re changing the way the world sees water.