For London based entrepreneur Mandeep Soor, honesty is everything. Together with Ben Norsworthy, she set up Bendi, a company that helps fashion businesses become more sustainable and communicate their efforts more effectively.
“We work directly with fashion brands and retailers to help them measure, manage and communicate their sustainability impact,” says Mandeep. Bendi examines both social impact, such as the working conditions of people in garment factories, and environmental impact, such as the amount of greenhouse gases emitted or waste generated in production. This information can then be displayed as part of product descriptions on a brand’s website.
The co-founders’ aim, to be as open as possible, underpins both the purpose of their business and the process they’ve followed to launch it. Early on in their journey, they made their idea and roadmap public.
“It’s the best way to find out if people care about your product. It’s a near fallacy that someone is going to steal your idea. Your idea is worth almost nothing. It’s all in the execution - that’s what makes something valuable.”
The conversations that resulted from this transparency, influenced the development of Bendi into a business-client facing service, rather than a consumer facing tool. Bendi is working with a major retailer to help them identify which of their 900 brands are most sustainable.
The co-founders met at university in 2004 and have been friends ever since. They first worked together when they supported an entrepreneur on a project helping refugees learn how to make and sell clothes.
Mandeep, 41, who has a background in strategy, startup and data science, previously worked at the Boston Consulting Group and the British Business Bank. Ben, 35, worked in sustainable fashion for Burberry and the Global Fashion Agenda. Mandeep asked Ben to become a co-founder after attending a free part-time accelerator programme run by the Colourintech talent network.
“There was always something in me that really wanted to run a business. But I was far too scared to leave a steady job. Then when the lockdown happened, everything felt disarrayed. I also got to a point with my savings where I felt that even if things went badly, I would be okay,” she says.
The accelerator boosted her confidence further, as well as providing a community of other founders she could turn to for support and advice.
Joining the dots
Bendi is made up of five people, including developers and a sustainability researcher. “We want to help small and medium brands that have either already made a good start with sustainability, but don’t have the tools to join the dots, or want to start their sustainability journey, but don’t know where to begin.”
The knock-on effect of brands knowing and communicating their credentials on sustainability is that customers can make more informed decisions about the clothing they buy. Ultimately, this can help reduce any negative impacts and support brands that use safe and fair clothing factories.
Mandeep set up a Starling business account in November 2020. “We needed a bank account with sufficiently high security levels,” she says. “Signing up was great - I did a video of myself, entered my details and within 24 hours we were ready to go.”
As a co-founder and person with significant control, Ben also has access to the account through the app and online banking. “Payroll is straightforward and the automated categorisation makes it easy to visualise where your outgoings are going,” says Mandeep. “Starling is fast and reliable, as a bank should be.”