We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Kois and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’m fortunate to have grown up in a family of small business entrepreneurs (my parents own KOIS Real Estate) so the concept of starting and running my own business wasn’t as scary as it is for many people. Entrepreneurship itself appeals to me because I’m able to go about solving big world problems without bureaucracy getting in the way, and I can structure my job around other things I love, like travel, friends and family, and a balanced personal life. (Not that I always do a great job at that!) More than anything else, I knew I had to start my own company because the environmental and social injustices I had seen all over the world were keeping me up at night, and I knew I couldn’t rest until I took action to right these wrongs. This is not only what led me to start the business, it’s what keeps me coming back every day. I would have given up a long time ago if I wasn’t so passionate about our mission
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We’ve all heard the news, Amazon shopping is super convenient, but comes with a steep ethics price tag for the people who work there, the suppliers of the products, and to the environment. I built my company around creating an equally convenient option for online shopping, but that supports important social and environmental causes and builds a more equitable and impactful economy. Simple Switch (SimpleSwitch.org) is an online marketplace for ethical and impactful shopping. We carry more than 3,000 products (ranging from everyday products like toilet paper, soap, coffee etc. to specialty items like solar electronics, jewelry or gifts with international flair) and every products has a positive social or environmental impact. We’re Climate Neutral certified, BCorp certified, and Plastic Neutral certified, so you can be sure that not only are the products we sell the best of the best ethically/environmentally, we are too!
It shouldn’t be hard to do the right thing! I’m really passionate about the fact that if we don’t make it easy for the general population to make positive impact, they’ll never do it. But easy and quality solutions like Simple Switch (and other great Colorado sustainability companies like Remark.eco) make it so easy to make an impact, that I have no doubt we can solve some of the world’s biggest problems this way! BILLIONS of dollars are spent online every year, and we’re trying to help move some of that money towards amazing social and environmental causes that make the world a better place. We’ve been in business for almost three years now, and my favorite part have been all the customers who’ve told me “this is exactly what I’ve been looking for to make a difference without a ton of extra work or money!” or “I didn’t know that my little everyday purchases were having such a negative impact, but now I’m helping stop human trafficking, planting trees, caring for orphans… all just through my easy everyday online shopping!”
I love to travel, get to start to understand new cultures, and have my lens for life changed by the amazing people I meet. For this reason, I’m really excited to start offering Simple Switch TRIPS next year! I started visiting our suppliers all around the world in 2019, and realized that there’s no reason I shouldn’t be sharing that experience with our customers! We’ll be traveling to Rwanda to learn about empowering entrepreneurship of low income communities, Dallas to learn about refugee populations in the USA, Ecuador to learn about regenerative agriculture, Bolivia to learn about combatting human trafficking, and more! Obviously the launch of the travel program has been postponed due to COVID19, but we’ll be heading out as soon as it’s safe to do so, and I can’t wait! Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your name on a waitlist to travel with us.
I’m a solo-entrepreneur, and although I’m really passionate about it, growing the business has not been easy. I’d say my main challenge has been working to compete against the huge marketing budgets of other online brands like WalMart and Amazon, who have such high budgets because they cut so many corners. I’m so thankful for our loyal customers who make an effort to remember to buy from us, committing to buying products that are Fair Trade, Climate Positive, great for the planet, empowering the hands that make them, etc. Reaching each customer to tell our story and grow the movement is expensive and challenging work, but I really believe that we can change the world just by changing our shopping habits, so even the hardest parts are worthwhile.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and tried to share, during my time as an impact entrepreneur is that progress is more important than perfection. So many people get overwhelmed by all the things wrong in the world, including everything from children getting sick from lack of hygiene to rising natural disaster from climate change. This can lead to burnout and a pause in any action at all! The best way to handle it that I’ve found is to take your advocacy one step at a time. You can make so much change with just small & manageable adjustments to your life.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am a fifth generation Coloradan! I love our state so much, and love hosting friends from out of town so they can get a taste of what we have to offer. Here are some of my favorite spots to take my guests to show off my home…
I’m a big climber, so if my guest was up to it I’d take them to my favorite outdoor beginner climbing spot, Cascade Crag in Boulder Canyon. This is my favorite spot to take beginners because in order to reach the climbing routes, you have to cross Boulder Creek using a tyrollean traverse, gear and harness. It feels like a fun new skill for most people, and we always get some fun pictures of them dangling above the creek. I first learned to love rock climbing in this canyon, and I love sharing that love with others.
In Colorado we’re known for our amazing craft beers, and trying new IPA’s is one of my favorite evening activities. I’d take friends to the RINO art district, which has some of my favorite street art, and go on a micro brew tour to try all sorts of local drinks and foods! Another entreprenuer friend of mine started this company for amazing brewery tours, so it would also be a fun way to show off the amazing network of local businesses I am lucky to be a part of.
If we have a whole week, I’m spending one or two of the nights in Estes Park so we can stroll the beautiful and charismatic mountain town, and take several hikes in scenic Rocky Mountain National Park. Having RMNP in my backyard is such a treat, and I grew up going there often, because my great aunt was a volunteer ranger there!
I always end up bringing guests to Avanti Food and Beverage. The views and atmosphere are great, and there are such yummy international food options. I love the diversity of restaurants we have in Colorado, and at Avanti you can get a quick taste of those options, while overlooking the Denver skyline.
When we weren’t out and about, I’d host friends at my new home in Denver, where we could cook dinner straight from the garden, and sit on my porch to watch my entertaining backyard chickens roam around. I love even the simplest moments in Colorado, and I’m so thankful to have lived here my whole life.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same is absolutely true of an entrepreneur, so I could list hundreds of people here, but I’ll choose the earliest and most impactful to shoutout! I was so fortunate to be raised by two entrepreneurs, as my parents are the owners of KOIS Real Estate here in the Denver area. Their perseverance made starting my own business seem possible, even normal! They treat every client like family, which left a lasting impression on me to always run by business based on my values. They encouraged me when Simple Switch just had a few customers, and continue to support me so well now. I cannot understate the boost having entrepreneur parents has had on me, thanks Mom and Dad! (And shoutout to KOIS Real Estate, the Colorado market is crazy. They just helped me buy my first house, so I personally and professionally recommend them!
Other: Podcast: Stitcher https://www.stitcher.com/show/simple-switch-podcasts
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0X7PSyhg96KM3MqQjlbyUU?si=GlEPC6tbTeimx1oagChSrg Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/becoming-bcorp-butt-tattoos-how-we-handled-covid19/id1464741690?i=1000509243899
Photo Credit: Aubrey Fite