Once I heard the premise behind Buy Me Once, I couldn't believe the website didn't already exist. Tara Button, the webshop's founder, couldn't either. She was working in advertising, and one of her clients was Le Creuset, the famous maker of ceramic cookware that has a lifetime guarantee. She got a cooking pot from the company and she thought, "Why aren't there more things like this?"
Then she figured there must a place online to find more things in other categories that shared the same principles as Le Creuset. She searched and searched and couldn't find a site where all types of products built to last were vetted and sold.
"I tried hard to ignore the idea, but it wouldn't go away," Button told me. "It kept on coming back up in my head. When I would read the news about the environment and about the waste we produce, I felt almost sick. I would get this visceral, itchy feeling inside that told me: 'You can do something about this.' I finally got to the point where I was like 'I have to make this site.'"
Button jumped into entrepreneurship and started building the Buy Me Once site after work and late into the night. She finally quit her day job in late January to dedicate herself full-time to the site, and she has already gotten a lot of attention from shoppers and the media. Right now, most of the site is available to shoppers in the U.S. and U.K., and she's working on getting every item available from each country.
As a longtime fan of stuff that lasts, I was curious to learn how this project came together, and Button filled me in on how she made her vision happen.
MNN: What items have you found that will stand the test of time?
Tara Button: I found Buy Me Once socks. If socks can have have a lifetime guarantee, why can't anything? There's clothing, cookware, toys for kids, recycled plastic toys that are hardcore durable and sustainable wooden toys too. There are accessories, like umbrellas, and luggage, like Eagle Creek. A massive bugbear for me is plastic "wood" that chips, and there's so much furniture out there these days that's made like that, so we have furniture that won't fall apart after a few years, and if it does get nicked, you can fix it. If it's made out of vinyl, no way. It's a shame. Also, beauty products, like hairbrushes, tweezers and shavers.
How do you decide what to include?
I'm looking for the best in show in terms of longevity. And the companies that are really trying and trying to cut down on this throwaway culture. Like Patagonia offers free fixing of their clothes. Nobody does that, and half of us don't know how to [sew] anymore. It's wonderful to find these gems of companies; they do exist. It's all about finding things that last and helping things to last — cherishing the things that last. That's the ethos.
Up until now, it's been mainly me reading countless reviews, talking to people, calling companies, comparing and contrasting different products in the same category, to which one is the best. And there was serious research too. When it came to choosing shoes, I talked to cobblers and asked about what shoes are easy to fix and which ones last. I'm a big fan of talking to the experts, since they are going know from experience what lasts.
What's your biggest challenge?
I'm looking a products from companies all around the world, and sometimes it's been tricky to find people who will ship. I also underestimated response from the U.S. It's been huge. Over 60 percent of our traffic is coming from America, so we are determined to give that love back.
The response has just been amazing. I have an email backlog of 600 emails of suggested products from people, and we are plowing through them, checking to see what they are and if they fit our ethos. Some won't work and some will. If readers have ideas, they can send them along to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We always want to hear about great products that have lasted and the stories behind them as well; we want to put them up online and share the best.
Will the site feature anything other than products?
One of the sides of the website that is going to become an important part is challenging manufacturers to do better. If we feel that there's a particular category that needs attention, we are going to create a challenge. [For example] we haven't been able to find a Buy Me Once electric kettle. The guarantees from the companies are really short, and online reviews say they all break really soon. For me, that's not good enough. In a world where we build satellites and send people to space, we can make a kettle that doesn't break after three years. There used to be kettles that lasted longer. If you find a kettle from the 1950s, they often still work. That kind of thing gets my goat.
It's frustrating, and I feel it's immoral to make something that breaks and ends up in a landfill, and it's really short-sighted. If you're not a wealthy family, having to replace these items is not cheap. And the first company who does do that will make a killing. People really do want stuff that's built to last. We have some other work to do on the site first, but the challenges are going to be important.
We also have content: Like how to have a kid's birthday party with no waste. You can have a fun, colorful, great birthday party but without three trash bags full at the end of the day. And we're working on a capsule wardrobe that's "Buy Me Once."