Billie Paris of Moral Fibre says hard work is starting to pay off.
Billie Paris of Moral Fibre says hard work is starting to pay off.

Morality has a price

WHEN Mullumbimby woman Billie Paris was considering how she could make a difference in the world, she had a few options in mind.

“I could have waved placards or something like that,” she said.

“Then I read Anita Roddick’s book – she founded the Body Shop – and I was inspired.

“I thought that maybe I could start a business that makes money to help women in developing countries.”

Six years ago Ms Paris wrote her first business plan for Moral Fibre.

“But it was more like a thesis. I am really committed to getting this right,” she said.

“We were coming into what was really the first age of consumers starting to ask questions about what they were buying.

“We were a little bit ahead of ourselves when we first started out.

“Over the past five years there has been a big shift to the eco-consumer.”

Everything sold by Moral Fibre is organic and ethically grown and sewn.

Ms Paris sells organic cotton and bamboo T-shirts, hospitality aprons and carry bags.

The business tries to minimise its carbon and water footprints, while using fair trade cotton.

However, Ms Paris said Australia has been ‘very slow’ to take up organic and ethical certification processes.

She started out by exploring supply chains in Vietnam and Peru, but found those options too difficult.

She then found a community of women in southern India who were outcasts and involved in a non-profit rehabilitation program run by Franciscan nuns.

“These women had been excluded from their communities for a number of reasons – they might be widows or have some intellectual or physical disability,” Ms Paris said.

“The intention is to give these women economic and psychological autonomy.

“We don’t want to make them dependent.”

Two months ago Ms Paris moved her business to the Byron Bay industrial and arts estate, and she said the move had been a blessing.

“Working from home, I would open my laptop at 6am and then wouldn’t close it until 11pm,” she said.
“I’d be like, ‘oh, this is a good idea, I’ll just look it up’. It just didn’t stop.”

Starting Moral Fibre and developing the business has been incredibly tough for Ms Paris.

“I didn’t realise how difficult it was going to be. I tried to do as much as I possibly could on my own,” she said.

“Maybe I should have waved those placards.

“But you have to have a passion and the goal has to be about more than just dollars.

“There is still lots to do, but I am feeling really optimistic and I am starting to feel like the hardest work is now behind us.”

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