Eco-Friendly and Business Savvy: Samantha Rayner Makes Better Basics
Samantha Rayner grew up in a household where she learned the value of environmental responsibility at a young age. Since then, she’s made the pursuit of helping Canadians make their home a little more green.
For Samantha Rayner, co-founder of the sustainable housewares company Better Basics, the motivation to empower Canadians to live greener runs deep.
“I grew up in a family that placed responsibility and environmental stewardship at its core,” she says. “After I lost both of my parents, it really propelled my desire to create change. We only have one fragile life and I want to spend my time and energy towards putting something into the world that I felt would make a positive impact for future generations and honour the legacy of my parents as well.”
But it would take more than a vision to bring her dream to life, Rayner knew. From learning how to create a pitch deck to understanding the fundamentals of business finance, an MBA was key to mastering tools to achieve success.
However, when it came to meeting her specific goal—building a lifestyle brand that incorporated sustainability from the ground up—Rayner knew not just any business school would give her what she needed.
“I wanted to integrate sustainability into my company through and through, from product design to consumer marketing, to supply chain, to vendor standards, and internal corporate values,” says Rayner.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Rayner has long taken inspiration from the natural beauty surrounding her. She credits the majestic West Coast for driving a wave of sustainably-minded lifestyle businesses that preceded hers, such as Lululemon and Saje–two thriving companies she came to work for previously. Rayner did consider other MBA programs, but there was ultimately no question that staying in Vancouver and completing her MBA at UBC Sauder School of Business would best position her to achieve her dream.
“There is no better place to learn about sustainable business than in one of the greenest cities in the world, one that connects you seamlessly to rainforests, mountains and the ocean,” Rayner says. “What appealed to me about UBC Sauder was that the program, teachers and community are truly built around Vancouver. When I look at successful businesses here, I see a very strong entrepreneurial drive. I look at the retail, sports, real estate and gaming industries here. They’re all fairly new, with fresh philosophies built in that are designed around living healthier, happier lives.”
Together with her co-founder, Caitlin Rushton, Rayner set out to make greener living more achievable by creating a line of home products, including biodegradable soaps and cleaners and attractive reusable products, that help cut plastic use. “Our mission is to leave the world better than we found it,” Rayner says.
The idea for Better Basics came after graduation—the partners’ own overflowing recycling bins sparked the inspiration—but Rayner says it was her time at UBC Sauder that helped her understand that an eco-friendly business could be sustainable on multiple fronts. “We talked a lot at UBC Sauder about the triple bottom line: creating profits, enhancing the planet and caring for people,” she says. “That philosophy really resonated with me.”
For Rayner, exploring just how intertwined the goals of protecting the environment and business success could be was the “big a-ha moment” of her education. “When we look at creating a business, we want it to last. If we deplete all of our resources and don’t create a future that can handle our performance, then our business will never survive. We can’t compete against our environment. We have to work with it.”
Similarly, Rayner says her involvement in the UBC Sauder community taught her that a collaborative, rather than competitive, approach to the local business community is a win for all. “It’s been incredible to see all of the support and advice we’ve gotten for Better Basics through my school network,” she says.
“I have always been a values-led person making career decisions focused on product and culture fit more than salary or the opportunity,” Rayner says. Although Better Basics is a successful and profitable business–this wasn’t her main objective. Rayner has stayed true to her goal of creating sustainable options for the masses.
First published in Canadian Business on April 14, 2022.