Julia Washbourne: A Visionary Championing Sustainability with Innovation and Environmental Consciousness

Julia Washbourne: A Visionary Championing Sustainability | The Enterprise World

In a world where the conversation around sustainability is becoming increasingly crucial, leaders like Julia Washbourne (Founder of Bamboa) are stepping forward to merge innovation with environmental consciousness. Not content with generating profits, these pioneers aim to leave a positive imprint on the planet, shaping their companies to be forces for good. 

Given how her diverse roles, from project management in Taipei to merchandising in Hong Kong, exposed her to the harsh realities of unsustainable practices and the environmental impact of disposable products, she was intrigued by the potentialities of bamboo as a sustainable alternative. These factors paved the way for the inception of Bamboa. Currently, the company, under Julia’s leadership, is leading at the forefront of returning to nature without harming the environment with bio-degradable products. 

A Profound Interest in Sustainability 

A British/German entrepreneur with a rich background in Chinese studies, Julia embarked on her sustainable journey in 1996 by moving to China. She pursued her master’s degree in Chinese studies in Germany, a choice that reflected her unique heritage of being both English and German. This academic journey led her to China in 1996, where she spent a year studying at a university. Following her degree, Julia’s career began in Taipei, where she assumed the role of project manager in electronics for an American company.

Her professional path then took her to Hong Kong as a merchandising manager. In this capacity, she oversaw the purchasing department for homeware products, engaging in quality control and product development. She was responsible for sourcing new products by attending various shows and visiting factories across China.

During these visits to numerous factories in China, she became acutely aware of the detrimental impact of unsustainable practices on the environment. She observed the vast amounts of plastic and disposable items being produced and sold, often used briefly before being discarded. This experience was pivotal, sparking a deep interest in sustainable materials, particularly when she encountered products made from bamboo, such as bamboo socks and towels. Fascinated by the potential of bamboo as a sustainable resource, Julia dedicated herself to extensive research on the subject, marking the beginning of her mission to promote bamboo as an eco-friendly alternative.

Driven by a commitment to sustainability, Julia Washbourne founded her company, focusing on designing and developing everyday necessities made from bamboo. She concentrated on products like bamboo bedsheets, towels, and T-shirts, emphasizing their antibacterial properties, breathability, and suitability for individuals with skin allergies due to the hypoallergenic nature of bamboo fiber.

Julia was captivated by the fabric’s benefits, likening it to vegan silk for its silky soft texture that does not require fabric softener and is machine washable, contrasting with the delicate nature of silk. This distinction highlighted bamboo fabric’s durability, solidifying her decision to champion bamboo as a cornerstone of her company’s product line. Moreover, she has become a bamboo expert and for any enquiries, can be contacted at julia@bamboahome.com

Innovation + Risk Taking = A Story of Success

Julia explored regions across Asia, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and China, which are known for their abundant bamboo resources. Around 2005, she faced significant challenges in these early stages, primarily due to limited internet connectivity. This lack of digital infrastructure made communication difficult, especially with small cottage industries that lacked robust internet access, necessitating numerous in-person visits.

Another hurdle Julia Washbourne encountered was the timing of her venture’s start in 2008, coinciding with the global financial crisis. This period posed considerable economic challenges, further complicated by the fact that Julia’s focus on sustainability and bamboo was ahead of its time. During these early years, the concept of sustainability had not yet gained widespread acceptance or understanding, making it difficult to convey the environmental benefits of bamboo to a market that was not yet receptive to or prepared for such innovations.

Despite these obstacles, Julia persevered, driven by her passion for sustainable materials and practices. Alongside her venture into bamboo products, she also operated her own trading company, dealing in homeware products for the European market before shifting her focus towards bamboo items. She exported bamboo tea whisks, essential for preparing Japanese matcha tea, eventually leading to substantial orders. In 2012, Julia took a significant step forward by opening a retail shop and beginning a new chapter in her business. This venture into retail was complemented by both B2C and B2B operations, illustrating her company’s flexibility and adaptability in catering to diverse market needs.

Julia Washbourne was featured in numerous newspaper interviews to enhance public awareness and adaptability towards sustainability. She actively sought out speaking opportunities to share her insights and experiences. Additionally, her company participated in several expositions and made concerted efforts to secure features in local media, including newspapers, to promote sustainability further. Through these avenues, she aimed to elevate the conversation around sustainable practices and the benefits of bamboo products. Julia’s resilience and passion for sustainability fueled her mission. Balancing her bamboo initiatives with a trading company, she gradually introduced innovative bamboo products, from tea whisks to a comprehensive range of bamboo fabric-based items, marking a significant shift in Bamboa’s product lineup.

On Underlying Market Competition and Leveraging Them

Over the past four years, Julia Washbourne has observed a noticeable increase in competition within the sustainable resources sector, particularly regarding bamboo products. She welcomes this development, viewing it as validation of her mission and her belief in the potential of bamboo. The growing demand for sustainable materials in recent years has been particularly encouraging for her and her company.

A distinguishing factor for Julia’s company has been the initiation of the Grow Bamboo initiative, a project focused on planting bamboo in Nepal and Sri Lanka for nearly four years. Unlike common tree planting, Julia’s company plants bamboo, the fastest-growing plant on the planet, which provides numerous ecological and community benefits. With every purchase, her company commits to planting one bamboo in these countries, contributing to a sustainable future in multiple ways. The Grow Bamboo initiative stands out for four primary reasons:

  • It significantly contributes to carbon sequestration, aiding the fight against climate change.
  • It generates an additional income stream for impoverished rural communities:
  • Communities can harvest the bamboo for sale.
  • They can craft it into various products like baskets, exploiting its versatility and ease of use without heavy machinery.

Moreover, bamboo plays a critical role in natural soil erosion control:

  • It prevents landslides and flooding due to its rhizome root system.
  • This makes it especially valuable for planting in areas with degraded soil.

This innovative approach to sustainability and the company’s continuous efforts to develop new bamboo-based products set Julia’s company apart from its competitors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the company was the first to launch bamboo face masks. Designed by Julia Washbourne, these masks were breathable and capable of preventing bacterial penetration due to their tightly knit fabric. 

A Multitude of Eco-Friendly Products

Bamboa, established in Hong Kong since 2012, boasts two retail stores in the heart of the city.  While in April 2024, the company expanded its presence with the opening of a second location, it also maintains a presence in the US through its incorporated entity, Bamboa LLC.  Beyond retail, Bamboa has developed and tailored a wide variety of bamboo products for well-respected banks, hotel groups, and brands. 

Bamboa began its journey with a focus on creating bowls, plates, and cups crafted from spun bamboo, a traditional material made by artisans in cottage villages in Vietnam. These items were produced directly in the artisans’ homes, contributing to a collection that remains a beautiful part of Bamboa’s range. However, Julia Washbourne soon recognized that the market dynamics in Asia, particularly due to the smaller living spaces and distinct customs that did not prioritize items like salad bowls, required a shift in strategy. Despite this realization, Bamboa successfully exported these bamboo products in large quantities to Carrefour in France and Spain, highlighting the international appeal of their initial offerings.

Adapting to the needs and interests of her market, Julia’s fascination with bamboo fabrics led Bamboa to explore and develop products beyond traditional tableware. The company expanded its product line to include bamboo bedsheets and towels, chosen for their softness, silkiness, and antibacterial properties. This expansion was particularly driven by the desire to offer solutions for people suffering from allergies and skin conditions in Hong Kong.

The evolution of Bamboa’s product range did not stop there; it further extended into apparel with the introduction of bamboo T-shirts, among other items. Julia Washbourne’s own preferences inspired each new product and desire to fill gaps in the market with high-quality, sustainable options. Through this approach, Bamboa has continuously grown its assortment of bamboo products, staying true to its roots while adapting to meet the diverse needs of consumers. 

Julia Washbourne’s Checklists for Customer Satisfaction

Bamboa prioritizes ensuring a seamless customer experience in retail, focusing on exceptional customer service. Here are the key strategies employed by the company:

Julia Washbourne: A Visionary Championing Sustainability | The Enterprise World
  • Accessibility: Bamboa’s physical store is open daily, ensuring customers can visit and purchase conveniently.
  • Flexible Returns Policy: The company offers an accommodating returns policy. Customers can easily return items, opting for a refund or exchange, contributing to a hassle-free shopping experience.
  • Low Return Rate: The company experiences a return rate of less than 0.5%, underscoring the high quality and satisfaction associated with its products.
  • High Customer Retention: Bamboa boasts a return customer rate of over 50%, indicating strong customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Commitment to Quality: Drawing on Julia’s experience as a purchasing manager, Bamboa emphasizes quality control and rigorous product testing. This ensures that all products meet a high standard of excellence.
  • Notable B2B Partnerships: Bamboa has partnered with prestigious clients such as UBS, JP Morgan, Cathay, Mandarin Oriental, and the Ritz Carlton. These collaborations are a testament to Bamboa’s commitment to providing excellent quality and service, fostering repeat business from reputable organizations.

These checkpoints and practices underscore Bamboa’s dedication to delivering a superior customer experience in retail and B2B sectors through accessibility, quality, and exemplary service.

how are you planning to take the company forward?

Looking to the future, Bamboa, under Julia’s guidance, is embarking on projects like revitalizing a former gem mine in Sri Lanka and transforming it into a bamboo haven. The company is set to broaden their product range, including a recent launch to enhance the comfort of pets. Julia Washbourne designed a bamboo fitted sheet for dog beds, inspired by her own dog’s discomfort with the typically polyester, heat-retaining beds common in the hot and humid climate of Hong Kong. Her innovation, a round, easily washable bamboo sheet, offers a practical, cooler alternative for pets.

In addition to pet products, Julia Washbourne plans to expand Bamboa’s sleepwear line, emphasizing the importance of comfort and quality sleep. Her goal is to introduce more pajamas made from bamboo fabric, catering to both men and women, focusing on the coziness and environmental benefits of the material.

A significant initiative by Bamboa, led by Julia, is the upcoming project in Sri Lanka, where bamboo will be planted over a former gem mine. This endeavor aims to rehabilitate land degraded by mining, preventing landslides and flooding while contributing to carbon sequestration. This project aligns with the company’s Grow Bamboo Initiative (GBI), showcasing its commitment to environmental restoration and community support.

Moreover, Julia Washbourne and Bamboa have engaged in nonprofit activities, including launching a T-shirt range in collaboration with Animals Asia. This initiative supports the organization’s efforts to end the cruel bile extraction from moon bears used in traditional Chinese medicine. The T-shirt designs, created by local artists, depict the moon bear in various artistic styles, with all proceeds going towards rescuing and providing sanctuary for these bears in Vietnam.

Julia’s leadership at Bamboa extends beyond profit-making; she emphasizes the company’s role in positively impacting the world. Bamboa aims to create meaningful products that benefit communities, animals, and the environment through collaborations with organizations like WWF and Animals Asia. Julia Washbourne believes that every business should operate with a consciousness of its impact, striving to do good as an integral part of its mission.

Website: http://www.bamboahome.com 
Industry: Retail, wholesale, Export
Company size: 2-10 employees
Headquarters: Hong Kong
Type: Privately Held
Founded: 2008
Specialties: Bamboo Bedding, Bamboo, Design, Eco-friendly homeware,, Bamboo Towels, Bamboo t-shirts, and Bamboo sunglasses
Julia Washbourne: A Visionary Championing Sustainability | The Enterprise World

Benefits of Bamboo

  • Fastest growing plant on the planet
  • Sustainable
  • Releases 35% more oxygen than trees
  • Helps rural communities earn extra income
Julia Washbourne: A Visionary Championing Sustainability | The Enterprise World

Aim of the Growing Bamboo Initiative(GBI)

Since 2021, GBI has become an official impact partner of Handprint, offering corporations to donate to impact projects that make a positive social and environmental difference for our planet. 


  • To prevent and tackle soil erosion and land degradation
  • Cool Down the planet to fight Global Warming
  • Bamboa has so far planted 10,000 bamboo trees in Nepal and Sri Lanka to help Create Income for the local Communities.

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