At Flax & Fern, they take pride in creating beautiful soaps and skincare products for those who care about the environment and what they put on their skin. With her background as a pharmacist, founder Natalie set out to minimise the use of synthetic, artificial, chemical-loaded products and provide a naturally safe and effective alternative for the whole family. They use simple ingredients from nature to create gentle soaps and balms that care for you and the environment, without irritating your skin. Here, she talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about her business journey so far, how she balances work and family life, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Being able to spend more time at home with my two children (2.5 and newborn at the time) was a major reason and inspiration for me to set up Flax and Fern. I had just moved home to be closer to family after living overseas for several years and I decided that I was after more freedom to be able to be around for my kids, rather than returning to full-time employment.
I had started making soaps as a hobby for friends and family. Like a lot of mothers, I was keen to use safe and natural ingredients on my children rather than synthetic, commercially available products. My background as a pharmacist meant I could use those compounding and formulation skills to create new recipes and develop a product line. It has slowly evolved into a business and has grown ever since.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Very slowly! Looking back, I feel like I was too cautious at each stage of development and although I’d taken “the leap”, I still took ages to make big decisions! I understand now why people say, just do it!
I had been selling small amounts to close friends and family, but Flax and Fern‘s first official launch was Christmas 2020. It was messy! I was putting photos on Instagram and Facebook and making sales via Messenger. A month later, the website was up and running. I started with about 6 soaps, 2 deodorants and a Kawakawa balm.
I had spent a lot of time researching ingredients and refining the direction I wanted the business to take. The first soap I ever made was a rainbow bar from a starter kit and was full of synthetic fragrance and mica colours. It was pretty but I didn’t feel that it aligned with my desire to create products closer to nature. Since then, I have only used essential oils for scent and natural clays as colourants.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I imagine it’s a common feeling for a small business when starting up, but the feeling when I made a sale to a stranger (!!!) is one I’ll remember forever! It really does make you jump for joy and validates that you are on the right track.
I also found that once I had a proper brand essence (to give me direction in every aspect of the business), a logo and labels I was off and away!
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
I love to involve my kids as much as I can. It also helps when I need to work on something that they have their own project to work on. My daughter has some offcuts and reject bars that she can “help” package for orders (plus sell to Nana!) as well as holding backgrounds for product photography – or in some cases even the products themselves. To keep some boundaries in place, we don’t put pictures of the kids’ faces on social media. Pre-planning tasks and writing to-do lists are essential to managing time and balancing family-work life.