After almost four years of making natural skincare products for herself, the transition from creating them for her own use to starting a business was sparked by the early arrival of Emma De Leeuw‘s first child Ruby. With the unexpected arrival throwing their lives into newborn chaos, she found herself heading into the Christmas period with no presents for anyone. It was her mum Sarah that suggested she give away some of her handmade body butters as Christmas gifts, so she set about wrapping them in between changing nappies and feeds. Her sister-in-law Diana was so thrilled with her gift that she encouraged Emma to start selling her products. Here, she talks to the Natural Parent Magazine about launching Whipped Earth, the challenges she has overcome along the way, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
The spark that set everything into motion was initiated by my mum Sarah and sister-in-law Diana.
Our daughter Ruby was born 4 weeks early in November. I had planned to do my Christmas shopping the week she was born but that wasn’t meant to be. Our lives, like many new parents, were thrown into chaos, and the next thing we knew it was Christmas and we had nothing to give anybody. In 2014 I started making my own beauty products and I had few stashed away. My mum suggested I give some away as gifts. I thought it was a fabulous idea and went about wrapping and creating pretty labels in between feeds and naps. Diana loved hers so much she said I should sell them and after some calculations, I decided that instead of returning to my “normal job” after maternity leave was up, I would start a business.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I was so naïve. I basically scaled up my recipes and poured the products into tins. I knew from the beginning I only wanted to work with ingredients that had no associated health risks to humans. I also knew I was not going to use plastic tubs, so I did some hunting around and wrote a pros and cons list for each option and decided aluminum tins were the best. I read up about the laws around manufacturing and selling skincare. I made sure I had insurance and was using the correct labelling requirements. I then applied to a few markets and hoped for the best. It was here where I started facing many challenges.
The drive: What challenges have you overcome?
There have been so many.
I started with no qualifications in cosmetic chemistry and I have no background in science. I was working off internet recipes that worked well for me and naively thought they would work wonders for everyone else. The balms melted in the heat, and then when cooled they would go grainy. My original deodorant paste gave some people rashes and my whipped body butters would melt and deflate. I ended up doing an online cosmetic course to learn and understand the basic principles of science and chemistry and it was here that I learnt how to create and adapt formulas. I studied the properties of each ingredient and learnt that no two skins are alike. Even after studying and doing countless trials and tests, my products were still susceptible to the elements especially as I refused to use certain ingredients in my products that may help a product stay shelf stable.
I had issues with my packaging. Although I had researched and had plans for the various non plastic options, the aluminum tins I decided on were not the best fit. For starters, the tins arrived each individually wrapped in plastic. I was livid! Here I was, trying to do the right thing by buying reusable tins, only to find I had unknowingly bought the very thing I was trying to avoid, and what was worse was I had bought about 1000 tins in total. Then I found my products melted and the tins leaked. The tins damaged very easily and were difficult to screw back on after opening. I had a tin return policy but that became difficult to manage and keep track of and so many tins that were returned were damaged and could not be resold. Luckily, aluminium can be recycled, and Australia has good infrastructure for recycling aluminium (something like 75% of aluminium in use today has been recycled at least once).
I was scrolling through Pinterest late one night when I came across a recipe called a solid lotion bar. I was intrigued and made it. It was love at first swipe. I tweaked the original recipe and I was so happy with it that I brought it to market. They were a hit. At the same time, I was getting a lot of requests for shampoo bars. I went off to gather information about hair and shampoo. Then Covid arrived and my markets were closed so I had free time. During the first lockdown, I had this lightbulb moment to make all my products solid like the lotion bar. I started creating and tweaking, and I got lost in this creative bubble. When the markets returned, I came back with a completely new product range and the public response was positive.
Marketing and branding is something I am still trying to wrap my head around. Trying to articulate my passion into words that everyone can relate to has been tough. Trying to navigate social media platforms, websites and print media is a major battle for me. I struggled using Facebook as personal profile. Now I have a business profile and it’s even more complicated. I will do some marketing and social media courses to overcome this.