Can you tell us a little bit about your background/history that has led you to this point?
I grew up in a small coastal town called South West Rocks. My days were spent surfing or playing sports - outdoors and in nature. Growing up, we didn't really have access to mobile phones and we'd just meet at the beach and surf. After studying Commercial Law and living the corporate life in Sydney, I moved to Byron to recapture the way of life I was used to in a town with a social and emotional conscience.
Charlotte, my partner and co-founder, grew up in the UK and moved to Australia to escape the weather and raise her children the way she had always dreamed of growing up. She first settled in Melbourne but after a trip to Byron she fell in love with the place and moved here soon after.
My background in the corporate world was in beauty, specifically self-tanners. One day Charlotte and I were discussing the climate and our own responsibility with regards to climate change. We googled the hole in the ozone layer to see if it was reducing (it is!) and this led us to discuss the damage the harsh Australian sun can cause. Something that really bothered us was the impact virgin plastic has on our oceans and environment. One thing led to another and after a lot of research, we started developing a self-tanning range and a skincare range (Byron Bay Beauty Co. - coming soon) that deliver simple, natural products in a way that makes a positive difference to our world.
To us, sustainability is key. In recent years, the beauty industry has had seen an increase in natural and organic brands. This is a great development and it was certainly important for us to use natural, organic ingredients, however, all these beautiful products were being created in virgin plastic, much of which ends up in the ocean. The lack of sustainability amongst brands and consumers was obvious. We wanted our brand to be ethical and sustainable as a basic premise, rather than as an afterthought.
Customers often look at the popular brands first and then work backwards to check if they are natural, organic, sustainable, cruelty-free etc.
I think we probably emphasised our sustainable credentials too much and didn't focus enough on presenting the quality of our product and the results our customers are achieving. After all, we chose to start in the self-tanning space because the eco products were not good enough in our opinion... and my partner has tested a few! We knew we could achieve both. We are so happy our customers agree!
Sustainability is becoming more of a concern for everyone and I think it will become an expectation in the not-too-distant future. Byron Bay might be ahead of the curve on environmental concerns but it's clear to see where we are headed globally. It seems that kids are often more aware of the climate crisis than their parents and as they progress into adulthood and become the consumers, as well as the business owners and leaders, there will definitely be a shift. I see a positive future and a world in which organisations inspire change and the customer equally demands it.
I think the two major aspects of our business where technology has played a role would be in the manufacturing of our packaging and the global connectedness it has brought to both marketing and operations. The supplier of our ocean waste plastic has produced the technology to collect, process and re-use the plastic from our oceans. They are able to coordinate the local fishing boats in Jakarta, who collect the rubbish, from their head office in Denmark. Byron Bay Bronze has also been able to connect with B-Corps to learn more about how to run a sustainable business. Social media allows our message to be spread globally in an affordable, fast way.
Without googling a definition I would say wilderness means a place that is untouched, or unchanged by mankind's presence. Wilderness is the release of a tight chest, a stressed body, and a racing mind. Wilderness to me is pristine and untouched nature.
A favourite item for me would be a didgeridoo that our family was given when I was a teenager on a trip around Australia. My father, an Aboriginal studies teacher, sat with an indigenous elder as he carved and made the didgeridoo by the fire in a remote community in Alice Springs. As kids, we enjoyed learning to play it long after the holiday and spent hours practicing circular breathing so that we could play continuously. Looking back, I remember a great family holiday that bound us all together, as well as Aboriginal culture and the importance they place on family and country. As I get older, I definitely feel more connected to my own family and the memories we share.
I would choose somewhere by the ocean, somewhere with waves and an abundance of fertile soil. I would want to take family and friends and knowledge with me. Can I go back in time? I would say Byron a thousand years ago... empty surf, the beautiful clean ocean and hinterland and the knowledge to start again with my family and friends. I would work with the indigenous people of the land to respect, honour and maintain their traditions with regard to Mother Nature.
I would love to inspire consumers and other brands to prioritise sustainability. I would like to see an end to plastic floating in our oceans. I am proud that we have been able to support the work of charities such as Wild Ark and to assist them in protecting our global nature reserves and stop the eradication of species. I hope we will have encouraged the consumer to care more about the impact of their choices and be more demanding when it comes to their purchases. In house, if we can encourage our staff to be more sustainable, to change their habits and to go on to influence others or even to develop their own sustainable brands, that would be an achievement.
I would say think of the bigger picture, stick to your values and don't get disheartened. Our packaging costs 5 times more than virgin plastic. Times that by a million units in an industry where small margins are the norm, you can see how companies give up on their values in order to make bigger profits. However, these costs will come down with increasing demand and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their purchasing power. Research and reach out to other sustainable brands and ask about their journey as there is a wealth of knowledge you can obtain without making all the mistakes yourself. And you need to have faith. I have sat in meetings with retailers telling me they love what we are doing, but then they choose to stick with brands that are cheap or harmful because they will make them more money. I want our company to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
My nan was a huge part of my life and our relationship was pure and loving. She passed away at 91 and I still miss her today. Her saying was to 'Stand tall and look the world right in the eye'. I find this inspires me every day and what it means to me is to be the best version of yourself and to have the confidence and self-respect to feel good about yourself, who you are and what you do.
Any of the B-Corps, Patagonia, Toms, Koala... any brand that puts purpose over profit and has done it successfully.
What is one thing you would be willing to or have already given up with the health of the planet in mind?
I would like to think we make daily choices to give up small conveniences that have an impact. I try to make better choices like buying unpackaged groceries from the farmer's market or riding my bike to work. With education, these choices don't feel like sacrifices, in fact it feels wrong now buying plastic bottles or shrink-wrapped groceries or driving to work. I think after covid, I will be less inclined to fly, but I have to admit that this will be more of a sacrifice!