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PODCAST - The Australian Natural Soap Company

Podcast Earth Greetings

Welcome to the I Still Call Australia Home podcast - your fortnightly dose of inspiration and joy sparked by the wild splendour of Australia. To see an overview of all podcasts, click here; otherwise sit back, relax, and enjoy the episode below.🥰 


ISCAH Podcast Episode 7 - Emma Cook of The Australian Natural Soap Company - Good for Your Skin, Great for the Planet

Podcast Emma Cook The Australian Natural Soap Company

Above shows Founder Emma Cook of The Australian Natural Soap Company. Click on the image or here to see The Australian Natural Soap Company Gifts.  

Today we're in the Dandenong region of Victoria, Australia, discovering how Emma Cook, founder of The Australian Natural Soap Company is living her values by creating prodcuts that are good for your skin, and great for the planet. 

We love how Emma is living those values in every aspect of her business from sourcing, production and distribution... while also showcasing native Australian ingredients from Australian farmers; and supporting habitat reforestation for Orangutangs in Borneo. Wonderful!
Learn how she does this and get inspired by native Australian ingredients and helping our planet in this inspiring episode.

Check out the episode by clicking your favourite podcast player below, or click on the play button below to listen straight away via your computer or phone.

Alternatively, we've transcribed the shownotes for you below. Scroll down to read the full interview.

 

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Shownotes 

Felicia:

Hi Emma, welcome to the podcast today. 

Emma:

Thanks for having me. 

Felicia: Lovely to have you here … and for those listeners who don't know you, can you introduce The Australian Natural Soap Company and tell us about yourself and your company?

Emma:

So my name is Emma Cook and I'm the Director and founder of The Australian Natural Soap Company. We've been around,   pretty much since 2013.   

We had started off in our kitchen -   my husband and I,   just making soaps, he was an emergency doctor and he washes his hands a lot and just found coming home after using the hospital-grade antibacterial soaps,   at the hospital then coming home and having to use,   you know, even more,   antibacterial soaps. He was just getting so much irritation and dry skin.   

So yes, we just started,   looking into, you know, natural alternatives.   and we found that there really wasn't anything on the market that we were after.   So what was on the market then was, you know, a lot of soaps that were natural, but they were using things like Palm oil, artificial fragrances, sulfates.   We just started experimenting on our own and really started falling in love with these Australian ingredients - things like avocado oil, macadamia oil, olive oil, and just love the soaps that they were producing.

Felicia:

Fantastic.   And where are you based Emma?

Emma: 

So we're based in Melbourne.  We have manufacturing here still to this day, all of our soaps and skincare.   We have two manufacturing facilities in Dandenong where we make everything, so it's all pretty much following the same recipe,  you know, the way that we made them back all those years ago, in the kitchen… but just on a much bigger scale.

Felicia:

Fantastic. And so you started with soaps and as your product range, if we fast forward to today, what's in your product range today, what can people expect?

Emma:
Yes, so it's still,   our products are our good old, solid soap bars...   and it's funny because a lot of the products that, although a lot of the skaps that we were,   making back all those years ago in the kitchen are still there today. So,   things like,   you know, absolute avocado avocado oil,   in the soap, pink clay. So,   but what has become the most popular range, what we call soaps,   replace plastic bottles around the household. And I suppose everyone's so much more conscious about the packaging that their products come in. So we offer a range of shampoo, bars, conditioner, bars, soap flakes, laundry, soap, and shaving. You can even get a pet, a dog shampoo,   and they've just become very, very popular...   and then on top of that the gift packs that have been incredibly popular,   you know, really highlighting some of the really beautiful Australian,   ingredients that we use in our soaps.   

We've also just relaunched our liquid soap range,   which again just uses the same principles, but,   you know, in a liquid form and we've got them in the sustainable packaging of glass and the bamboo rims. So, so  yes, that's our range.

Felicia:

Fantastic. And obviously, yes, it's very important to have natural Palm oil free. So do you have a specific company motto or values?

Emma:

Yes, so the one that always keeps coming up is ‘good for the skin, great for the planet’.   and I think I really capture, you know, the two things that we really want to be bringing with our products. 

And the first is, you know, we really do believe that,   Australian ingredients are some of the best, you know, Australian plant oils and essential oils, some of the best things you could be using on your skin,   hands down and, you know, just love the idea that through our soaps, we're able to bring and highlight these really beautiful ingredients.  

You know, you don't need to be using the expensive stuff on the shelf  that's been made in a laboratory.   Really what we're bringing to consumers are,   you know, these beautiful, natural soaps that are using oils that have been,   you know, grown by Australian farmers.   

So there's that side of the business, but then also the fact that what we've really been able to also offer is some really fabulous, plastic-free alternatives,   you know, and really reduced the plastic waste that, you know, households have.   we were asked actually the other day,   about how many bottles we think we've saved from going from landfill. And it's incredible because we came up with a number of 1.3 million plastic bottles, incredible to think about.  yes. yes. And it's just that simple step of,   people, you know, instead of reaching for the plastic bottle, just reaching for one of our soaps. So yes, it's, it's, that's definitely,   what keeps us going and,   we just love that we've been able to create a business out of it. 

Felicia:

Oh, that's Wonderful. Because I think sometimes you think, you know, these tiny little choices don't make any difference, you know, but I guess 1.3 million is a pretty significant amount of bottles in the land that aren't there,   because of using your soaps. That's wonderful.

Emma: Yes.

Felicia:
So was there anything, if you go back to those early days, then with you and your husband Anthony in the kitchen and experimenting with all these ingredients that were more natural and less irritating on the skin,   was there anything that was particularly challenging for you in achieving what you wanted to achieve with your products?

Emma:
Yes. I think what we were doing in those early stages is just using ingredients that weren't commonly used.   you know, some that weren't being used at all in soap,   making at that time, you know, we, we'd asked around, there were people that were telling us that there's no way you could make,   a soap bar if you didn't use Palm oil, which I was like, “that's not possible?!” so I think there was a lot of experimentation and actually I look so fondly back at that time of just Dr. Google on the internet and just hunting around for all these oils. And then, you know, I would just sort of,   you know, get in the kitchen and just be putting things together and I suppose this was born. So he's [my husband’s] always been the one that's been able to go, okay, well, if we do this and this and this, it should work.   

So,  yes, I suppose it was just that initial period of just trying to make our products work and really force the ingredients that we wanted in our products to work. And really they did.  yes.

Felicia

That's fantastic. What is it about Palm oil that people are saying you need? I mean, I guess I'm from a background. I don't understand the reason for all the ingredients that go into these things. I know Palm oil was a big thing people use, or in the past has been used, but it's not used for good reason anymore, but,   what is it about Palm oil as an ingredient that people were saying you have include it?

Emma:

 yes, so, I mean, basically with Palm oil,   it's been used commonly, I think there's a stat and,   this is going back a few years ago, so it may have changed, but six out of 10 products that are on your grocery shelves will contain Palm oil.   

And that's shocking for a lot of people because I think, you know, when you look at the ingredients, you don't see Palm oil often listed instead it's listed as vegetable oil or, you know, something else. 

Felicia:

Sorry - What was that? What is it listed as...as vegetable oil?

Emma: 

As vegetable oil?   Or there's, I mean, there's, you can go on and do some Googling and you just find this pretty much hundreds of different ways you can refer to Palm oil in ingredients.   The thing for us, and I suppose I, you know, quite a while ago, I went to Indonesia as an exchange student.   and I have a really close connection with Indonesia and,   have gone out to, to Borneo and, and seen the devastation. So, you know, Palm oil has been responsible for that. The industry has been responsible for a lot of deforestation.   You know, like us, we partnered with The Orangutan Project and have raised quite a bit of money for them and have listened to Leif Cocks -  the founder - talk a lot about it. And it's just, it's just frightening to think about how much of these beautiful forests,   and these, you know, important forests to,   I suppose, you know, the climate to habitat to everything, how much has been destroyed… and I, you know, I do think a lot of it has to do with the Palm oil that has been the cheap oil that's been on offer. It's been easy,   you know, to use. And that I think, you know, for us, we really were adamant that we needed to try and find alternatives.   And so, you know, just to give perspective, I think, you know, I want about,   I suppose,   what can I say cheaper oils that we use is olive oil and that's probably about, you know, 10 - 15 times more expensive than Palm oil to use in ingredients. So,   but you know,    yes, I think there has been a lot more awareness around it,   so that's great.   And we took that extra step of making sure that our products are certified through the Orangutan Alliance.   You know, just to, so people can safely say that,   you know, when they buy products that are Palm oil free. 

Felicia:

That's fantastic. And I think that does mean a lot to a lot of people to see that because you really are living your brand there like that. It's really great.

Okay. 

So you, you're on the kitchen table, you were in experimenting having a good time experimenting with at least ingredients. Do you remember your early successes where you went, wow, this is actually something we can make and we can make, you know, did other people start asking for it or how did it merge from your kitchen table to the business you have today?

Emma:
Yes, so I think,   you know, there was always that element of, we had friends and family who were like, oh, could you bring some soap around? Can I take some soap? Like, you know, in those early days we were giving them to friends and family and was getting to the point where people were like, oh, I should really pay you for these soaps. So we thought, Hmm, there must be something here.   And then I suppose what now I think was quite naive of me was,   it was, you know, the lead up to Christmas,   in 2013. And I just thought, you know what, I'm going to just set up a pop-up shop and,   just,   start selling soap and, you know, it's, it's only gonna be for two months. So if it all falls flat on its face, then at least I have an out. And,    yes. So I think that experience really,   you know, allowed me to understand, you know, why people were buying our soaps, and we were able to learn a lot through those two months as a popup in Prahran. 

Felicia: Great. So then you had your pop-up shop. Were you working at this time or..?

Emma: 
So I was quite fortunate. I,  yes, I had a few careers before I started the soap company.   so I, at the time, was actually working as a speech writer in Canberra for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Well, it is a bit of a career change, and I had been a journalist previously.   and it was a time where they were doing a bit of a restructuring and there were some redundancies going around and then sort thought, you know, what? I can back myself and think, you know, if this doesn't work in sort of, you know, give myself sort of like a timeframe and say, if this doesn't work in six months, I know I'll be able to get another job in media and communications. So,  yes, I was fortunate that I did have that little push to make me,   you know, start working full-time on my business. And,   you know, that's now what 7, 7-8 years ago now, and I haven't gone back, so  yes, it's worked. 

Felicia:

So you had a great Christmas pop-up shop that obviously went really well. And,   and then in January, 2014, you'd just started. Okay. This is the thing?

Emma: 
Yes.  yes. So we, we,   then after that,   we looked around, we'd started doing a few markets and we were lucky enough that we were offered a spot at south Melbourne market,   to,   initially just have a pop-up there, but it's become a permanent stall and,   actually was, was still there. So,    yes, obviously it's had its difficulties with COVID, but,   we still do have that one shopfront there.   and, but I think, you know, we, we don't, we'd had this, I'd had this naive ambition of becoming sort of like the lush of Australia, but soon realized that,   that,    yes, being,   it costs a lot of money to set up, set up shops. So I think I got that sort of light bulb moment,   a little bit further down the track where I was like, you know what, and we need to start looking at,   how we can,   wholesale our products.

Emma:
And I think from the very beginning,   we had had people approach us to wholesale our products.    yes. So, and that was a,   that was actually quite a lot of work to be put into that because when we were, when we had our shops, we were just making our soaks and putting them out. We didn't have any packaging or anything like that. So we really had to move into that next phase of,    yes. Getting to the point where we could package our slopes and have them,   you know, shop ready. 

 

Felicia:

Well, we’re very grateful you made that decision because it means we get stock from you too. And your packaging is really beautiful. I think if anyone hasn't seen it, you should go and have a look.

Emma: 
yes. That was a really big,   exercise in itself, I think,   because the brief with the packaging,   had been, you know, we, we, we still need to capture that rawness of our soaps and the naturalness of their soaps, but obviously we need to make them a lot more user-friendly and I do think they've really nailed that.   and it's really helped us,   you know, grow our business through it. 

Felicia:  They're very beautiful. 
Emma: Thank you.
Felicia:
Oh, you're welcome.   So you've talked about,   “good for the skin. Great for the planet”  And you talked a little bit about sort of no plastic, I think, in your products, but,   I guess, can you talk a little bit more about the decisions you've made along the way to achieve this? I guess packaging was one of them, because it's good for the planet. If you weren't packaging, how did you decide sort of what materials & where you source them from, like all that sort of thing, first decisions you made, you know, to be good for the planet around the brand in general, what have you done around that?

Emma: 

Yes, I mean, I think from the beginning we already had in place that we're always going to be sourcing most of our ingredients from Australia.   you know, we only, we still do have a few essential oils. Like there's a few essential oils that you just can't, they're not grown in Australia, so you do have to get them from overseas, but,   we'd really set it up that, you know, pretty much 90% about products,   our ingredients are coming from Australia. So I think what then,   just naturally happened was as we were growing, we were getting,   we were needing to order a lot more, you know, from only ordering 20 liters of olive oil. We were suddenly having to order tons and tons worth of olive oil. So we needed to find,   you know, reliable producers,   you know, people that we could,   you know, guarantee that we would, if we went to them and said, you know, we need 10 tons of this or that they wouldn't freak out and go, oh my God.

Emma:

So through that, we've been able to find a really good branch of, you know,     local producers really,   out of the olive oil, you know, the farmers.   and so that's been also a really great thing,   that has eventually weighed. And even with the olive oil, like the oil olive oil that we use is actually it's beautiful olive oil, but it's olive oil that can't necessarily be sold as food grade, just because maybe the coloring is a little bit different or the taste is a bit different, but perfectly, I mean, as with natural products, you always, you're never going to get consistency. So,   that's a really beautiful thing that we are able to take that olive oil that we want to put a time that would have just been discarded and make it into a really beautiful photo. So,  yes, that's another thing where it's like, it's just great that, that then means that that's just another step towards sustainability.   

And I suppose as well, like, you know, like when we opened that first shop in 2013, we had a shampoo bar then, and you've got to remember that was 2013. And then,   you know, people just looked at us like, what soap in your eyes? Why would you do that? And I think the whole concept in itself was just using bar soap even then was a little bit like, oh, why would you use that when you can use body wash?   and so I think it's funny how, you know, I'd like to say that we predicted everything that was going to happen, but I think it was a lot of just chance that this was our passion and we love making our soaps. And it's really, we were there at a time when people, you know, a few years later, we're really looking at sustainability and packaging,   and trying to reduce their plastic waste. And we just had the products ready to grow that people did, you know, that people wanted. So it's amazing to see that, but  yes, that shampoo bar that was like, sort of at the back right at the back of our shop, that pretty much people were just like, what, why are you selling that has now become a number one bestseller? Yes.
Felicia:

Well, I think,   Heide from Earth Greetings was saying a similar thing that when she started maybe a little bit before you, I think, but,   a bit earlier, but then all of a sudden it just took off because in,  yes, the awareness of the people - suddenly were really into this, all of a sudden what you guys have been doing for ages.

 yes. It's good that these things pay off that are good for the planet. That's fantastic.

Emma:

Absolutely. And I just,  yes, I love it. Like even with like, we also offer soap flakes, which is like cuts from our soaps.. and again, that's a really great way for us to be able to make sure we lessen the waste that we have...   But they've become,   again, some of our most popular products. And if, for people who don't know how to use soap flakes, you can pretty much use them as an alternative to washing your clothes, you know, washing your dishes, you can add hot water and they become like cleaning oil.   and we used to use these for years as just the way that we would clean our house and our clothes and people used to look at us so weirdly, but now again, like they've become almost like some of our most popular products because I think people recognize the value -  it's like a light bulb moment for some people it's like, when you look at that bottle, that plastic bottle of liquid, that's actually mostly water. So if you just take away the water, what are you going to get? You're going to get solid soaps. So I think,  yes, once people recognize that, then I think you can really recognize why it's so silly that we have these bottles,   you know, in our bathrooms in our kitchens that are just unnecessary.

Felicia:

I'm thinking through the plastic in my home and, you know,😬 
Emma:

Yes ...That's what I had when I first started.    yes. Making us folks in the kitchen.
Felicia:

There you go. I'm only seven years, eight years behind you. Exactly. Excellent.   So can we talk a little bit about, for people who don't know, the listeners might be interested in,   you know, not giving trade secrets away, but just you are using a lot of native Australian ingredients.   you mentioned avocado,   and macadamia oil, but there's other ones like eucalyptus and lemon Myrtle. Can you elaborate a bit on those?

 

Emma:

 yes, I mean, I think that fundamentally what we wanted to do was to bring,   you know, more Australian,   ingredients,   you know, essential oils and plant oils, you know, to the point where people can recognize them.   I mean obviously lemon, Myrtle and eucalyptus. They're very,    yes, well known ingredients.   but there's a few that were, and you know, we're going to go further down that line of essential oils.   I think people may not be aware of the fact that Australia does have a really fledgling,   essential oil industry.   and there's been quite a bit of research and development into some of these incredible essential oils that really do have, you know, they rival some of the more well known, you know, the lavender's of this world.   You know,   the lemon grass is of this world.   So yes, we're really excited to be able to then I think take it to the next step and start really showcasing some of these really beautiful, essential oils,   that are really, you know, that's Australian.    Yes, you kind of get more Australian than that.

 

Felicia:

Oh, fantastic. Well, I know I was into quite some years ago, the Australian Bush flower essences as a sort of brand, that's got all these amazing native flower essences being into native flowers.  yes.  yes. And if you think about the diversity of,   native, you know, flowers we have in Australia, you know, it's not surprising, these essential oils are so fantastic.

 

Emma:

Absolutely.  yes.

 

Felicia:

Which, and how many there are and how different they are and they're all, they're amazing properties.

 

Emma: 

 yes.  yes.  

 

Felicia:

And some of you are there, I really love how you've taken your products and turn them into beautiful gift packs. Like your Trip around Australia gift pack. Now, when we can't all necessarily travel, when we want to consider veggies travel through your soaps.   Can you tell us a bit about what a Bondi breeze smells like?

 

Emma:

 yes. So it's funny,   how that all came about. So  yes, Bondi breeze is still and Fitzroy flavor as well.   our soaps that do, did come from the initial,   you know, product range that we had in that pop-up store in Prahan.   so,   going back to being in the kitchen with Anthony,   we would just, you know, also put together beautiful scent combinations to the essential oils and just put them into the sites and kind of like, well, how do we name that? We can't name all the different essential oils.   So we started just thinking about, well, you know, let's start naming them after places in Australia, we are the Australian natural soap company.   So Bondi breeze for us is just,   it's got seaweed in it and it's got the chill and essential oils.   And so to me, and I'm not the only one to say this, we've got lots of customers who do agree that it does have that beautiful sea breeze scent to it.

 

  and  yes, it's, it's just,    yes, I just, I love that one. It's not going to be for everyone. I think that's what you realize being in a company like ours, that everyone's got their individual tastes when it comes to scent.   so  yes, that's, that's Bondi breeze, it's Fitzroy flavor. That's got rose geranium and grapefruit in it. And so it's actually a bit of a nod to,   when at that initial stage,   I was doing a lot of markets, as I said, and one of the markets was the Rose Street Market. And,   so we've got the rose geranium as far as  yes. But also it's just got that he can be walking up there and spring, and it's just got that beautiful sort of floral scent to it. So,    yes, that's, that's where the Fitzroy flavour came from

 

Felicia

Lovely and “Naturally Noosa” [flavour]?

 

Emma:

 

Yes. So that's actually,   somebody is working for us at the time. She was like, you know, we'd always just put the call out to whoever we could be like with this new, this new soap, with all those scents. And,   you know, like,   what would you call it? What's your favorite place in Australia? And,   the girl just, she smelled that one and she says, that's Noosa to me with the pine to it. So,    yes. So that's how that came about.

 

Felicia:

I love it. So you sort of create the soap first and then the name people say what the sort of name comes after.

 

Emma:

Yes - pretty much. That's how it's been. So, and then when we were designing our gift packs, you know, we just said, you know what, this has got to be, we wanted to just experiment a little bit more like this in a gift pack and see how they go. And  yes, the trip around Australia has been, it's one of our most popular, popular packs. So  yes,

 

Felicia:

It's beautiful. And I know for us, we send a lot of gifts overseas. There's nothing better to get something like that. Then, you know, it's a gift that keeps on giving every day. They can get those smells in the shower. Right. Exactly.

 

Emma:

And that's what showering should be about, you know, we all do it. You gotta have just a beautiful soap in there to,   you know, just give you that, that, that few minutes where you can just take in those beautiful, essential oils and stuff. That's lovely.  

 

Felicia:

And we talked a little bit about this already, but I guess it's just specifically asking if there's anything else about customer behaviors changing over time. So,   you talked about your soap, your shampoo bars, sorry.   that people are better educated now and probably buying them more.   are there any other changing attitudes you've seen over time such as the popularity of certain products or changes in what you're bringing out?

 

Emma:

 Yes, I think it is.    yes, I do think it is that whole idea of, of, of soap. And I think there was that initial, you know, when we started out, people were just like, why would you use the bar soap?   And I think that's a lot less of an issue for people these days.      yes, but I think, you know, also our liquid soap,   we had just re-introduced it in the glass bottles we did at one stage, have it in plastic bottles and it just never sat right with our brand and what we were trying to do. And we really wanted to get to that point where we could offer a sustainable option. And I think that, you know, the push was the fact that that's what our customers wanted. They loved our liquid soap. They just like, I just can't buy it. It's in plastic. So,   I think that's awesome that we work, give them that push by our customer base,   to, to come up with more sustainable packaging. That's

 

Felicia:

Good. It's good. When customers tell you what they want. It's

 

Emma:

It’s Exactly that

 

Felicia:

And sometimes, not necessarily how you want to hear it… (!)...

 

Emma:

You've just got to take that feedback and run with it. So,    yes, it makes you a better company for it. It does.  yes, it does.  yes. Oh, that's good.

 

Felicia:

And they look beautiful for those who don't know, there's like lemon, Myrtle face and body wash and eucalyptus face and body wash and avocado and macadamia oilll

 

It's worth talking about where we're recording this in mid July, 2021. And I ask all my guests this as well about COVID.   So because COVID is obviously affecting different businesses in different ways and you're in Melbourne and have had lockdowns and all sorts of things....   what's the biggest challenge of what you faced?  

 

Emma:

 yes,  yes,  yes. I mean, what, it's going on 18 months now?   I think, you know, I think all business owners, they know that time in March [2020] where,    yes, just things just happened so quickly.   For us, we had, in 2019, really focused on trying to take our brand overseas.   We started doing trade shows in North America and, you know, we had won an award in America and we just,  yes,  yes. And we signed a couple of distribution deals, and it just seemed like 2020 was going to be the year for us to just go internationally, which is what we want, you know, it was always kind of like where we wanted to go.   we always saw the brand going overseas.   and so then we signed one of those deals,   early March, 2020, and we had awake,   light in March.

...

We're pretty much,    yes, our two sort of distributed deals fell over.   pretty much it was just, it was on hold. It wasn't that it fell over, but it was on hold.   We also had tens of thousands of dollars worth of PR like purchase orders that were already to go to port, to head over to north America, just canceled because the distribution centers over there in, in north America were closed, had just stepped down. So I know that was quite heartbreaking.   And at the same time, obviously like our, our shops in Melbourne were shut down,   for what we thought was initially only going to be, you know, a few weeks, but ended up really being,   you know, six months of the last year.   and I think at that point it was just like,  yes, that's, is that the end of our business?

 

Emma:

Isn't it like, how, how are we ever going to get out of that hole?    yes, but,   I think for us,   what really saved us was,   at the same time, I think Australians as a whole, we're starting to look at like what they were using and the products that they were using and really starting to, you know,   if not, if they hadn't done before, just more value the,   Australian made,   you know, products and,   luckily us being in that soak space, you know, we did have, it was our Australian customers that saved us really.   and,   you know, so that was great. We just had to go back to basics and just really grow out online,   and just really also go into our product development and, and just start really,   you know, introducing new product ranges that focused on the Australia more Australian ingredients.

 

...and so,  yes,  yes, we've, you know, and it hasn't ended the last six months, like to be honest, have been tough. And I think,   we're not the only business,   to say that,   you know, I think it's,  yes, it has, there's no way it's been a sprint, it's been a real marathon.   

But you know, you've just, I think, being through the experience and, you know, I think it's, it's gonna keep us,   you know, we will go further,   and grow better because we have had to deal with a pretty crazy period,   that could have ended quite badly, but we've been able to steer it through.

 

Felicia:

 

Kudos to you for making it through. And I guess at least you, even though those orders didn't go to North America, at least, I guess being shut down, maybe in production, you know, you had a supply, you had some supply there to sell. 

 

Emma: 

 

Yes, exactly. So  yes, pretty much everything that we thought we had ready to go.   what sold,   you know, domestically. So that's awesome.   and the other thing, too, so we were lucky enough,   at that stage to be,     awarded a government grant and manufacturing grant,   and that then allowed us to spend 2020 building this new manufacturing facility that we brought online in January of this year.   

And that was just a great experience, just being able to up until then, you know, we'd been using machines that were,   you know, off the shelf, but this allowed us to start,   you know, bringing online,   machines that were purpose-built,   you know, taking all those basic concepts that we had in the kitchen,   to the, you know, cutting machines and soap manufacturing machines. And it's it, it was just awesome, actually.  yes. So we've been able to just really improve our production levels a lot, so that's fantastic.

 

Felicia:

 

Good to hear these government grants are going to good businesses like you and actually making a difference.  yes.

 

Emma:

 

 yes. It's it, it's, it's a game changer for us.  yes. 

 

Felicia:

Oh, that's fantastic. Congratulations. 

 

Emma:

 

Thank you.

 

Felicia:

 

So I guess that's the biggest silver lining out of COVID, is it, it, would that say, you know, the strength that, you know, you talked about being a stronger business?

 

Emma:

 

 yes,  yes. It's, it is a silver lining.   You know, I do think like in many ways we were ready,   to our, you know, take our brand overseas.   

But I think, and a lot of product based businesses, I think have similar stories where you can't, you can't build your production until you've got the orders there until you've got the demand. And so you're always kind of like, you know, chasing your tail almost. So you're always just, you're always just trying to, like, there were stages where we were just, you know, working crazy hours just to get orders out and it was all hands on deck and you never were able to have that time to really sit back and go, okay, so what's a better way to be manufacturing our site because it's just like, no, we've just got to be filling orders. 

And constantly now we feel like, you know, we've had that year. It wasn't really what we thought we'd be doing. But now, you know, now that we are getting to the point where we are,   hopefully going to get back on the trajectory of taking a brand overseas, but now we can confidently say we have production down pat.

 

Felicia:

Yes. That's good. I was going to say those orders to North America.

 

Emma:

Exactly.  yes. Mm that's great.

 

Felicia: 

And what's next for The Australian Natural Soap Company?

 

Emma:

So we always, I like product development is my most favorite part of the business. And, you know, over the last year we have focused a lot on product development. 

So next month, we're very excited that we will be launching our Australian Bush range.   

I know I'm so excited. We're like weeks away from it and pretty much it's, it's taking the Australian lists of, you know, like what we're talking about, these essential oils that no one's ever heard of really,   you know, and using them in our soaps. 

So we're starting off with just three soaps,   that have, you know, beautiful ingredients like wattle seed,   lemon, Myrtle leaf, sandalwood bark, and then using essential oils like Roseanne, Lena narrow, Lena Quinsy, and lemon ironbark.   

So  yes, we're, we're,   going to have those as the ingredients. And then we've also just  partnered with the indigenous art ofDaphne Marks from the Ikuntji artists up in the Northern Territory. And she's using some of her artwork on the packaging, which is just beautiful. So, and that's great as well, because then it just means that,   a percentage of every sale goes back back to her. So,  yes, we're very excited about launching that next month.

 

Felicia:

Oh, I'm excited too and I'm sure our listeners are getting excited. So,   as soon as that's out, we'll have to put them up and let people know. That's great.

 

Emma: 

Yes.  We really hope we've always had that difficulty, I suppose, of,   being able to,   you know, usually it's essential oils that no one's ever heard of and also make them popular enough for people to want to buy them.   And so  yes, we think,   by launching them as a range on their own,   and  yes, just being able to use the incredible artwork of Daphne Marks,   is just going to be a really,  yes, we're very excited about it. 

 

Felicia:

We’re really excited about it too, because I know there's a lot of people out there sort of jumping on the Australiana bandwagon. Which is great - look, I think - you know - the more that we see and use and see visual images of our Australian natives, the better. Absolutely…. But,   it's nice to hear you doing it. You're very authentic and you've done all your research into the essential oils,   using a first nation’s artworks. It's just wonderful.   I'm sure that'd be super popular and we might see if we can't get them into our, some of our hampers for Christmas would be good.

 

Emma: 

Yes, yes.  yes.  yes. I just can't wait to finally get, get it all together and see all the  yes. When I can get them.  Definitely.

 

Felicia:

So speaking of which, and I’m sure our listeners want to know, so where can our listeners find out about, more about you and more about your company?

 

Emma: 

Yes - so our website is, www.theaustraliannaturalsoapcompany.com, but if that’s too long to type out, you can typewww.theansc.om and we'll come up.   and  yes, we're, you know,   our range is  stocked in many stores across Australia,   and online stores, including you guys of course.

 

Felicia:

Fantastic. And I saw you in Myer now as well. That's really great. Isn't it?

 

Emma:

Yes, it’s awesome. So we've been there for about a year and a half - and in particular, our gift packs are really, really popular.  

 

Felicia:

Yes. I recommend them too. Our listeners, if you haven't seen them already, the packaging is just lovely and the product's great. And they're really good price point for gifts as well, I think is what's also special about them.

 

Emma:

 yes. We've always tried to,    yes. To make them  yes. Competitive price-wise and I think that thing comes back to, I think there was always that there is that perception that it's cheaper to make things overseas.   but when it comes down to, if you're sourcing all your ingredients from,   from Australia,   you are able to offer that competitive in price. I do think.

 

Felicia:

 yes. And it's the product, isn't it? The unique qualities of Australian items that you're bringing? Absolutely. So before we wrap up, I'd like to do a quick fire round to get to know you personally better if that’s okay.

 

Emma:

Of course. 

 

Felicia:

So we've got five Australiana questions just as a bit of fun.   

The first one being, what's your favorite Australian animal and why?

 

Emma:

The Lyrebird.  I know it's a bit of a, it's probably not what you usually get,   as an answer, but,   I suppose I'm a keen Bush Walker and we'd go hiking a lot,   in Victoria. And,   I just remember being a child and seeing a lyrebird in, you know, in the wild and just, you know, having that incredible moment of, they're just such rare birds to see, I think they stay so quiet - yes theh lyrebird - they're just amazing creatures.

 

Felicia

 yes. It's the lyrebird that does the echoes of....

 

Emma: 

Exactly. It can be a chainsaw, can be a cockatoo, can be everything. So, you know, and even when you're, they're such shy animals, so it, and when you're walking and you can sometimes hear,   if you're lucky enough, you can hear, you know, the strange, you know, whether it's a,   a chainsaw noise or something, and that's going to be the lyrebird. So you're not seeing them, but they're definitely there.

 

Felicia:

Yes. So for those who don't know, the lyrebird just mimics what they hear 

 

Emma:

Yes. I remember David Attenborough doing a whole,    yes, a whole piece on the lyrebird paper. He writes it. That is one of his most amazing animals in the whole world. So  yes, I'm in good company. 

Felicia: Vegemite? Yes or now...

Emma: Yes … but my husband's Canadian, so I have to put it in the corner and he will not touch it. And my daughter as well is taking on the Canadian side of things. He's not a fan of it. YI  know it's always going to be a at the back of my cupboard. 

Felicia:

What was the first Australian concert that you went to?

 

Emma: 

Yes. So I had to think long and hard about this one.   yes.   so I would probably say,   I'm not going to tell you the year, cause I don't show my age, but big day, big day out.   and I think that's probably the best one to say, because it covers off so many incredible Australian artists. 

 

Felicia: So big day out. That's pretty cool. Was is it in Melbourne? Where you in Melbourne?  

 

Emma:

Yes. The Melbourne showgrounds.  Yes. I had to save my pocket money for a very long time to find my tickets.

I think it was one of the first occasions where I was allowed just to go with my friends and not have to have a chaperone

 

Felicia:

.. which if only we knew at the time, it's nice to have shared experiences like that. There's so much choice now though. I wonder if our generation has that kind of, you know, this generation now those shared experiences that you say that, and it's like, oh  yes. You know, everyone sort of thinks about what that means to them. 

 

Emma: 

Yes, exactly, exactly. And hopefully we can, so that starts again, where we can have concerts like that.

 

Felicia: 

 yes. Hopefully, hopefully. And hopefully soon.

 

And then your favorite Australian biscuit?

 

Emma:

 Yes, for sure.   My dad makes his own Anzac biscuits and whenever we're there, my daughter is always, it's one of the first things she says she's two years old and she's like, ‘Anzac biscuits’.

 

Felicia: Chewy or crunchy?

 

Emma: I actually like the chewy ones better. I find the crunchy ones were a little bit too hard on the teeth, but if they're the only ones that are available, of course we'll have the crunchy ones. Yes.

 

Felicia

And then what’s your next bucket list, place to visit in Australia?

 

Emma: 

 yes. So,   I have been, I'm fortunate because in a former life I was a journalist and I used to travel a lot around Australia as video journalist. So I’ve been to, and my husband also works as a remote doctor. So we've been to pretty much all of  Australia.   I would love to get to the Torres Straight at some point. It's the one place that I've never been to.   I remember just, you know,   there would be stories on Thursday Island and I would just think that just looks like the sort of place that I would love to say. And I think, you know, I'd love to learn a bit more about the history and the culture.   Torres Strait Islanders do have their unique culture and,   it's,   it needs to be celebrated and it's also, it looks like a tropical paradise. Yes. And,   by the way,

 

Felicia:

What's interesting your background with, you know, going around Australia and that you have this company now it's obviously got into your bones.

 

Emma:

I think so. And that's also why it's great to now start partnering with,   you know,   Daphne and hopefully more indigenous artists… I remember going to some of these places, you know, Arnheim lands, Matt and greener, and the art centers were just the, you know, the center of these, these,   these communities.   and  yes, it's just,   I love the idea of, again, just being able to,    yes, just to go back to those experiences and,   you know, be able to give back to these communities.

 

Felicia

Fantastic. What a great story. Well, thank you so much, Emma, for coming on the podcast today, it's such a pleasure to have you.

 

Emma:

Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.

 

 

Show Links: 

The Australian Natural Soap Company Website: https://theaustraliannaturalsoapcompany.com.au

The Australian Natural Soap Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/australiannaturalsoapcompany

The Australian Natural Soap Company on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theansc/

The Australian Natural Soap Company on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/theansc/

The Orangutang Project: https://www.orangutan.org.au/