Renée: Being first to market, you opened the gates for competition. Where did this lead to for Aromababy?
Catherine: I guess I became a bit of a vigilante, really wanting to make a genuine difference in this space. That's always been at the heart of the business and I think that's why Aromababy will always be that little bit different.
Aromababy has definitely paved the way for other smaller businesses to emerge and encouraged mums in business, women in business, people pivoting and going in different directions, offering babies skin care. Having bought something new to the market and having it so widely accepted, Aromababy really did create the natural baby category. The biggest competitors to us have been the brands we've opened the gates for. That’s fine, that’s business.
As a result, there are now loads of brands in the market and yet only a very small potential for sales in Australia. Having a limited market forced us to look outside of Australia quite early on.
In the last few months especially, it’s been export that has really helped us, it’s been our saving grace – exporting and having that presence in a variety of markets.
Renée: Speaking of the last few months, how have you had to modify your business to adapt to the current environment that is COVID-19?
Catherine: Given we were a traditional manufacturer, with a core focus on wholesale business, there was not a really solid e-commerce component to our business. And because we were always trying to support the people that were supporting us, which are the retailers, it also meant we weren't overly experienced in e-commerce to the end consumer.
However, because our connection with our customers was always care-focused, we were able to adapt quickly to selling direct to consumers. At Aromababy it is always about how can we solve a problem and how can we support that person or this group or these midwives or whoever it is.
In order to pivot, we have had to come up with different things.
We are doing a lot more in the digital space and finding our Instagram story engagement, for example, has gone up 600 per cent. So there is a way to stay true to your values and still have a heart-centered business, which for me is particularly important in this category. And remain relevant and innovate. I think you can do all of those things and still stay true to your core.
I had a medical appointment a few months ago and I was thinking about social distancing during certain procedures which is impossible. My colleague made me a face mask out of fabric, and then we decided to produce them ourselves locally. So we've been able to add some different elements to what we do.
It's not a medical mask but it's a lovely way of minimising your breathing on to other people, especially health professionals - that's what I really loved about it.
We also have hand sanitiser coming, a pretty simple natural formula using Australian ingredients. Most of the options on offer in the market are highly chemical based, so a more ‘gentle’ offering will be our point of difference.
We didn't just want to do a sanitiser at any cost, we wanted to produce one that aligns with our core beliefs as a brand.