What you can learn from a Raw & Organic entrepreneur
If you are a lover of all things organic and healthy, you will probably be drawn to Eco Tan and Eco by Sonya products. The branding is clean and the products are making waves online. Yet, what you don’t see when you use a product or admire a brand, is the hard work behind the scenes. The tireless trials, and hills climbed to get a product ‘certified’, on the shelves and in your homes.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the brains, inspiration, heart and soul behind ‘Eco Tan’ – Sonya Driver. Being a completely certified Organic and natural beauty brand deriving products from the earth, I thought for a little relaxed interview and chat, I would follow suit; so back to nature we went.
Set up on our own little nook on the sand – among the beach vines, salty air, crashing waves, with some crackers and hummus. Myself and the other talented ladies behind the scenes were laughing in a matter of seconds, as Sonya’s bubbly nature and infectious laugh lit up the beach brighter than the afternoon sun.
Amongst our chat, I squeezed I some questions I was dying to know, and some questions I know a lot of you out there, whether entrepreneur or not, will be inspired by. Raw and Organic are two words that not only reflect Eco Tan, but also the chat we had with founder, Sonya.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? Something nobody knows or fun facts and/or hobbies
Oh gosh where do I start, I am a Hairdresser by trade and owned my own salon. I started flying for Qantas international as a Flight attendant for many years, I have two beautiful children, two girls and they are my absolute joy. I still haven’t really wanted to call myself an Entrepreneur until about 2 years ago, and that’s when I thought, wow I’m in over my head. I read somewhere that Entrepreneurs will live their lives 5 years like most people would, so they can live the rest of their life like most people can’t. And it’s true, unless you’re prepared to bleed, cry, fight, go to gaol and stand up for it – forget it. It’s really, really agonising. It’s painful to fail every day and be attacked all the time, you really have to be tough.
What drew you into the beauty industry? And what inspired you to go Organic and Vegan?
Definitely hair dressing when I was 19 and had my own salon, and then being a flight attendant, I was obviously interested in beauty. Luckily for me from a young age, I was always in health food stores, I don’t remember a point where I said, “I’m going to be Vegan”, you know I was Vegan before there was even the word, or people really knew what it was and it was “trendy”. I have just naturally always just been surrounded by it, with my mother being vegetarian for over 40 years. You know we were the first kids at school to have wholemeal bread, and wholemeal spaghetti in our bolognaise.
What is your personal favourite Eco Tan or Eco by Sonya Product?
I was actually thinking about this yesterday, you know I do a lot of things for my health. I run for mental health, I love that. It’s very difficult for me to answer because I love them all and use them all, they’re all so unique and different from each other and inspired me in different stages, but at this very moment it would have to be ‘Glory oil’, as its’ just been phenomenal for the scar on my face. And also, my spray tan, they’re my two favourites and two I hold most dear at this moment.
So, the tanning product was where it all started?
Yeah, so my sister had to get a melanoma cut out and she was only 31 and it left a nasty scar. So, I said “Don’t worry, we’ll just get spray tans”, because you know she was terrified of the sun. I started researching the ingredients and even though they told us it was 99% natural, it absolutely was not. And so, I thought, I’ll make my own, and used my hairdressing skills and science that I studied at Tafe and started using my organic samples and different combinations. It’s very expensive and very tricky to make and is probably one of the reasons for 5 years we were the only ‘Certified Organic Tanning’ product in Australia. So, I’m really proud of it, and to look at people now taking note of what they put on their bodies is a great achievement, and it really makes me smile. Looking back, I feel like I was the only one screaming, “read the ingredients”.
How do you balance business, life and being a Mum?
A lot of people ask me this in interviews and I am always truthful. Do not edit this word it is ‘BS’. There is no such thing as balance, and I really think even putting that on myself is just another demand. I don’t actually separate them, you know my work is my life and I want to be happy, joyful and laugh in my work, because it never stops, from social media to replying to customers. Entrepreneur life is not for a lot of people, the thing I’m really bad at and am trying to get better at is less screen time, especially on the weekend. I think we’re all quite addicted to our screens. I want to take more time to stop and smell the roses.
Eco tan has received many awards and has been incredibly successful, what are three keys things you would say attributed to your successful business?
Persistence is definitely a huge one. I see so many of my friends who are incredibly talented but don’t have the persistence. You don’t need to be incredibly talented, brilliant, smart or better than everyone else, what’s going to make you get there is your persistence. Because when I look back there were so many nights I could not sleep thinking “how on earth am I going to pay that bill”, or “how am I going to make this work”, like seriously terrible times. But it was only through persistence, one day at a time. Looking back, I think “wow”, I should have quit then, or I should have quit then… So, persistence is the main one. I also believe in reaping and sowing, so I try and do everything with a really good foundation, it’s never money based. I love giving and helping others, I volunteered in east Timor, went to Romania to help ladies and every week there’s something new, a different charity or paying someone’s Vet bill or sponsoring a project, recently it was the ‘Gratitude Project’, buying school bags and filling them up to send them off to a poor village, or sending formula off to mothers in Romania and giving my time to others. So, main three would be; persistence, having good foundations and being a giver, and just keeping moving forward really.
I also collect exceptional people before they know they’re exceptional – judging people’s character and building my team based on character.
Speaking of moving forward, what can you see for the future of Eco Tan?
So, my real passion is being a philanthropist. I have been dirt poor and I know what it can be like. So, I like to help others and make other people happy when I get a bit of money. To be able to support and lift other people up, you know for example, pay an elderly persons Netflix so they have something to do at home, or pay rent for someone who can’t afford it. And I do all this by the way, I don’t just talk about it haha. So, I love just seeing that and changing people’s lives in any way. I am very passionate about animals too.
And lastly what does “Well-being” mean to you?
Definitely spirit, mind and body. And also, environment, not just where you live but also your friends, there is no point having toxic friends. So, take a look at your inner circle and close circle of friends and what kind of environment it is, are they wishing you well?
Health is definitely a big part of Well-being, I have to exercise to get my stress out and for my mind and spiritually unless I pray and connect. And to me it’s simple, people make Organic too complicated, it’s just “don’t put poison on your body or in your products and don’t put poison on your food”. Keep it Simple!
And laughter, I crave laughter it is just the best medicine. Also, nature as well, the beauty of nature, there is so much healing in nature that we sometimes forget, and I crave all these good things to feed my soul and body. Also, you know giving to others, but being wise and discerning about what you do.
. . .
What a way to kick hardships and adversities in the bum; helping others and the earth by not only your products, but through the by-product of helping others with the money made by them. Safe to say I am well and truly inspired in more ways than one. It is so refreshing to hear a real, truthful and raw side of starting a business and keeping the business up and running through the hard times which a lot of brands and businesses would normally never let you in on, yet it’s effect is truly inspiring. Eco Tan has also recently won “The best global Organic beauty brand’ under the ‘Lux Global Excellence Awards 2017’. As well as launching their newest products the Green Skin Compost mask and Glory Oil, which I have used for the past two weeks and no word of lie can say they are my new favourite face products. Being a minimalist rarely using anything on my skin, these ones will be coming everywhere with me, which is a big deal. In addition to these products, most recently they launched the 3 step super citrus cleanser, acai exfoliator and super fruit hydrator; which I cannot wait to get my hands on to try.
I’d like to say a massive thankyou again Sonya for giving some of your busy time away to come and be so open, honest and generous. You are a beautiful person, and your business ideals, morals and products are a reflection of your spirit, hard work and perseverance.
Photography Amy Pearl