Entrepreneurs

How this husband and wife team created No Pong, a flourishing natural deodorant brand

Tarla Lambert /

No Pong Melanie McVean Chris Caley

Melanie McVean and Chris Caley. Source: Women's Agenda.

In today’s health and beauty market, natural products are prolific. There’s a huge appetite for safer skin and hair alternatives, but let’s be honest, not many of them work.

So when husband and wife team Melanie McVean and Chris Caley cracked the code for a durable, long-wearing, natural deodorant (that actually smelt good) they knew they’d hit the wicket. Since 2015, their business No Pong has grown 76% per quarter and is sold globally in over 200 online and offline retailers.

We catch up with McVean to discuss the business’s success to date, what it’s like to run an enterprise with her husband and how No Pong has accelerated her advocacy for women’s health and working with women in developing countries.

Tell us how you and Chris came up with the concept of No Pong?

I had been making a previous version of No Pong for about a year before we decided to start No Pong. It all started when Chris and I were away on a surfing trip in Java. He had run out of his regular deodorant and started using my homemade one. He had worn the same t-shirt for 3 days and still didn’t smell … that was when we knew we were onto something and No Pong was born!

Why is a product like this important?

This may sound counterintuitive from us, but the jury is actually out on whether the ingredients in traditional deodorants are safe or not. But why use them if you don’t have to?

No Pong is an extremely effective, natural deodorant and works better than many traditional deodorants, so it provides a great alternative for those who want it!

What’s been the business’s biggest achievement to date?

As a small, but fast-growing business, I think the fact that we’re about to have our third Birthday and we’re still growing is a great achievement! We have a great, all-natural, effective product and focusing on that and prioritising our wonderful customers and their experiences are our highest priorities.

How does the average day play out for you?

I actually have a mixed day, as I also work as a midwifery consultant.

An average day always begins with a run or circuit workout and then I spend a few hours catching up on the business.

I am fortunate to have been able to spend lots of time working to help educate local midwives in developing countries, as one of my visions as a midwife is to help reduce maternal and foetal mortality through education. Depending where I am, I then go into the hospital, and help train and educate local midwives.

In the evening I’m catching up again on the business, so it’s a full day wearing some very different hats, but they are both very fulfilling in different ways.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Our customers are our biggest source of inspiration. We get daily messages from them about how No Pong has changed their lives! Who would have thought that starting a natural deodorant company could really help make people’s lives better? Our customers give us great feedback and continue to support us along the way.

How do you stay motivated?

Our customers help keep us motivated! Their daily messages and comments on our posts are truly what keep us going.

How would your friends and family describe you?

I think I’d be described as “calm and confident” in my work life. I work hard to have a good balance in my life and am constantly learning.

Have you encountered any challenges working with your husband?

There are positives and negatives about working with my husband, but mostly positives. With an online business, it never really sleeps so it can be hard to not let it take over. Chris and I are a great team though, so it has been fun and we also ensure we take time just for us.

Were you fearful or apprehensive starting No Pong? If so, how did you overcome this?

I was apprehensive to start No Pong for sure! Chris used to work with startups, so we would see on a regular basis how many fail.

With his technical and marketing skills, Chris was confident and we were prepared to stop it if it didn’t work. Now, here we are … almost 3 years in and there’s no more apprehension! But like many small Australian businesses, we’re constantly looking ahead to stay ahead of the curve.

What are your short-term and long-term goals for the business?

Our short-term and long-term goals involve building on our focus on customers, and bringing more innovation to the table.  We were the first ever deodorant to offer a convenient Monthly Club, and we’ve always put our customers first, as without them, there is no No Pong! We are working on creating something new, so watch this space.

What key attributes make a great leader?

Leadership implies there are followers, and they are the most important people in this dynamic.

One of the main key attributes to being a great leader is the ability to listen. This enables you to develop a vision that will benefit the people, and together you can bring this vision to life. We have a few things up our sleeves inspired by our wonderful customers, so we’re creating the time and space to bring some of those things to life right now.

We understand you have an interest and advocacy for women’s health. Can you explain this more? How does No Pong accelerate your pursuits?

I am actually also a registered midwife in several countries as well as Australia. I’m also an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant. My interest in women’s health is largely focused on reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in developing countries through education and mentoring, as well as advocating a holistically healthy lifestyle for women, pre, during and after pregnancy. Women’s bodies are amazing!

No Pong has made this possible as it gives Chris and I more flexibility to spend time working in remote locations so I can focus on this vision, but we can also continue to run and grow the business.

What advice would you give to other emerging female entrepreneurs?

The most important start to a new business is to test the market first and make sure you’re creating something that people actually want. If you have an amazing product and people want and need it, then go for it!

It is amazing the freedom it can give you, but you also may want to read Tim Ferris’ The 4 hour Workweek.  It’s an oldie but a goodie, as there are lots of tips in there to ensure you maintain a balanced lifestyle, while being as effective as possible across all of your pursuits.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

NOW READ: How these husband and wife teams make it work

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Tarla Lambert

Tarla Lambert is the publisher for Women's Agenda. She's a politics junkie, content marketing specialist, wine drinker, rugby league watcher and fierce advocate for equality.

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