Influencers & Profiles, Innovation

From kitchen bench to global events: Aussie natural skincare brand ONNE lands investment to expand in the US

Dominic Powell /

ONNE

Carlia Ashton, ONNE founder. Source: Supplied.

If Carlia Ashton had treated her business like her baby, she might have never seen it grow into the United States and beyond.

“I’ve worked really hard and put everything I had in, but if you keep thinking like it’s your baby, you’re never going to grow it,” she tells SmartCompany.

“I always had that mission in mind, to grow the business to the point it can take on investors, which I think is a really important outlook to have.”

And take on investors is exactly what Ashton’s managed to do, with global investor Co Brand Partners taking a cornerstone equity position in her natural beauty and skincare company ONNE.

Launched in 2015, ONNE ticks all the boxes, being an Australian-made, natural, cruelty-free and vegan skincare brand which Ashton founded after living in Dubai and being disappointed with the number of synthetic ingredients in the skincare products she was buying.

The beauty brand equivalent of starting up a business in your garage, Ashton took to her kitchen to play around with all-natural ingredients, trying to find the right mix which would be kindest on her skin.

“I don’t have a science background, so while I was playing around I realised there were some things I couldn’t do myself, so I researched some formulators back in Australia,” she says.

She gave them a simple brief: a 100% natural skincare brand. About a year and a half of development later, ONNE launched, with Ashton managing the brand’s design and aesthetic.

Aussie market perfect for testing

Though the business owner says it was always her intention to see the business grow overseas, her initial few years were focused on the Australian market, which she says is “small, but feedback-heavy”.

“We spent the last two years doing product-to-market testing, and then last year in January we went to the US to exhibit at a tradeshow, and hopefully find a local distributor,” she says.

Ashton ended up finding a distributor, who hooked her up with a US-based sales team and — eventually — her current investors. It’s the first time the company’s taken on capital, and Ashton is excited about the potential it brings.

“It means we now have the capabilities to grow fluidly without having to put a hold on things, so if we land a deal with a large US department store, rather than saying no we can grow to meet the demand,” she says.

“It also helps cover our production costs, as many big retailers make you wait 90 days to be paid, so it helps us fulfil our orders.”

Co Brand Partners managing director Tim Smith said the investment company was keen to help Ashton expand, and praised the founder’s drive and passion.

“As a partner, our job is clear — we need to connect ONNE to our global network of e-comm platforms, social and digital marketing, and industry experts so that ONNE can flourish on the global beauty scene,” Smith said in a statement.

“Initial international feedback has been incredibly strong for this brand, and Co Brand Partners will support a steady and sustainable global rollout, as well as continuing to develop and invest in new natural product formulas to suit the needs of our customers.”

With the sustainability space booming, Ashton says her business is benefiting, with more and more consumers wanting to buy from brands who are sustainably conscious and with progressive philosophies.

“I’m hoping to get a really strong foothold in the US market and have a big impact, be the brand people look for in all-natural skincare, and be part of people’s regimes,” she says.

“If you’re struggling to get your business off the ground, make sure you surround yourself with really positive people. There are times when everything will seem like it’s not working out, and those people will be there to support you and challenge you, and make sure you get a better result.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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