Samantha Molineux is the founder of Lily Loves Pearl, a certified organic skincare business based in the Victorian town of Daylesford, considered Australia’s premier spa region.
As a girl, Molineux would watch her grandmother Janet, affectionately known as Pearl, and her Aunt Lil cook up their own skincare products using nothing but natural ingredients.
While studying naturopathy in her 20s, Molineux became disenchanted by the lack of truly natural products available to consumers, prompting her to start concocting her own creations.
With 34 stores across Australia, Lily Loves Pearl is more than just a pretty name. Molineux talks to StartupSmart about being a 20-something businesswoman in the organic industry.
How did you get into the organic industry?
I was studying at the time to be a naturopath and I was working at Myer in the cosmetics department. Studying natural medicine and selling commercial cosmetics – it gave me a bit of awareness.
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I had customers coming in saying, ‘I want to buy that organic product’ and I was thinking, but it’s not organic.
I found out that there was a real niche – people wanted an organic product but they wanted one that worked but also one that looked good.
What prompted you to start your own business?
I started making it and was just selling it at markets and giving it away to friends, and then friends wanted to actually purchase the product.
It got quite big. It meant that I couldn’t work full-time so I thought it could be really viable.
Originally, I was just making it at home in the kitchen, but making it on your kitchen bench means there’s not a real consistency.
I’d make, for example, a face cream and I’d make it to the same recipe a week later but the consistency was just really different. There’s a real art to temperatures and concocting the product.
That’s when I decided I would need to enlist somebody to help me and that’s when I found a contract manufacturer.
What was that process like?
It was chaotic; it wasn’t easy. I was using the Yellow Pages, just calling people, and nobody wanted to deal with such small numbers.
Also, I was a young – I was maybe 26, 27 – so being taken seriously was an issue. I had people who would say to me, ‘We’ve heard it all before’.
Our first manufacturer that we used – we were really happy with their products; we thought they were great.
I had them tested and there were actually chemicals in them – there was fragrance in them. For me, that’s a big no-no.
Then I was like, maybe I want to be certified organic and go with an actual certifying manufacturer.
That was a big learning curve. We’d invested a lot in samples and formulas, and we just weren’t getting what we wanted.
How did you turn that around?
I called the certifying bodies. Australia Certified Organic is the main body. I contacted them and said, ‘Who do you recommend? Who is reputable in the industry?’