Interested in knowing how Australian business owners navigate their way through the winding paths of natural skincare and Beauty? The first in a series of blogs with our stockists, we introduce you to Liv, Oak & Eve Beauty's Founder and a proud partner of ours. Liv unravels her story, how she started, the hurdles, the triumphs and the people who made it all possible.
What first inspired you to become a beauty therapist?
It's funny; I actually had no desire to become a beauty therapist when entering this industry. I actually started out in makeup, fell in love with all things creative and threw myself into the makeup world. As time went on, I realised how little I knew about skin as a makeup artist, leading me to where I am today. When I started out, we were coming through the Kim Kardashian phase of thick everything. Heavy makeup, heavy brows, thick eyelashes, arrrgh yuck! Now it's so different. The glow and texture of natural skin is so much better. But it just shows you how much more you need to know about skin to really understand makeup. Without good skin, makeup just makes things worse.
How did you get into the beauty/skincare industry?
Makeup was my first love! I started out at a makeup college in Sydney and went on to work in retail for MAC Cosmetics until I built my skills and confidence. Then, with some fear and a lot of courage, I started my own business, freelancing. Before I knew it, I was working on big photoshoots for brands like Harper's BAZAAR and Vogue. I also got behind the scenes for TV shows like The Voice and Australia's Next Top Model, where I was in a team of makeup artists and doing my own work too. It was incredible. I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Fast forward a few years, and I longed for co-workers and normality in my life. The commercial makeup world is like a job interview every day and always with different people. I loved it, but it can also be very lonely. So I did a lash course and started studying Beauty, and it has become what it is now.
I had a salon from home for about two years. When I ran out of appointments and ran out of days, I knew it was time to build a team. It was the best decision I've made for the business. Countless hours have gone into developing and growing Oak & Eve Beauty, and it's been worth every second.
What was your brand vision when you began planning to open your own Oak & Eve Beauty?
The most significant part of what I wanted the brand to represent was something you wouldn't traditionally see in lash and brow dominant salons. Usually, you would walk past salons in shopping centres that were fast-paced, in and out all the time. I needed to relax and enjoy the process as a therapist, and I wanted the same experience for our clients. So to do that, we wanted to capture a coastal/Byron Bay vibe mixed with the quirks of personal touches. When we introduced our skin treatments in Feb 2020, it was seamless since we had already created the relaxing vibe we wanted to carry through. That was September 2019. Come February 2021, our neighbours vacated, and we had the opportunity to grow and open our spa. It has become a continuation of the brand without even having to try.
Why did you choose organicspa as your natural skincare partner?
A few things led me to organicspa. Definitely the clean beauty aspect and the fact that it celebrates Australian ingredients in products made here in Australia. That's something very important to me.
Then came the price point, so affordable and great value for the quality of the product when compared to other ranges. And what has kept it moving is the support of our amazing Account Manager, Natalie, who has a wealth of knowledge and is a great sounding board when you need someone to run ideas by. When we started offering facial treatments and skincare in the salon, we had around four weeks before the COVID shutdowns hit us. Even then, Natalie helped us through regular check-ins, information, and so much support.
Tell us how you resonate with our brand values, such as:
- truth within labelling
- Australian owned, and Australian made
- Cruelty free
- Salon-professional skincare with real results
Absolutely. Truth within labelling is so important to us. We strive to deliver down to earth, easy to understand and useful info for our clients both in-salon and through our social media channels. These values are in line with our ethos. I think people are so desensitised when it comes to marketing, and there are so many mixed messages out there. So why not just say it how it is? That way, we are all on the same page and conscious of our choices.
Chemical-free is a no brainer. With all the technology and information out there, why use such harmful ingredients when there are effective natural options? We expose ourselves to enough chemicals daily through pollution and cleaning products; why put them on our skin too?
What is your favourite organicspa product and treatment, and why?
That's a tricky one because my favourites change all the time, but my go-to, never-fails product would have to be the cream cleanser. I've never tried a product like it before. And the results speak for themselves. Our clients' skin is fresh and smooth without any irritation or redness. It's like the pick me up you never knew you needed, but once you know, you can't go back!
For a treatment, I'm a sucker for the multi detox treatment. Having a breakout-prone skin type my whole life, it's so nice to have a treatment that doesn't feel like it's just stripping everything from your skin. Instead, the nourishing and soothing ingredients create a soft feeling that really makes your skin feel so much better without compromising a deep detox for congested skin types.
When clients leave the treatment room, and daylight hits their skin, it's incredible seeing them realise their skin is calmer and fresher rather than scrubbed and squeezed. And I think that really is consistent across the brand. It's skinCARE. Not just as strong as you can handle, strip it down and suck it out range. It's really caring for your skin without compromising great results.
Can you share a moment where you wowed a client with us?
We recently had a client come in for a series of LED facials after a super sensitive period with angry, deep breakouts and lots of congestion. She has been using organicspa at home, and we use them in the LED treatment too. The difference in her skin from December to now is incredible. It's smoother, her breakouts are gone, and her skin is glowing. Needless to say, she is a convert, and her next round of treatments are multi detox to pull those last few impurities and onto age vita to pump up the glow and healing. Once the skin barrier is 100%, I think she is going to love an AHA peel.
Looking at her progress makes you realise that we are really helping people, not just selling a gimmick. It's that boost in confidence for our clients that we love to celebrate above all else.
What do clients want the most from you?
Honest advice in everyday language. It's crazy how many clients we see who just need some help. Once we start a conversation and get to know them better, we open up doors to really get to the bottom of their concerns. We aim to treat every client like our friends. Make them feel welcome, do everything we can for them and always come from honesty first. I really believe that is what sets us apart from our local competitors. It's the care factor above all else.
How do you find staff, and how do you keep them happy?
Like anything, I think recommendations and word of mouth is such a great way to get to know if you're on the right track or not. We like to hire from staff or client recommendations as much as possible, or we look for applicants who have taken the time and effort to either pop in or contact us in a way that makes it known they would like to work with us rather than a "to whom it may concern". It shows that an extra level of care is there.
To keep the team happy, I think it comes down to the leadership of the salon. If you are happy, treat your team with respect and really take the time to involve them, it will show them you care. I'm totally in love with my team, and I try to show that to them as much as possible. I owe the success of the business to them.
Without my team, I wouldn't have the business I have today. I'm planning an epic team incentive for 2022 to thank them for all their hard work and get them even more involved in the business. Something that makes a difference for me is to really show them the basics of the business. It helps them understand why decisions are made or why something might have to wait. Rather than just saying yes or no, showing them the WHY does help get their brains thinking like they have a stake in the business too. The transparency that comes with that helps us maintain and achieve our goals.
Who can't you do without on the Oak & Eve journey?
My girls. Each of them for totally different reasons, but each of them has me excited to get to work each day, and they push me to be better. I know it's a cliche, but I can't do it without them. I suppose I should also mention my husband! He is my rock and supports me even in the crazy moments when I want to open a second site or expand during a pandemic. He keeps me grounded without crushing my dreams. And my parents, of course, they have been there every step of the way.
How has your local community supported Oak & Eve?
We are so lucky to live in a close-knit township that really values the local businesses and initiatives it holds. During COVID lockdown, our community got us through. Between the messages of support and online skincare sales, we have come back stronger and offer more to them. Many of our clients live within walking distance, and it's been so lovely to really feel like a part of the community.
Who are your biggest cheerleaders?
I think I am! It might sound silly, but I don't think others will buy into your goals if you can't cheer yourself on. I am always thinking I can do it all and trying to make the impossible happen. But my family and my team are there cheering on any ideas and looking back to celebrate the progress we have made in the short time we have been open. And our business support, be it Nat, who always shares her knowledge and ideas, or Jodie Rasmus, who was my coach for a long time and Olivia Jenkins, my business consultant. She has totally turned about my online presence and understanding of the behind the scenes.
What challenges did you first overcome?
Ahh… No money. Starting the salon on next to nothing. It was a struggle, and at times I was so concerned we wouldn't make it, but somehow we did. I don't know how really, but lots of grit and late nights got the hustle going, and we turned a corner.
What challenges do you continue to face?
The biggest challenge for us now is as we expand, keeping consistency in check. So you really get the same quality experience if you're here for a quick spray tan or a series of skin treatments, and regardless of who you see. We are a team of eight now, and coming from just two when we opened 18 months ago, it's been a whirlwind to get to where we are now. Our focus has changed from fast Beauty like eyelash extensions and brows to skin treatments and relaxation. It's something that has taken a lot of time and focus on getting it right.
What personal goals/responsibilities have you had to put aside to focus on your business/career?
A social life, lots of sleep… but that's typical of any business owner or career-driven person. It really hasn't been a sacrifice if you are headed in the direction you want and creating the life you want to lead. I think the idea of a work/life balance is completely different if you are driven and passionate. You don't mind missing drinks at the pub or heading to the movies if you know those few hours are going to make a difference to your next six, 12, 24 months of life.
More recently, I've taken a step back, and I'm almost completely off appointments myself, which is like giving a big part of my life up. It's become clearer that the business itself needs me more behind the scenes if I'm to keep it growing. The running of the business deserves more than my attention at the end of the day after appointments, and trying to juggle it between clients isn't good for anyone. That was a hard one. But I'm blessed with amazing teammates who have maintained everything without stressing the clients or team. It's really been easier than I thought. I just miss the chats and catching up with everyone.
Who has been there to support you along the way?
My husband and my parents. I can remember Mum and Dad helping me design my first business card when I started out in makeup back in 2008. Or even before that, my Dad helped me set up a subscription business that piggybacked off his; I think I was about 10 years old then. And when Matt came along. I think I scared him with all the ideas, but the three of them have been there every step of the way. Even if they didn't 100% agree, they were always there for support and advice. From promotional ideas, proofreading, helping me paint the salon or coming shopping with me and realising nothing fit in my car even though I swore it would. It's been them, always. I'll always be grateful for them.
Did you have any guidance from your local community?
Not in a formal sense, but I like to connect with other business owners. It doesn't matter if they own a pub, run a digital agency, or are social media personalities; I think we can learn a lot from businesses who aren't in our industry as much as we can from those who are. It would be silly to think that someone who owns a building business doesn't have struggles as we do or that their wins and losses can't be a lesson or inspiration for us as well. And the sense of community that comes with that is pretty special because it can be lonely sometimes running a business. I love hearing businesses achieve success from months and years of damn hard work and determination. It's inspiring, and I love to celebrate that.