“They asked us for $180K of free product. Here’s why we said NO!”

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Let’s face it, the beauty industry isn’t exactly renowned for best practice when it comes to sustainability and environmental methods. One small business, Raw Kaya Organics, is changing that, with its eco-friendly approach.

Co-founder Ebony Greaves says she and partner Trent Barnes created Raw Kaya in response to their passion as environmentalists and nature lovers. Growing up in far north Queensland Greaves says health, wellbeing, and sustainability have always played a major role in her life.

“My mum was a homeopath, so we grew up eating healthy food from an early age. McDonald’s or fast food was never on the cards for us as kids,” she tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB).

“My brother and I grew up on a lake in Queensland, catching our own fish and freshwater seafood. Even as young kids, we had our own sailing boats and would disappear for entire days on our own – exploring the islands and mangroves, sailing across the lake to the beach, and catching wildlife (snakes, mud crabs, eels, fish, birds, stingrays). Environmental and wildlife conservation, and sustainability was something that was etched into both of our lives from a very young age.”

It was after a trip to the Alaskan wilderness that Greaves says her ‘environmentalist’ passions were tweaked into life.

Sustainability & conservation are at the heart of this Aussie business 

“I remember seeing frozen lakes and rivers, crystal blue glaciers, wildlife in abundance, and natural beauty untouched or unaffected by man. I remember standing under the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), feeling like a small and insignificant human, and thinking to myself how incredibly powerful and resilient nature was.”

It was then Greaves experienced an epiphany.

“I realised if humans continued on the destructive path we were on, this natural wilderness may not be around for our families and future generations to see.”

“We started Raw Kaya Organics as a way to make a difference.” – Ebony

This light bulb moment set Greaves on the first steps of her path as an environmentalist and purveyor of sustainable organic goods.

“We started Raw Kaya Organics as a way to make a difference in the areas that mattered most to us – conservation of the environment and wildlife. We are inspired by helping people to feel beautiful and confident in their own skin, alongside using profits from skincare sales to help fund conservation projects around Australia.

“Both my business partner and I are outdoor environmentalists and spend much of our time camping, hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, snowboarding, sky diving, or sea diving. We both have a passion for the outdoors and preserving its natural beauty long after we all have gone from this earth.”

After discovering the range of pollutants and environmentally toxic products that make up the ingredients of the majority of beauty products, Greaves says she and Trent were inspired to go down the pathway of creating an organic alternative.

“Have you ever read the labels of products we put onto our skin and bodies or use in the shower?” she asks. “It truly makes me cringe the ingredients we put onto our skin or wash down the sink and into our oceans. Organic and natural plant-based ingredients have much less of an environmental impact (little to no impact) than man-made chemicals, and are much less likely to cause adverse skin reactions.”

Whilst a lot of brands pat lip-service to the environment, Raw Kaya wears its credentials with pride.

“Environmental and wildlife conservation came first and foremost to us, followed by an Australian skincare range that allowed us to get involved directly in this cause ourselves. We have a partnership with Conservation Volunteers Australia, where they coach us on environmental and wildlife conservation and allow us to get involved with their projects, spending time with their experts out in the field. We also regularly donate skincare products to the organisation that they use for their own corporate sponsorships and gifts.”

all Raw Kaya products are sustainable & ethically sourced

“Our packaging is made from sustainable bamboo and recycled PET plastic. We also encourage our customers to reuse their empty skincare bottles by turning them into something beautiful for their home.

“In our Green Blog, we have written articles on how to turn empty skincare bottles into a wild bird feeder, miniature herb garden, and hanging flower display. We also write blogs about making your own environmentally friendly cleaning products, reducing the use of plastic around the home, and making your own insect repellant. Every ingredient in our skincare has been ethically sourced by our laboratory and is cruelty-free / vegan-friendly, primarily sourced from Australia. For example, the coffee in our coffee & lychee seed scrub has been sourced from a Byron Bay farm.

As any fledgling business owner understands, finding your pathway to market can be tricky. Greaves says initially they relied heavily on social media but since hiring a PR company to help out with marketing, they have recently found some traction in more mainstream media with Raw Kaya products featuring on TV and in the mainstream press.

While the articles are welcome, they’ve also resulted in an influx of requests for freebies, causing Greaves to take to social media to lament. The post on Like Minded Bitches – a women’s business Facebook group received a massive response.

When I posted that on social media, I really wasn’t expecting the responses I received. It seems I touched a nerve with a lot of other business owners that have experienced the same thing and felt disheartened by it.

“We’ve worked long hours and shed tears (lots of them).” – Ebony 

“Over the past 2 years, we have worked incredibly hard to build a business and brand that we are proud of. We have worked long hours, invested large amounts of money into our business to grow it, shed tears (lots of them) and joy, and rode the emotional rollercoaster that comes with starting your own business (you all know what I’m talking about!). Over the past few years we have been approached by several subscription beauty boxes requesting up to 6,000 bottles of skincare for free in exchange for free “promotion”, and somehow attaching a monetary figure on their free “promotion”. At a full-sized product, that is a cost of approximately $180K to our small business, in exchange for something that is intangible and can’t be measured properly. We have only come across one beauty subscription box recently that was willing to pay for our skincare products to include in their boxes, and we had a really positive experience working with them.

The Facebook post which led us to write this story

“Requesting high amounts of free stock in exchange for intangible measured “promotion”, in my opinion, devalues the hard work that people put into building a successful product or brand. Raw Kaya Organics always tries to support other entrepreneurs by paying for their services or products, because we understand the hard work that goes into building a business. We even pay our wonderful environmental brand ambassador, because it is a partnership that we very much value, and because we understand how hard she has worked to build her own brand,” Greaves says.

In the end, what Greaves hopes people take away with them after engaging with her brand is a shared passion for nature.

“Our motto is “Live for adventure. Do no harm. Be beautiful, naturally”.

To us that means to get outside, experience what nature has to offer, be inspired by the beauty of what you see, do no harm to the environment or to the animals, and feel confident in your own skin. Natural beauty shines above anything else that man can produce or manufacture in a laboratory.”

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Cec is a media professional with over fifteen years experience as an editor on titles as diverse as SX, Better Pictures, Total Rock, fasterlouder, mynikonlife and Fantastic Living. She has spent the past four years working as a news journalist covering all the issues that matter in the political, health and LGBTIQ arena. She is the Senior Writer at Pinstripe Media and a recent convert to the world of small business.

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