How a little known Tassie oil has spawned a million dollar business

- February 7, 2020 4 MIN READ

Discover how a mother-son duo leveraged the health benefits of an obscure natural oil to create a booming business with 200%+ year on year sales growth.

Hayden and Michelle Brass knew they were on to a good thing when they were first exposed to kunzea oil 10 years ago. Michelle said it was while they were working at the local markets in Tasmania, where they used to live, selling a full range of their own essential oils.

“Local Tasmanians kept asking for one specific oil we hadn’t heard of. We did some digging and discovered over 20 years of research on the Kunzea species and the components within the oil,” Michelle, now Gold Coast-based, explained.

Hayden said, “This got us excited and we couldn’t believe what we learnt and that nobody was using it commercially. So, as a family project, we started testing, investing, promoting and learning about Kunzea oil. Mum started to use it in her naturopathic clinic on clients with various chronic conditions. The customer feedback and results we started to see were remarkable.”

In 2016, Hayden said he “went all in” and turned the family project into a scalable business. “We started Zea Relief featuring Kunzea oil in a small collection of products.”

Since then, Zea Relief has already processed over 10,000 orders. “Last year was a great year for us. We did our first $150,000 month, we did three times the predicted growth, reached over 10,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook and were the recipients of a $100,000 grant by the Queensland Government as part of the Ignite Ideas Fund, which is a highly competitive grant.”

These noteworthy achievements Hayden said are a result of knowing their target market, conducting extensive research into the pain management market and having a clear competitive advantage.

“The years of research into the Kunzea species and the components within the oil, together with the constant testing and trialling in our own naturopath and massage clinic, led us to work with an incredible formulator who helped us nail the exact formulation for arthritis and the pain management market. It’s high quality, 100% natural, Australian-made, cruelty-free, chemical-free and skin-friendly,” he said.

A natural treasure, Hayden also added Kunzea has the potential to be Australia’s equivalent to Manuka in New Zealand.

“The biggest innovation to shape our business really comes down to the actual formulation of the Zea Relief products themselves. We have developed the first topical pain relief product to contain kunzea as the key active ingredient to be listed as a ‘therapeutic good’ in Australia.”

Which Michelle adds makes their brand innovative and unique. “The Kunzea Cream was launched to the public in January 2018 and since then we have received over 500+ 5-star reviews for this product alone and sold over 10,000 units. We cannot keep up with the demand! We’re manufacturing our largest order so far in February – double our usual quantities – as currently, we are selling quicker than we can supply.

“Our research indicates people are willing to try an active, natural alternative; and Kunzea has a safer organic composition than most active ingredients used in natural pain relief products (such as eucalyptus, peppermint, menthol). This means that even customers with sensitive skin often use our products without having an adverse reaction.

“We knew early on we were on to a good thing!” Michelle stated.  

Michelle and her young entrepreneur son Hayden, 27, weren’t the only ones to recognise Zea Relief’s potential. Last year, they reached 1,500+ five star reviews via their website and some well-deserving recognition. Zea Relief was also a finalist in the 2019 My Business Awards, Young Business Leader of the Year (Less than 10 employees), B2C Services Business of the Year and Retail Business of the Year.

“The Ignite Ideas Fund acknowledged Zea Relief as a real competitor in the Australian and global markets. This is a huge kudos for us as this was a very competitive grant that required a lot of detail, planning, forethought and proven success just to get through the initial application process,” Hayden said.

“The funding will assist in commercialisation to scale the Zea Relief products in the Australian market, develop a hiring process for building a team and conduct research for future global expansion.” And with such recognition, Hayden said they are even more motivated to ensure the company operates with well-planned processes rather than an ad-hoc approach of previous years. 

“Our business has been very much “go with the flow” to date, but as we grow, we are putting more processes in place to make our approach more planned and predictable. We’re making 2020 the year of structure and proactiveness for us. We’ve spent a lot of time creating solid systems and structures to support us for the future.”

As Zea Relief is essentially virtual with team members located all down the east coast of Australia, from Tasmania to Brisbane, Hayden said they rely on a mix of software and processes to help them work as effectively as possible. “We use a range of digital products from Asana, Shopify, Xero, Canva and more to operate remotely while keeping overheads down.”

So what are the short and long-term goals for this family-run and operated business? “We plan on launching nine new products including a large pump bottle version of our popular 100gm cream and much-anticipated kunzea honey. In 2020, we’re aiming to hit $2M turnover, redesign all existing products for consistency and a fresher look, improve and expand wholesale offerings, hire an operations manager and start exporting internationally especially Asia and USA,” he added.

“Since July 2016, we have increased our sales 200%+ year on year, and have no plans of slowing down anytime soon. What started as a family project, has grown and is now positioned to scale into a globally recognised brand. It’s my mission to positively impact the lives of 1M people globally before my 30th birthday with our Zea Relief products,” Hayden concluded.

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