A Natural Businesswoman
Catherine Cervasio is a pioneer in the skin care industry. In 1994 she founded Aromababy, the first brand to use natural and organic baby care products.
A Natural Businesswoman
Catherine Cervasio is a pioneer in the skin care industry. In, 1994 she founded Aromababy, the first brand to use natural and organic ingredients for baby care products. She credits her Italian father for instilling in her a strong work ethic, the importance of 'family' and a passion for natural ingredients. Agatha Grimaldi spoke to Catherine about entrepreneurship and the development of Aromababy.
What excites you about business?
The idea of owning and running my own business always brings with it a sense of ‘freedom’ and that excites me. I have the freedom to be creative, to work differently and to think outside the box. I think entrepreneurship today is very different to say twenty years ago. Flexible working arrangements and creative thinking are now not only commonplace, they are actually encouraged.
What is your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
I always advise people to do lots of research around their idea, about the market, the target audience, the geographic region, competitors, and barriers to entry. This might include engaging an Intellectual Property specialist to ensure your trademark(s) and domain names are available and then protected. Before starting out in business, ask yourself some questions. What size do you want your business to be? How will you fund growth? How will you balance personal and business commitments if your idea does flourish?
You need to be resilient, focused, tenacious, patient, disciplined and passionate. You need to love what you do because you may be working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.
How did Aromababy come about?
I started my business by accident. I was retrenched only weeks before Christmas in 1993and newly pregnant with my first baby. I became involved with in baby care products because I was concerned that many commonly used ingredients appeared to be linked to skin irritation and potential health issues. At the time, over 25 years ago, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ were little-known. I searched for products and found there was nothing natural available for babies and definitely nothing I was confident to use on my own baby. I began to experiment with natural and organic ingredients and developed what would become the beginnings of Aromababy.
How did you did you tackle the several skillsets needed in starting a new business?
To be honest, I really fumbled my way through during those early years. I returned to study and completed a Diploma in Aromatherapy and then trained as an Infant Massage Instructor. These two qualifications supported me in running educational workshops, not only in Australia but eventually overseas where we began selling within a few short years. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, it comes through authentically in your conversations. This is why I was able to engage both potential store buyers and new parents. Having some experience in accounts as part of my very first job meant that I was reasonably familiar with managing money. When the time was right, I employed someone to take care of the financial side of the business which freed me up to focus on marketing and product development.
How has your business evolved since you started?
Aromababy was way ahead of its time. There were no other natural baby skincare brands on the market. It was important to educate people and to do this I participated in a number of exhibitions, at both trade and consumer level. This provided the platform to reach more retail buyers and more new parents. Having products on retail shelves in Australia meant that overseas buyers soon came knocking on my door. Our early export markets included Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and UAE.
The sector has certainly come a long way, the market is now over-saturated with choice. To sustain growth, we were forced to focus on export where high value was placed on efficacy and safety. This was a great decision. It has enabled us to continue as a niche brand in Australia, but with some of our overseas stores selling Aromababy for twenty years now.
What are the products you are most proud of?
Our superstar product is the Barrier Balm. This beautiful, unique, natural and organic balm is an all-purpose soother. The base oils used are carefully chosen and create a light barrier to help protect the skin, while the organic actives, including calendula, evening primrose and chamomile, are used in specific percentages and work together to help support skin repair and reduce inflammation.
Similarly, our Stretched to the Limit duo (cream and oil) has been a godsend to thousands of women with stretchmarks (including before and after pregnancy) who were looking for non-petrochemical-based formulations to help moisturise dry, dehydrated and itchy skin. I love both of these products and use them daily.
I’m also a huge fan of our heavenly aromatherapy candle, which is made in Australia using pure essential oils, to commemorate our 25th anniversary.
Is life-work balance possible when you run your own business?
Absolutely! Not only is life-work balance possible, finding that balance is crucial to having the best possible experience across all areas of our lives. There’s no point being in business if you’re not able to structure time to simply take it all in and breathe. In a world where I am surrounded by essential oils and use aromatherapy on a daily basis, it would seem crazy if I didn’t stop and smell the roses.