Welcome to Episode 34 of the Sustainable Ecommerce Podcast!
I just love chatting to really inspiring entrepreneurs who are just driven by passion and purpose, not just to build a brand, but to make a real impact.
I also think it’s really fascinating chatting to people at all stages of their business journey.
So I hope you’ll forgive me for sounding like a kid in a candy shop when I say that today’s guest is bringing multiple levels of innovation to the beauty industry, is a living ball of passion for her impact inspired by being a breast cancer survivor herself and we get to peak in to her brand literally weeks after she’s opened her online store.
Tania Jolley is the Founder of purpose-driven brand Lashes of Change. She takes us on a journey from the seed of an idea, through personal calamity, fighting an industry supply chain that said it couldn’t be done, to launching Australia’s first refillable beauty brand.
I truly hope you find our discussion as inspiring as I did!
Giles Smith: Tanya Jolly, welcome to the show.
Tania Jolley: Thanks so much for inviting me on!
Giles Smith: Tell us please, Tanya, what's your background and how did you come to start Lashes of Change?
Tania Jolley: I guess at heart I'm a problem solver. I've been an entrepreneur and innovator now for coming on 20 years. I find problems that require better solutions than currently exist.
I got started with Lashes of Change out of frustration. I had been using the same mascara for years. One day I went to the department store and was told that sorry, it’s been discontinued. And I literally looked at her and I said, what am I supposed to do now?
So I had to launch myself into the world of Christian Dior and, and Yves Saint Laurent only to find that I absolutely hated the brush. I was constantly poking myself in the eye while I was trying to put my mascara on because it was so much bigger than what I was used to. I liked the colour, but the brush was terrible. So I tried another one, again quite liked the colour but not the brush. One weekend I was just thinking about the fact that I wanted a great colour and I wanted to be able to pick my brush. I wondered by I can't customize a mascara.
Giles Smith: Right, so you had the idea for customizable mascara. I'm right in thinking that you don't have a beauty products background, right?
Tania Jolley: None whatsoever! I know it sounds strange. I guess in that way, I was the perfect customer. I literally designed this to solve my own problem. It started off simply being, I want to be able to choose the brush. How can I screw a brush in and screw a brush out?
And so when I started getting some 3D modelling with someone here in Adelaide, that concept was just simply the brush. But then, I realised I actually hate throwing all of it away into landfill. And I think you will find that probably 90% of women around the world have literally got a draw full of old mascara because they just can't face to throw them into landfill.
So the idea started to evolve, and then next we started to think about what sort of materials that we can manufacture with.
I always wanted to manufacture with as much recycled plastic as we possibly could, but we started looking at alternative materials as well. And so well over 50% of my mascara is actually aluminium, which is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly materials from a circular economy perspective. Infinitely recyclable.
Giles Smith: I love the origin story because I find it very inspiring. I think most people with good ideas just assume they won’t ever be able to do it. But you’re proof that if you have a great idea, you don’t need to have an industry background.
Tania Jolley: Absolutely. I believe the freshest ideas, the most game changing ideas and disruptive ideas for any industry typically come from people outside of the industry.
I remember when I hopped on a plane to Hong Kong to go to my first beauty expo, I was constantly being told “you can't do that Tanya”. But I knew I could because I was doing it in my bathroom every day! But I knew I wasn’t going to give up.
I lost my dad quite suddenly to bowel cancer. Then only 15 months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of that difficult journey I was able to say, life is short. There's no guarantees, but this is what I really want do.
Giles Smith: You just touched on something very deep there, which I'd like to bring to the surface, which is the whole purpose for the brand. You're solving a really interesting problem and you're doing it in a sustainable way. But the key layer with all this for you that's driving you is this purpose. So can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Tania Jolley: Absolutely. I call it my passion. I started to realize that I had a very, very deep need to have a foundation so that I can create a legacy that will leave our earth a better place. And so I guess my breast cancer journey has led me to that place where I desperately need to see a cure.
I have two beautiful daughters who are highly likely to go through this journey as well if I can't help to find a cure.
And so, I have created Lashes of Love, which is the foundation that we'll channel our profits through to. So our purpose is to be actually raising money for breast cancer research on a very big scale. I only just launched my brand a couple of months ago, but I want to take it global, to grow this so that eventually we can be contributing millions of dollars to research.
Giles Smith: I’m just so excited by all of that. Well, first of all, congratulations on getting through your own personal journey. People like yourself are always so inspiring to talk to who have been through that, had the difficult times, and then not just gone, okay, back life as normal, but actually asked what they can do to make sure no-one else goes through the same thing.
Here you've got a double innovation, haven't you? Not only the customizable brushes so that people don't poke themselves in the eye every time they go to use it. But also, you're bringing the, the refill revolution to beauty in Australia.
Tania Jolley: It also goes to celebrate diversity. From a cultural or a genetic perspective, we’re all different. All different ethnicities have different eye shape and skin tone. But at the moment, you've got these corporations producing literally millions and millions of pieces of mascara, sending them out to all ends of the earth and hope that the same formula and same brush work for everyone.
Giles Smith: Mass customization is a massively underused strategy. Not only is it good for the consumer because they can get exactly what it is that they want, but it's really very clever and it's a good solution for over production. It's actually fundamental thinking, isn't it, for solving some of the sustainability crises we're in.
Tania Jolley: The other thing is that 85% of my production is never going to expire. For example the aluminium casing, because we make and keep that separately to the masacar that will expire, it never needs to get wasted. It also means that because we make up every item to order, when it comes to doing refills, that’s easy for us!
Giles Smith: It's another great example of where sustainable thinking applied to products can actually make it less expensive. What has the process of bring this product into being looked like for you?
Tania Jolley: It was messy! I got my first 3D model done through somebody at University of Adelaide, but I need I needed to find an engineering firm to make it. I had two or three attempts at that, and it just didn't work. Eventually I ended up at a beauty expo in Hong Kong. I was just really fortunate that on day one I stumbled across this rather small booth, but the people there were really enthusiastic and were one of the few factories who could manufacture in both plastics and aluminium.
With all of my research done here in Australia, I couldn't find anybody that could do the dual manufacturing.
So it was at the beginning of 2020 that I was to get an agreement going with particular company. COVID struck. I wasn't able to go and travel and see them. So we started the very tedious process of engineering this online. They were the ones that introduced me then to a formula partner.
I wasn't willing to compromise on anything. I wanted the best of everything and the best of design, but also the best of product. I saw it very much similar to the wine industry. You know, you buy your first bottle of wine cause you love the label, but your second bottle of wine, you buy it cause of what's in it.
Now I feel so incredibly proud of what we've been able to pull together. There's always a team of people, I have just been incredibly privileged to work with seriously great people in the industry to be able to get it all going.
Giles Smith: So you're manufacturing over in China and then warehousing here in Australia?
Tania Jolley: In Adelaide, yeah. The casing and all that stuff is done in China. But then the mascara is filled in Italy, and then it gets sent to Australia to assemble it. Because we’re able to do that we don’t have to have all this horrible, disgusting plastic packaging.
Giles Smith: You've got your purpose and then you've got the amazing product that you've built. How do the two things serve each other?
Tania Jolley: So I think one of the other things that I think is really broken is the way that we look at philanthropy. I think we're all becoming very cynical. Someone knocks on your door or they ask you for money. We're becoming very, very cynical about how much of that money actually ends up going to the purpose we're being sold on. But I think there's also a lot of philanthropic washing, to be perfectly honest.
You know, there are a lot of brands that are starting to go, oh, we'll, we'll plant a tree, or we'll donate $1 from every product sold. A dollar is really not gonna move the needle much for anybody, anywhere.
That's why we want to be putting 25 percent of our profits, which is a really significant part, um, of our profitability. I'm hoping that I'm gonna be able to make the model work.
It’s my big dream, I guess, to see out of every purchase that we make in our daily consumer lives, that some part of that ends up going through to the philanthropic system in different industry sectors.
Giles Smith: There’s been a lot of talk about Who Gives a Crap donating 10 million dollars, which is massive, no question. The problem is that it's kind of downstream. That all happened in the last 2 years, and in the many years before that, they donated 2% of that. Because they hadn't been profitable yet. Because they were growing.
But when we build the economic driver for the purpose into the business model so that we know with every item or with every purchase something actually tangibly happens, not only does that mean that our brands are impactful from day one, but it also means that the consumer can understand directly how their purchase is going to influence something.
What's next for Lashes of Change? You just launched eight weeks ago. Where do you see this going over the next 12 months?
Tania Jolley: I want get it out to as many people as possible. If you need a new mascara or you've got a wife, daughter, sister, please share my, my story.
I am starting to look for influences and brand ambassadors. So we've just got our first couple. We are looking to start doing some stuff on TikTok and getting our message out to the American market. I'd like to be able to take it global as soon as possible, so whether that's 12 months, two years, three years. I think only time will tell.
I think every single one of us can approach the day in a more positive and better way if we feel good about ourselves. And for some of us, that's just simply about being able to throw on mascara and a little of lipstick and go and face world a little bit more confidently.
Giles Smith: Well, thank you so much for your very kind time! Congratulations on everything! I'm so excited to see where this goes.
Tania Jolley: Thank you so much for having me and, and thanks for seeing the special bits about us, and being curious enough to invite me on.
- My first takeout is that Tania and Lashes of Change are living proof that if you have a really good idea for how something can be made better, it doesn’t matter if you’re not an industry insider, in fact it probably means your product will end up better. Sure, there are things you’ll need to know, and it sure helps having contacts, but all that can be learned along the way. Real innovation comes from thinking about things differently, and that’s much harder to do when you’re surrounded by the status quo.
- Tania’s story is a lesson in resilience if ever I’ve heard one, both professionally and personally, and I just have enormous respect for that. Despite being told no, that can’t be done, despite trying and failing with multiple partners to get the idea off the ground, she didn’t give up. No doubt her motivation was being fuelled by the passion to make a difference and help find a cure for breast cancer, but regardless, she didn’t give up and now she has a ground breaking brand in the world.
- Lastly, I agree with Tania, and those of you who’ve been to one of my masterclasses will know, our idea of philanthropy is broken, and the new model for purpose-driven organisation is the best route forward. Tania is remarkable in that she’s set up a charitable foundation called the Lashes of Love foundation and 25% of all profits from Lashes of Change will go into it, all going towards Cancer research. But I don’t fully agree with Tania on the notion of order based donations being purpose-washing. Definitely there are big brands out there with deep margins who could be doing more, but I would rather see many thousands of SME brands slicing off a tangible and transparent chunk of every sale towards impact than a few huge brands promising to make donations out of profit at the end of the year. Regardless, I hope you found Tania’s story super inspiring!
If you’re sick of poking yourself in the eye with mascara, or sick of chucking empty containers in landfill, go check them out at lashesofchange.com!
I’ll be back next week with more stories from the world of Sustainable Ecommerce, so until then, keep building your brand for a healthier planet!