Alanna Quinn, Director of The Ayu, Talks Growing a Business Organically

Alanna Quinn The Ayu 1
The Ayu

For International Women’s Day, POPSUGAR Australia sat down with Aussie women excelling in the ever-evolving business of beauty. We picked up tips, tricks, and the secret to surviving and thriving in business.

Alanna Quinn is the founder and director of The Ayu, a range of hand blended, cruelty free perfume oils, body, and home products inspired by the principles of Ayurveda. Alanna Quinn spoke to POPSUGAR Australia about taking the road less travelled and trusting your gut in business.

POPSUGAR Australia: What was your background before starting in the beauty industry? Was beauty something you always saw yourself doing?

Alanna Quinn: I was always outside burning off energy and such an active kid. Dance was my passion growing up. I was always quite health-conscious and have always had an interest in health, fashion, and beauty. In hindsight, I guess this led me eventually to where I am today. I have a background in fashion, lifestyle PR, and marketing, which I worked in for many years before studying Ayurvedic medicine.

PS: When you see profiles of other entrepreneurs, do you identify with them?

AQ: I’m not sure I do, no. We have grown Ayu really organically; we’ve never had a business plan in place, and we’ve never set ourselves yearly goals. We’ve run our business intuitively, which worked well for us.

PS: Where did the concept for your business come from? 

AQ: My business partner Madeleine introduced me to Ayurvedic medicine years ago and was one of the first students to complete a certified course here in Australia. We both shared a love of India and travelled there together, and my fascination with Ayurvedic medicine grew from there.

I then studied this ancient holistic healthcare system as well, and it was during one of our trips to India that we discovered so many beautiful, traditional perfume distilleries that we decided to start blending our own scents. Scent plays such an important role in Ayurveda and your overall well-being, so we incorporated our learnings into creating scents.

PS: What was the journey from concept to fruition for your business? 

AQ: There were many trials and errors along the way before coming out with our first scent, Souq! We worked with suppliers in India which came with many challenges — from language barriers, time differences, and moments of getting ‘lost in translation’ along the way. Once we both began wearing Souq and getting stopped by strangers in the street, we knew this had to be our first scent. It’s still our best-selling scent today.

I don’t think I’m someone who is naturally confident, but I’m definitely driven, and if I get an idea in my head that I want to achieve, I’ll do anything to get there. Focus on your own path and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

Alanna Quinn, co-founder and director of Ayu

PS: What is your day-to-day like, and how do you work with your business partner?

AQ: Every day is different, which I love. We spend a lot of time on the phone when we’re not in our warehouse working together. We could be out visiting suppliers, working on content and planning out shoots, having meetings with our teams, working on marketing and product development and planning trips to India to see our suppliers. The list is endless, and we are so heavily involved in all aspects of the business.

PS: What have been your proudest moments for you as a founder? 

AQ: We’ve had so many, it’s hard to pinpoint just one. The fact that we get to do what we absolutely love every day is a huge source of pride for me. It doesn’t feel like work at all. There have been so many other proud moments, including collaborating with Indian beauty brand Pahadi Local on a beauty capsule, producing beautiful shoots in India with our creative team, and getting stocked in some of Australia’s leading fashion and beauty stores.

Related: Damn Gina Founder Sumana Jayanth On Haircare as Self-Love and Creating Your Own Beauty Standards

PS: What is the hardest thing about starting and running a business?

AQ: The start is always the hardest, and you just need to trust your gut instinct as there will be so many hurdles along the way, which aren’t a bad thing as they always lead you down the right path in the end. The juggle from working full time in another job to taking the leap over to AYU was pretty stressful… I guess just questioning whether you’re doing the right thing, wondering whether it will work.

There are so many elements to running a business, from accounting, production, packaging, wholesaling, packing, and sending out orders. There’s not a lot of glamour to it. In all honesty, it’s hard work!

PS: People talk about work-life balance in business. Is that something you set a lot of store by?

AQ: I’m personally not sure about the elusive work/life balance — does it actually exist?! If I’m doing too much of one or the other, I always feel guilty.

Related: Is Work-Life Balance Just Another Unrealistic Ideal For Women? This Beauty Founder and CEO Says Yes

PS: How do you look after yourself while running a business? 

AQ: Alone time is my medicine. I like to keep active most days, whether that’s swimming in the ocean, doing yoga, or Pilates. I also love a good massage.

PS: Running a business and backing yourself takes confidence. Is that something you’ve had to work on?

AQ: I don’t think I’m someone who is naturally confident, but I’m definitely driven, and if I get an idea in my head that I want to achieve, I’ll do anything to get there. Focus on your own path and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

PS: If you were talking to a young woman looking to start her own beauty or wellness brand tomorrow, what would your advice be? 

AQ: Trust your gut instinct!

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