How a Beauty Editor With 20 Years Experience Found an Important Gap in the Fragrance Space
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.
Nedahl Stelio is an ex-Beauty Editor and founder of Recreation Beauty Bondi Beach, an award-winning clean, sustainable Australian beauty company specialising in perfumes and oils. We spoke to her about her career in business, the everyday challenges for women, and the less-than-glamorous side of the beauty industry.
Popsugar Australia: Were you always obsessed with beauty?
Nedahl Stelio: I was obsessed with beauty when I was growing up. I loved all of it – dressing up, experimenting with makeup, trying crazy hairstyles.
PS: Before you started your business, what was your background?
NS: I did a degree in Communications, then worked as a journalist for 20-odd years. I was a beauty editor, features editor, and deputy editor at Cosmo and then Editor at Cleo, Good Food and the health section at Fairfax.
When I was a beauty editor at Girlfriend magazine, I would sit and talk to the makeup artist on shoots for hours, so I could learn all their tricks. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I’d have my own brand.
PS: Where did the idea for Recreation Beauty come from?
NS: About 14 years ago, I struggled to get pregnant. One of the first things you read is that people who have ditched chemicals in their beauty and home products have more luck conceiving.
Once you start researching what is in those products, it’s very difficult to use them again. I gave away boxes of products and started from scratch with clean beauty. It’s not what got me pregnant. I was doing so many other things at the same time, but I’ve never gone back to using products with toxic chemicals.
Fragrance is one of the worst offenders – up to 3000 chemicals can be classified as ‘parfum’ on the ingredients label. lt was the one product I couldn’t find a beautiful, clean substitute. I stopped using it for years, and I missed it! I thought there should be a beautiful, clean fragrance brand out there. So, I started investigating the idea of creating one. I launched Recreation in Feb 2019.
PS: What was the journey for Recreation Beauty, from concept to fruition?
NS: I did it step by step, very slowly and organically. It took two years of finding the right perfumers to work with, conceptualising the products and the brand, and working with the perfumers to get fragrances I was happy to launch.
I worked with an industrial designer for our custom bottle and a graphic designer for our branding. It was a very long step-by-step process with a lot of heartache and learning along the way, but we got there in the end!
PS: What is the day-to-day of running a beauty business like?
NS: My day can involve everything from product development, packaging design, testing new products, working on marketing projects, and brainstorming creative, which represents the business across all channels. It’s lots of planning, strategy, and my favourite (not!) … logistics. I’m also across all the numbers and keeping things profitable.
PS: What have your proudest moments in business been?
NS: Winning awards! Just as we launched, we won awards for our packaging, and since then, we have won awards for our fragrances which is particularly exciting considering the kinds of brands we are up against.
PS: What is the hardest thing about running a business?
NS: The hardest thing about starting is budgeting and keeping your dreams within your budgetary constraints. We would do so many things if we had limitless resources!
PS: What do you wish you’d anticipated when you got your start in business?
NS: I had a business before this, so I knew what I was getting myself into. It’s a big commitment, and it can be very hard to switch off because it’s your own business, so working a lot of hours is mandatory. But it’s also rewarding because you’re your own boss and there is so much to celebrate when good things happen.
PS: Beauty always looks glamorous from the outside, is that the reality?
NS: There is so much non-glamour! In the beginning, there were a lot of boxes of products to pack and store and move around, it actually kept me fit! Now there’s less of that. Still, there are many things like ensuring the warehouse is organised, the products are stored correctly, and our space is maximised.
PS: When you think of challenges facing women in Business in 2023, what are some examples that immediately spring to mind?
NS: NS: There are still some external people we meet with who only direct questions to my husband, who is my business partner, expecting him to know the answers. It’s me who works in the business full time. I am always gobsmacked by this, and so is he!
PS: What are some difficulties the beauty industry is facing in 2023?
NS: There are a lot of costs that have increased since Covid – freight has almost doubled, and ingredients are more expensive. It’s basically harder to get things.
We’ve worked around this by bringing our manufacturing in-house and saved budget in areas that we weren’t expecting, so we can use those funds to pay for other areas which are more expensive now. So, shifting the budget to accommodate those higher costs has worked for now.
PS: When running a business, work-life balance can be tricky. Is this something you prioritise?
NS: I am a big believer in work-life balance. It’s part of the reason I started my own business. I wanted to be there for my children as they grew up, and I also just wanted to stop working so hard for someone else and start working for me!
That’s not to say I don’t work a lot – I do. But I also drop my kids at school and pick them up a few days a week and am there to help them with homework. If that means I’m working later at night, then that’s ok by me. It’s just maximising your time and making it work for you. We have a great work-life balance policy for staff also.
I make sure I take the time 4-5 mornings a week to work out. The one thing I find hard is switching off, so I try to do that at night at least an hour before sleeping so I can wind down. I also take magnesium at night and do a full, relaxing skincare routine complete with gua sha to really take the stress of the day off.
PS: For leaders, managing people can be the toughest part of the job. What are some lessons you’ve learnt?
NS: Everyone is different and needs a different approach. Some people are great communicators, others are not, and your management style needs to adapt to the type of person you are managing so you can both be happy and get the best out of people.
PS: Would you describe yourself as a naturally confident person, or is it something you’ve had to work on?
NS: I am naturally confident – not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, to be honest! Sometimes I am too confident and take on way too much. But it has served me well with the business. I’m glad I took the leap to leave my comfortable job and start my own business. With all the risks, ups and downs, it’s much more rewarding. It’s not for everyone, but it is great for me. Backing yourself is a matter of working your mindset to believe you can do things. The ones who succeed are the ones who persist and keep going.
PS: If you were talking to a young person looking to start a beauty or wellness brand tomorrow, what would your advice to them be?
NS: Get your numbers right. Don’t leap in without knowing what you’re getting into. Work out costs – be realistic and add at least 20% more – go in with your eyes open. It’s a very crowded market. Work out what your product does that others don’t, and focus on that for your marketing.