Natasha Kaiser Wants First Nations’ Owned Beauty Products on Department Store Shelves
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.
Natasha Kaiser is a proud Aboriginal woman from the Gomeroi tribe of NSW. She founded Wurrumay Collective, a range of luxury handcrafted body, bath and home products Kaiser. Kaiser spoke to POPSUGAR Australia about scaling a business from home, the importance of social media for small brands, and carving out space for First Nations women in the beauty industry.
POPSUGAR Australia: Was beauty something you always saw yourself doing?
Natasha Kaiser: Growing up, it wasn’t something we could afford. It wasn’t until I got my first job at 14 and I had the funds that I bought my first cleanser.
I can’t remember the brand but it was something from the supermarket!
Beauty really wasn’t something I was into until I finished school and was making my own money and could afford to buy skincare. Then, a few years later, I had my babies, and they started developing really bad eczema. Most of the stuff I bought from the supermarket wasn’t working for their skin and I started researching parabens and sulphates, fragrances and dyes. I realised I needed to make something that would work for my kids.
PS: Where did the initial idea for Wurrumay Collective come from?
NK: I joined the airforce when I was 22, service life is a huge commitment, and really hard to balance alongside a small family.
When I had my babies, I had them quite close together. So when I was on maternity leave with my second son, I already had an Instagram page where I was doing my artwork. But I was also seeing their problematic skin, and reconsidering a return to service. I wanted to do something for my kids and myself, so I started experimenting with ingredients and products. That’s how I got into business!
PS: What was the Wurrumay Collective journey from concept to fruition?
NK: I made my first few products and launched. It’s been two years, and the business has grown rapidly.
When I first started, it was friends and family. I definitely owe my success to the Blak community and people in my community sharing my Instagram page and products. I don’t think I would have gotten the traction without it. All of my marketing since I opened has been organic or word of mouth. I’ve done no paid advertising!
Last year someone who followed me on Instagram who works at Sony Music told someone at Sony that they needed to buy my candles. Now Sony is one of my biggest clients. They came on about four months ago and are one of the companies keeping my business open today, which is really cool!
That’s how I’ve reached many of my corporate clients, and I’ve been fortunate!
PS: What’s the hardest thing about running a business day-to-day?
NK: I jumped into this, not knowing anything about business. Two and a half years in, I’ve made many financial mistakes that have cost me time and money.
For example, when I first launched, I was launching bath products and didn’t realise they needed vinyl labels; otherwise, the paper labels would run. It’s the not-knowing that means a lot of doubling back and re-learning.
I’m just now getting some printed offshore so they can be screen printed on, and I just went through and refreshed some of my labels that I created on Canva two and a half years ago and were really outdated. That kind of stuff still gives me grief!
PS: What do you feel the biggest challenges for women in business are in 2023?
NK: Where I come from, we are a matriarchal tribe. I rely on my aunties, my mum, my nan, and other female business owners to back, encourage, and inspire me. Everything I know, have done and learnt is from the women in my life. They are so important in what I do and how I’ve shaped myself.
We’re underrepresented, but we’re not underqualified. Women are over-qualified and amazing. But we’re so often overlooked. Although it’s a family business, I take on most of the day-to-day operations. I’m lucky my husband can help when he gets a chance. He has been asked a few times how’s your business? He’s always very quick to correct the person asking, to let them know it’s mostly me. But it is my business, with my art, my name and my culture, so it is upsetting when you don’t get valued for all that you do. That’s something women face every day.
PS: A lot of people talk about work-life balance. Is that something you set store by?
NK: Work-life balance is really important to me. It’s something I don’t always follow because I am so busy. But, I have two little ones, and I set boundaries between my business and work to ensure I’m present in all areas of my life. It’s easy to preach work-life balance, but it doesn’t always happen. I try to be mindful of myself, my feelings, and my family and make it all flow smoothly.
PS: When you see typical entrepreneur profiles, do they resonate with you?
NS: Yes and no. For me, I come from nothing. So I do work really hard. I’m a big believer that you only get out what you put in. I don’t come from generational wealth where I’ve been handed things that I can go do something and it just happens magically. On the other hand, I’m a wife and a mum, and I try to balance that. But, being a business owner means working hard, working after hours, and that’s okay too.
PS: As a business owner and founder, what are you proudest of?
NK: Being in a space like beauty where, as Aboriginal women and minorities, we are underrepresented.
It’s a saturated market, and the fact that I am becoming well-known in that market for my product is amazing. For me, that’s everything. That and when people tell me they love my products!
PS: What’s next for Wurrumay Collective?
NK: In the last six months, we’ve seen an increase in wholesale and corporate orders, so I now I’m looking at a shopfront or warehouse so I can expand beyond e-commerce. I need a space where I can manufacture, rather than run a business from my home.
I’m also in development with a sub-brand called Wurrumay Skin, which will be my first skincare range. I’m working with a chemist to develop a cleanser, toner, moisturiser, and face oil. I just signed off on the cleanser formula last week!
If I bought a pre-made cleanser and slapped a label on it, it would be much easier. But I’m dipping into my own savings and working with a private chemist so I can decide on what goes into my products because that’s what my customers have loved so far.
I’m excited because I don’t know much about face products, but I know what I like, what’s on trend, and what people want. I’m hoping it will be successful and take up space in a market where Aboriginal-owned and founded skincare lines are underrepresented. Spaces like Myer and Sephora.
I’m also working on a child-friendly range. It’s the whole reason I started the brand, so it’s something I want in the next 12-months!