Although she calls herself an accidental entrepreneur, there is no doubt that Catherine Cervasio has created a successful company that is loved by so many parents. Thanks to years of dedication from this mum of two, Aromababy has paved the way for organic products used by mums and bubs around the world.
As a firm believer of the Aromababy brand, there was no other choice when choosing products to use on my precious little bub. It simply was a brand that sold itself. Pure, Gentle and Organic are three words that sum up the wonderful products available in the Aromababy range. With proven results of clearing eczema, it simply is a brand that continues to exceed all expectations.
Marking 21 years of success (which definitely had its challenges), I had the privilege to speak with the Catherine about her wonderful brand, raising two children and expanding Aromababy to reach some of the highest profiled people in the world, including Princess Mary and John Travolta.
What makes your products different to other organic products?
AROMABABY was developed as the first brand of its kind in 1994 – the focus was on combining natural and organic ingredients, with research to ensure an eco, eczema-friendly specialised brand for mother and baby.
For the past two decades AROMABABY has continued to forge a path as educators and providers of information to new mothers and midwives alike, helping to empower women around their skincare choices and promote the power of ‘touch’ through the benefits of baby massage.
AROMABABY is still entirely made in Australia and exported around the world as a premium yet affordable brand. Concentrated formulations ensure a little goes a long way with a 250ml bottle of Pure Hair Cleanse, for example, lasting up to 12 months.
Feedback from parents have shown a huge success with sensitive skin, nappy rash and even eczema, especially when using Barrier Balm in conjunction with unscented (essential oil free) Pure Baby Wash, Pure Baby Moisture Cream, Natural Baby Lotion and Mother and Child Oil. It’s been an extremely rewarding twenty plus years.
How did you juggle starting a new business and having young children?
In the early stages I had numerous occasions where I simply wasn’t able to take a phone call from a store buyer because my baby was crying in my arms. I look back and it still makes me smile – the most important thing for me was always being able to build my business around raising a family. At times I did have some help from my husband’s family who lived close by (my parents lived in the country) however this came to an abrupt end at the time my marriage to their son ended. My two boys were then aged 4 and 10 so it was a real challenge. When it became too tough (my divorce and settlement proceedings dragged on through the courts for 3 excruciating years and my ex-husband moved to live overseas) I put the business on hold to ensure my children had a safe and secure environment. Since then, our ‘together’ time has become even more sacred. I limited business travel until the past year or two and even now, I sleep on the plane and hit the ground running to ensure I’m home as much as possible. Even our ‘meals times’ for example, are one of the precious ways to catch up and share as a family. We have a beautiful connection.
Was it hard starting up? Did you have any doubts?
You could say I was an accidental entrepreneur. I was retrenched in my twenties and around the same time, found out we were expecting our first baby. I was really overwhelmed initially – my entire life was turned upside down but as they say, everything happens for a reason and I firmly believe that.
The doubts were to follow. As my business grew and I became a sole parent, the enormous pressure I put on myself around ‘responsibility’ and raising two children on my own was terrifying at times. I just took it one day at a time – I still do when I feel overwhelmed. I love the analogy of only being able to see 50 metres ahead of yourself in the dark – you just keep going, driving another 50 metres and another until you reach your destination.
What is your advice to other mums that want to start their own business?
There are loads of opportunities to start your own business these days. With a booming digital space and eCommerce putting your product/service potentially on a global stage, I always advise protecting IP (intellectual property) from the outset – this includes in countries where you may wish to sell, all social media handles, domain names and even brand names in other languages for example.
Do a heap of research – on your target market, your competitors, your potential competitors, your allies, the buying habits of your consumers and so on. If you’re looking at export, be sure to do all the same for each territory including understanding any possible cultural differences, how will any language effect trade, are there regulatory barriers and so on.
Get a mentor if you can – or at least a person or two you can chat to about business, someone who has done it and can help you avoid some of the pitfalls. It is great to be able to bounce ideas off someone and share experiences.
Most importantly, surround yourself with those who can support you – both emotionally and on a practical level. You don’t need to do it alone. If friends and family offer help (especially if you have a young family) accept it graciously – it is a way of others contributing and people feel great when they reach out.
Is it harder today starting up a new business than when you started?
I believe it is far more competitive today yet easier in some ways to get a business off the ground.
You can do a lot of the start-up phase yourself, there are great networking groups and access to mentors or you can outsource various aspects of your business so you can concentrate on what you’re great at. I’m a mentor on a fabulous website called Top Expert – start-ups can find a mentor for whatever specific area they need and book as little as 1/2 an hour with someone who has many years of experience in a particular field. There are numerous government websites – both State based and on a federal level, where you can browse market information, GDP, insights and cultural information. Check out the export guide here https://www.austrade.gov.au/Australian/Export/guide-to-exporting as a starting point. Even your financial institution will have tips on how to start a business including access to a range of relevant documents such as business plan templates. I never had this kind of access to information and support when I began in 1994 – there truly are so many positives for those wanting to start a business when you look at all the resources available.
What is your favourite product for…
Baby: Barrier Balm – this is like my go-to miracle healer. It’s used on so many different things, customers love it. It has a cult-like following and has been given to Princess Mary, John Travolta, Curtis Stone and a heap of other high-profile parents who’ve all reported back how much they love Aromababy. It’s been used on sunburn, windburn, for nappy rash, on cracked heels, as a lip balm, for breastfeeding mums who don’t want to use a lanolin based product and the list continues.
Mother: Until recently my favourite product for pregnancy/new mother was definitely our organic Stretched to the Limit Body Face Oil however we’ve just launched two gorgeous new products – Motherhood Soothing Bath Salts with Sea Salt and Sandalwood and Exfoliating Body Scrub with Raw Sugar and Grapefruit. These two products are simply heavenly – designed around the products I would make at home as a teenager, these are the perfect gift for mother to be, new mother or anyone who loves the thought of a spa experience in the privacy of their own home. Enriched with organic essential oils they both smell heavenly and include nourishing oils to moisturise the skin.
What can we expect in the next 6-12 months? Any new products or projects you are working on?
We have been expanding in Australia over the past several month, having recently launched in the first (think Sydney at the international terminal) of a dozen duty free stores. We’re also just about to launch our Limited Edition Pure Soy Candle. This is really special as it is dedicated to my two beautiful sons who have been the ongoing inspiration for Aromababy over more than twenty years. It also marks 21 years in business which is something we are really proud of as a family. The candle is quite unique in that it does not contain any perfumes or synthetic fragrance fixers, instead, the aroma has been carefully crafted using pure essential oils including bergamot, patchoui and basil. It is exquisite.
I have been busy running workshops in Asia which is something I love. I hope to bring these to Australia in the near future.
I am also working a several side projects, watch this space!