A homely aroma of lemon myrtle filled the air as we made our way up the timber steps to Cedar and Stone’s studio. The scent was reminiscent of summer nights spent camping within the Gold Coast’s hinterland and immediately we noticed a warm glow enveloping the entire light-filled room. Welcomed with smiles stretched wide and a refreshing glass of ginger kombucha (on tap!), we were excited to learn more about these incredible women and their thriving business.
Stocking a wide range of 100% plant based skin care, Cedar and Stone is the product of sisters Kate and Anna as well as long time friend and Manager, Keri. Having launched around four and a half years ago with the goal to create a product that made natural normal – not alternative, for these ladies one email in the early days would lead them on a journey that would change everything. Here we chat with these three inspiring business ladies about launching a business on the Gold Coast and turning it into an international emporium.
How has Cedar and Stone’s brand evolved since you first started?
Kate: It initially started as a hobby where we would sell our things to our friends and at The Village Markets. Then, about three months after we started, we received an email from Urban Outfitters in America and they put in their order shortly after that. So it sort of grew overnight to a company, instead of a hobby. And then in November of 2016, we got some investors on board. So it really started to ramp up then. Keri moved over from New Zealand to help out because it was getting crazy and our brand just kind of evolved from there.
Did having kids influence your business decision?
Kate: That’s why I started studying Natural Therapies – because I wanted to introduce a more natural lifestyle for my kids. Preservatives don’t exist in my house! So kids are really what have made Cedar and Stone exist.
Keri: They’ve really shaped who we are and my kids have bad eczema. Once you take away the processed food and replace it with fresh options, you can see the power of that alone. And that’s why our skincare range has that same power, because it doesn’t use chemicals.
Why did you choose to create plant-based skin care?
Kate: I studied Natural Therapy about six years ago and had started making products for my family. Anna called me one day and said we should start selling my creations. So we did. We had a logo the next day, so there was not much thought. It was literally an overnight process.
Anna: There isn’t an amazing story behind it, like it was an idea given to us by the angels above… But then it’s a good thing because it gives us a blank canvas to create our story on.
What type of people can enjoy your range?
Keri: When we rebranded in January last year, our aim was for natural to be in everyone’s home. To show that natural is normal, and not just a phase. So we’ve created a range that is suited to every demographic. We have a youth, men’s and alchemy range. We thought the alchemy range would just appeal to people like yogis but it’s going really well with a wider demographic. So our products are suited to anyone looking to embrace a natural-normal lifestyle.
Kate: We find that a lot of our customers are repeat customers, so that’s a good sign! And our customer base really does range from 16 year olds to 60 year olds because everybody has some kind of skincare regime.
Keri: Because we do have organic and natural products, we also make a lot of contact through meditation circles and yoga studios or people seeking healthy living. Bouncing off other small businesses too really strengthens that community, because we’re all here to support each other.
What kind of feedback have you received from the locals on the Gold Coast?
Anna: When we used to work at The Village Markets, everyone was so stoked that they could find a product that they trusted, all of the ingredients were there for you to see, there were no hidden nasties and it was quite clear that you weren’t putting anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat. People living a natural lifestyle were so happy to find products that had ‘100% no bad stuff,’ our old motto. The brand grew overseas first so that has drawn locals to our products and has been a big support right from the start.
Keri: Since Cedar and Stone went international early on, our aim this year is to hone in more on the Gold Coast and Australia.
How did you tackle expanding your products to the US?
Kate: Anna is pretty good at hash tagging and stuff like that because she is younger and cool (laughs).
Anna: They (Urban Outfitters) must have been going through hash tags one day and found one which we had used and sent us through an email. Kate called me and was screaming. I thought something had happened with the kids but then I logged in, saw it and thought ‘oh my goodness!’
Kate: We had nine products at the time. Just really basic stuff like oils and other things we were making ourselves. Now we’ve got over sixty products and we still make them all ourselves but the range has grown. So now we have got moisturisers, teas, bath salts, mists, oils… When Urban Outfitters first ordered, we had no idea what the order would be. When the first order came in, I remember adding it up to about 27 grand. We make our products in the thermo mix and all by hand, still to this day. So when this order came through, we were used to selling $50 moisturisers, not huge orders! We had to hire some juniors and that’s still what we do. We just have a couple of staff that come in and help when we get big orders.
Anna: Some advice for other people looking to start a business through the US market would be that it is a massive game and there are going to be hurdles. You might cry five times a day, but you just have to dust yourself off and get back on the horse.
Kate: You have to be willing to negotiate because at the end of the day, if they don’t like what you’re selling, they’re just going to go to the next person. But you also have to keep your integrity high and ensure that there’s something in it for you as well. Some of their guidelines are as thick as a bible!
Keri: And there is a lot of paperwork! But you just have to be prepared for it. Also, when you’re working with bigger businesses, cash flow is a big one. Basically, it’s a three-month process that you wont get paid for. But at the end of three months you think, oh that was worth it!
What might we find your doing when you’re not working?
Kate: Keri and I have sons that surf so everyday without fail we’re at the beach.
Keri: Sport, surf, mums…
How do you like to give support back to other local businesses?
Kate: We do a range of soaps for charity in conjunction with an online store called Nourished Life.
Keri: And we would love to do something else within Australia, so we’re open for people to come to us and put their charities forward because we just want to keep giving back.
Visit their website for more (and to shop!): cedarandstone.com.au
Image credit: Cedar and Stone