Starting a business that's an Australian first is always going to be thrilling, ambitious and at times a bit terrifying, but that's exactly what Tessa Albrecht did. Founding Australia's first Fairtrade certified skincare brand Humanité based on ingredients sourced from developing countries. The first range alone gave 5,000 women from Burkina Faso, West Africa a reliable and sustainable income.
We sat down with Tessa to chat about the drive behind starting Humanité and to get her tips on how to create a great marketing aesthetic.
How did the idea form to create a business?
Creating a business is my way of driving change in the world. Humanité is a culmination of my background and a passion for skincare.I would often pass time researching natural ingredients for my own formulations.
I discovered that many ingredients – like shea butter and cocoa butter - come from producers in developing countries who struggle to make a living from their harvest. This led me to Fairtrade as an opportunity for more inclusive trade.
Did you have previous experience in the beauty industry?
None, just a zealous passion for skincare and economic development that collided serendipitously! I think that being outside the industry has given me a unique perspective and the opportunity to see what’s ripe for disruption.
A few years ago, I was selected as the Australian ambassador to the One Young World Summit, a forum bringing together young leaders to solve global development challenges. I remember hearing Muhummad Yunus (founder of Grameen Bank and a Noble Peace Prize winner) convey to the audience that he was only able to start a bank for the poor because he had never worked in a bank and could see beyond its limitations. This inspired me when it came to my venture.
What was the first product you made?
Our first range comprises your daily essentials for radiant skin. We launched with a facial moisturiser, hand balm and body moisturiser. Our products are named after the map coordinates of where they’re sourced.
You have a fantastic marketing aesthetic, how did you formulate this?
Our marketing aesthetic is designed to connect the dots, and our imagery combines photos of the women we work with in Africa, our Australian consumers, and the Australian lifestyle. The Australian ethos is important as we believe that Australia has an important voice for change at a global level. At all times, we focus on inspirational imagery that shows how our similarities are greater than our differences.
Why did you want to run your own business as opposed to working for a large company?
That was never a huge decision or motivating factor for me because I love my work and the industry I’m already in. I started Humanité because I was compelled by a simple idea – skincare that can change the world. I knew that I wasn’t going to rest until I got the idea out of my head!
Perks of working for yourself? Downfalls?
The perk is the refreshing honesty that comes with putting your idea out there. There’s no real politics involved; people are either going to like what you’re doing or they’re not. So it’s quite a raw, naked and very real experience, and it makes it all the more thrilling when your idea resonates!
The downfall is that sometimes it can be a lonely road regardless of how much moral support you have from friends and family. Even so, the sense of independence you gain is character building.
Biggest business achievement so far?
Seeing the idea of ethical skincare resonate with people and being at the forefront of that demand in Australia. It’s exciting seeing how we’re able to surprise and delight our customers. It’s the excited email from someone who “has been searching for an ethical brand for so long” or the elated reaction from a customer who has found their “new favourite hand cream!” that mean the most.
Something you wish you knew before you began work business venture?
I think everything I didn’t know in the beginning has been an asset to me, especially the mistakes I’ve made! Launching your own business is a very personal experience and it doesn’t come with a tried and tested roadmap for success. The most important thing is to have 20 seconds of courage to launch and then have the grit to stick with things.
What plans do you have for Humanité in 2016?
We’ve received interest particularly from France so we’re starting to explore opportunities there. That’s the thing about making your idea a reality; you never know quite where it’s going to take you and I’ll say “oui” to Paris any day!
Top three tips for young entrepreneurs?
- Be single-minded: You may have many ideas, but find the one you can’t get out of your head for long enough and run with it. You can get to the others later!
- Outsource: While you’ll need to wear many hats when you launch your venture and it’s tempting to try and manage everything yourself, it’s also important to focus on your strengths and outsource where necessary.
- Begin! Many people have great ideas, but an idea without execution is nothing. Start with anything that gets your idea onto paper and makes it tangible.
Follow the Humanité journey here.
Words by Caitlin Hennessy