How a passion for organic skincare led to successful international growth

No-one likes being made redundant. But in Catherine Cervasio’s case, being out of a job was the first step on a journey that has seen her develop Aromababy – pure, natural, organic-rich baby skincare products formulated for pregnancy, baby, and the entire family. Since its launch in 1994, Aromababy was a concept ahead of its time, and has grown to become a leading skincare brand on a global scale.

Created as a world-first, Aromababy products were soon picked up by hospitals and used by midwives all across Australia. “I understood up to one in three infants could experience eczema or skin sensitivities, potentially linked to the use of topical creams, lotions and body washes, within their first year of life. This was a huge concern to me and I figured, no doubt – to other parents,” Catherine recalls. “So I targeted pharmacies and hospitals.”

Unsurprisingly, Aromababy’s success on a domestic level saw them launch the brand globally within a few short years. “The first official export market for Aromababy was Dubai,” says Catherine. “This was followed closely by South Korea – a market for which we were also approached by distributors so both of these experiences were in fact ‘reactive’ and not exactly part of an export strategy.” Armed with this experience, Catherine set her sights on Hong Kong, believing it to be a perfect market for Aromababy, buzzing as it is with activity and opportunity. “Hong Kong was a seamless next step and as a ‘smaller’ market, quite manageable in terms of risk,” Catherine explains.

Each country has presented individual challenges for Aromababy, from problems with distributors to overcoming the barriers of bringing in a new product. “There’s an enormous amount of focus on exporting to China for example,” says Catherine, “but exporting to this region involves an extremely rigorous market entry process, particularly for personal care and beauty products.”

Looking back, Catherine recalls some of the biggest challenges she overcame with her business, the main one being lack of internet. “Everything was manual. There was no internet, no social media, no online shopping,” she recalls. “I was knocking on doors, writing articles on baby skincare, running workshops and parenting a new baby. It was quite the juggle.” Catherine also remembers the challenges presented by intellectual property (IP) protection, when she exported to an unplanned territory where Aromababy had no trademark and had to take legal action to acquire their mark back from another company who was attempting to use it.

In terms of future growth, Catherine says there are opportunities everywhere, due to her specific sector maturing, with more people embracing the idea of natural and organic. “We’re in the position of having a well-established, Australian-made brand with two decades of brand heritage,” says Catherine. “The future looks pretty bright.”

So, what kind of advice does a successful entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience have to offer those thinking of starting a business themselves?

  • Believe in yourself and what you’re trying to do. My previous employer coaxed me into a product development role which I was reluctant to take. I’ve never looked back.
  • Research. It’s vital to know your market, your target audience, your point of difference and your competitors before you think about starting a business.
  • IP. Protecting your intellectual property from the outset is paramount. This includes trademarks, patents, social media handles, domain names and so on. There is no point coming up with a fabulous business concept if you’re likely to face trade barriers relating to IP in a particular country or sector.
  • Love what you do. Be sure to pursue a business idea that excites you – find an idea that involves something you are really passionate about. Business is never without challenges, but will it will be the passion that keeps you going.

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