The business that began with an itch

Caroline Monet stumbled across the formula for a cream that eases the symptoms of eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis while trying to treat her own skin condition nine years ago. Its popularity has made her an unlikely business success story.

 

Caroline Monet is living proof that a passion for your product is just as important as business acumen when it comes to developing a successful company. Having left school at 15 to embark on a career in modelling, Monet is now the owner of a thriving skincare company. “The only stressful part of it has been learning the business side,” she admits. “Thank god for MYOB! When I first started I couldn’t even turn on a computer.”

When Monet gave birth to her daughter, the eczema on her hands was so bad she couldn’t even bath her new baby or wash her own hair because the pain was so excruciating. Her frustration drove her to develop a moisturising cream which has proved so successful in the treatment of a variety of skin conditions she now sells over 250,000 units a year nationally.

“It’s really just a home remedy that turned out to be more successful than anyone imagined,” she explains. “I think part of that success comes down to the high concentration of raw materials, because when I was developing it cost wasn’t a factor. I just looked at the problem logically and thought about which ingredients would work best. I had a bit of knowledge myself and a colleague at the time was a naturopath. She recommended some herbs. The relief was instant.”

Monet began giving samples of her cream to friends and other sufferers of skin conditions and the feedback she received was so overwhelming she felt compelled to bring it to a wider market. “I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference. There was one little girl who suffered from celiac disease and she would wake up in the night because her skin was itching and as her mother for Caroline’s cream. That was how we settled on the name – Caroline’s Cream.”

But Monet had no experience of running a business. “One of the first things I did was ring a woman I knew had been in the same position as me. She gave me 20 minutes of her time. I learned a lot from her.”

For the first two years, Monet ran the entire operation out of her home in Western Australia. She manufactured the cream, bottled it, labelled it and even delivered it herself. “I bought a Ford Falcon station wagon on hire purchase because I couldn’t afford couriers,” she says. “At that point we were distributing about 50 units a month.”

The company grew organically. “The more cashflow I had, the more I was able to outsource or delegate. Now, of course, I have staff and a web designer and distributors, but I know how everything needs to be done because I’ve done it all myself.”

Monet puts the businesses ongoing growth down to the sheer quality of the product. In the last year the company grew an incredible 1000 per cent. “I just happened upon a really good formula,” she says modestly. “We’ve had some good publicity and that can cause a spike in sales, but if you don’t have a good product that will peter out. Word of mouth has really been the tool that got my product moving.”

In recent years, Monet has added a wash to the range and taken it national. “We’re now stocked by most of the major health stores and pharmacies. We’ll also be going into David Jones in March and we’re talking to Myer at the moment. I also have a file of enquiries from international distributors but I’m not ready for that yet. I do have trademarks in place and I have an online shop that ships overseas but the focus is on Australia for now.”

www.carolineskincare.com

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