Investor and global brand partner, Co Brand Partners, is known for providing capital, resources, and connections to companies that are well positioned for growth from social change – and ONNE certainly fits this profile.
At the forefront of the eco-luxe movement, ONNE products use 100% natural ingredients that are certified organic. Each product guarantees to be free of synthetic chemicals, petroleum-derived ingredients, synthetic preservatives, GMOs, parabens, and sulphates – as well as being 100% cruelty free.
It was while working in the Middle East that Australian woman, Carlia Ashton, was inspired to create her range of natural skincare products.
“I’ve had temperamental skin my whole life and when I looked into it, I discovered that a lot of my issues were caused by the synthetic chemicals that are in skincare products. My skin would develop a reaction where it would go really texturous and develop little bumps that you couldn’t actually see, but you could certainly feel them.”
Speaking to Australian Women Online by phone from her office in Melbourne, Carlia said she’d decided to move to Dubai on a whim when she was 22.
With a background in design, she worked in the aviation industry for about 3 years before taking a position at a creative studio, where she worked in post-production for the advertising industry and high-end photographers.
While running someone else’s business in Dubai, Carlia spent the next 2 years looking at different ingredients and what natural preservatives could be used in a skincare range.
“I was testing different raw ingredients on my own skin and then once I had base ingredients that I really loved, I reached out to a team of formulators in Australia. What I wanted to create was something that was beautifully designed, beautifully packaged, and that didn’t break the bank.”
When we think of “luxe” we think “expensive” but the ONNE collection is really sensibly priced. “That was pretty important to me,” said Carlia. “Throughout my skincare journey I spent a fortune on skincare products. Luxe doesn’t really have to be expensive.”
Skincare shouldn’t be effective for only a specific age group either. Carlia says that producing different skincare products for different age groups is nothing more than a marketing ploy to sell more products.
“With this first collection, I wanted to create something that went across the age groups because if you’re looking at all natural ingredients, it doesn’t have to be for younger skin or older skin, or acne because we don’t all strictly fall into one of those categories. I still get break-outs sometimes and I’m in my thirties.”
“I think if you have really beautiful, active ingredients it will work for every skin type,” said Carlia. “If you’re having a holistic approach to your skincare, you’re making sure that you’re drinking enough water and you’re eating the right foods – your skin will have that healthy glow.”
Since launching ONNE in 2015, the brand has developed a cult following, with more than 23,000 followers on Instagram.
Actually, it was on social media where ONNE’s international expansion began, when Carlia was invited to attend a trade show in the United States.
“I got invited to a trade show in New York and I didn’t really know what to expect because it was only the second one that they have had. I thought if I make one or two really key connections, then that’s money well spent and that’s what I managed to do. From there I was put in touch with the right people.”
Carlia is very excited about the partnership with Co Brand Partners. “This partnership represents the next step for ONNE, and will help us fast track our international expansion plans,” she said.
“They will be an important partner to assist the company in achieving our growth aspirations through connecting ONNE with leading North American beauty experts, and by providing support through associated investments across digital and consumer marketing sales and distribution platforms in the US and China.”
Through its existing offices in Shanghai, Sydney and Los Angeles, Co Brand Partners will immediately begin to provide ONNE with global reach and support.
“The first thing that made sense to us was obviously the US because there is no language barrier and we are a PETA approved cruelty-free brand. Then hopefully we’ll manage to launch into China. We’re not going to go physically into stores because obviously they’ve got their rules and regulations, so we will manage China through an online presence.”
Managing Director of Co Brand Partners, Tim Smith said, “I’m yet to see someone who can match Carlia’s drive and passion for the environment, and for producing and formulating quality natural products.”
“As a partner, our job is clear – we need to connect ONNE to our global network of e-comm platforms, social and digital marketing, and industry experts so that ONNE can flourish on the global beauty scene. Initial international feedback has been incredibly strong for this brand, and Co Brand Partners will support a steady and sustainable global roll out, as well as continuing to develop and invest in new natural product formulas to suit the needs of our customers.”
While Austrade’s Women in Export does offer advice, market information and scholarships for women, Carlia says she hasn’t seen a need to reach out to the organisation.
“I am aware of that export group but I really haven’t had time to look into it properly and I haven’t been approached by them either. But there are a lot of people probably trying to export, so it’s one of those things where they have people on the ground in different companies but unless you’re making headlines, you can be under the radar for a long time.”
Like most small businesses in Australia, Carlia Ashton’s business has been self-funded from day one. “I was in the Middle East for six years and I was quite well practiced at running someone else’s business, so when I had the opportunity to start my own business, I was in a place financially where I could do it.”
It was always the plan to expand internationally but Carlia couldn’t have done it without the internet. “It would be really challenging. A lot of the stuff that I have done like expanding overseas, I’ve actually had to physically travel overseas to find different things. But a majority of it has entailed a lot of online research and I think without the internet it would be very challenging.”