Naturally Inspiring: Celeste Robertson from Natural Supply Co
Celeste Robertson is an inspiration to us. A mum and entrepreneur who has built an online community: Natural Supply Co - a space where natural beauty, skincare and lifestyle products are a focus. We spoke with Celeste this week about the creation of Natural Supply Co and the ways in which she chooses to live a natural life. We share our interview below:
We love your approach and passion for eco-friendly, natural products. Can you share the story behind the creation of Natural Supply Co?
I started Natural Supply Co with one of my best friends, Catherine Brooks, in October 2014. Cath has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and she was looking into the ingredients in all of the products she was using on a daily basis; she was horrified. Cath is a lawyer, with no experience in online retail, and so she asked me if I'd start a business with her, selling non-toxic nail polishes. I had been in online retail for years and jumped at the chance - but I knew we had to go a bit broader than that, so we set up an online destination for all things natural and organic. A year later, our friend and fellow beauty lover, Sarah Scott, joined the business. In 2018, with a demanding career, toddler and another baby on the way, Cath made the tough decision to leave the business. Sarah and I continue to run it now - and still run our thoughts past Cath to get her opinion!
Can you describe a typical day at the office?
My days are so varied - it's one of the things I love so much about my job! A couple of mornings a week, I go to yoga after dropping my 3-year old at daycare. Afterwards, I might have a quick coffee with a friend, or go to the bulk food store to pick up any essentials we've run out of. Then I'll head home, check social media, respond to emails, place stock orders and pay invoices, pack orders, do the post office run. Most days we drop local orders off at Boom Gallery for customers to collect, and I'm often listing new products on the site, too. My to-do list is never ending but I try not to feel guilty about the coffee dates: it's my idea of balance, and means I don't mind working at night sometimes, too!
What are some of the challenges you have faced in creating Natural Supply Co?
We've lost a few brands to bigger stores who demand exclusivity, and that's been pretty tough for us. We are a really small business, and we work hard to find wonderful brands and promote them through our site; so it feels personal to lose out to the big players, even though I know it isn't. And cash flow - it's always cash flow, trying to balance getting new brands in, re-ordering stock, and sales coming in.
How do you approach the selection and curation of your online products?
Some brands contact us, and we stumble across other brands: my husband Cam has actually found a few of our winners online, and passed them on to me! We make sure we test out products from every brand that we carry, because if we don't love it, we don't want to put our name to it. We also have pretty strict criteria that we stick to: the products must be high performance yet contain a majority of natural or organic ingredients, they must be eco-friendly and ethical, and cruelty free. We love supporting women-led businesses, and the products must feel luxe to use. We are also really focused on stocking the best zero waste, plastic free products.
Which natural products can you not live without?
I'm obsessed with the MADARA City CC Cream (https://naturalsupplyco.com/collections/madara-organic-skincare) - it's the best everyday base and makes skin look so fresh. The Babs magnesium deodorant (https://naturalsupplyco.com/products/babs-bodycare-geranium-clary-sage-bicarb-free-natural-deodorant) is really effective and gentle on my sensitive skin, and our new glass containers make bulk food shopping a breeze (https://naturalsupplyco.com/collections/must-haves/products/seed-sprout-eco-stow-glass-container-set).
Can you talk about some of the choices you make day-to-day in order to ‘live a natural life’?
Over the last 12 or so months, I've been really focused on reducing waste in our household (and the business), and making better choices for the planet. I've been slowly moving to glass storage for our bulk foods and replenishing them as needed at bulk food stores; buying fruit and veggies from the grocer to avoid plastic wherever possible; taking a bread bag to our favourite bakery, and taking my own containers to the deli and butcher to avoid any plastics there, too. I now only need to buy a handful of products from the supermarket, which feels great. We are also eating less meat and composting food scraps. These changes have become second nature now, and we really notice the difference with an almost-empty rubbish bin when bin night comes around! Treading lightly: that, to me, is living a natural life.
Can you share a few words of advice for those who are trying to live a more natural life?
Start with small changes, and continue on. It might be switching to natural skincare, or taking a reusable water bottle and coffee cup with you to avoid single use options; replacing your worn-out dish cloth with a biodegradable option, or trying a shampoo bar. You'll quickly notice the difference, and it will encourage you to keep going.
Here at Bondi Wash we are adamant on creating cruelty-free products, as are you - can you talk a little to animal cruelty within the beauty industry?
It seems absolutely crazy to me that in 2019, beauty and personal care products are still being tested on animals. WHY?? Animal testing in the beauty industry will be illegal in Australia in 2020 (it was originally meant to be 2017), but there are no laws against it in the US. And in China, current laws require all imported cosmetics to be tested on animals. It's devastating.
Our brand is centred around the natural scents of Australia and we would love to hear about your strongest scent-based memory?
My beautiful grandma Gee was Polish, an Auschwitz survivor, and an amazing cook. I am not sure if it was her European background or being so close to starving to death during the war, but she was so incredibly generous with food, and always encouraging us to eat more. I needed very little encouragement! Every Sunday we would go to Gee's house for lunch, and she would put on the most incredible spread: bagels, vegetable soup, cheeses and dips, salads, chicken schnitzels, babka, pastries, Vienetta ice cream... it was seriously epic. And Gee used this Maggi seasoning in her vegetable soup (which was the best soup I've ever tasted), and she would mix it in with the eggs for the schnitzel batter, which I still do today. It is salty and delicious and just adds another dimension to cooking, and THAT conjures up my strongest scent-based memories; hovering in the kitchen, waiting for lunch to be ready and feeling so loved by the effort Gee would go to. I thought the Maggi seasoning had been discontinued, but my sister was visiting from London over the summer, and found it in an Asian Grocer and bought me a bottle. Whenever I use it, I remember, and I feel close to Gee. It's such a random thing, but they usually are, right?
If you were asked to recommend a natural product from the BW range - which product would it be?
Don't make me choose just one! I absolutely love the Purifying Night Balm for me, and the Bench Spray is the only product we need for most of our home cleaning. I love the Sydney Peppermint & Rosemary scent, but my husband prefers Lemon Tea Tree & Mandarin, so we always alternate! The Dish Wash is also the absolute best on the market. It's incredible at cutting through grease, and is the best stovetop cleaner ever. And the Hand Spray: we sold bucket loads over winter. I love that it has been scientifically proven to kill the flu virus, and luckily our family have all managed to stay flu-free!