Catherine Cervasio is a beauty writer and the founder of Aromababy Natural Skincare, an Australian natural skincare brand launched in 1994.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I spent some time as a beauty editor in my twenties before working on product development for body care sold by the likes of Sportsgirl and Myer where I introduced the idea of using natural oils and aromas in place of synthetic.
With the closure of this company looming, I was retrenched only weeks prior to Christmas in 1993 and around the same time, found out we were expecting our first child. I registered a business name within days and got started.
I had long enjoyed a love and interest in natural products – mixing up face masks in the kitchen as a teenager. Although initially I planned to continue working on introducing natural skincare and body care products to Australian retailers, as my pregnancy progressed, I became increasingly concerned about the many synthetics and chemical additives being used in baby products – ingredients I wasn’t comfortable using on myself, let alone on my new baby.
So Aromababy was born. Because my products were the first to market – pioneers in the use of natural and organic ingredients for mother and baby products, I had undertaken some considerable research in order to both formulate and then get my products to market.
By default I became an educator of sorts – buyers, customers and even midwives at the time had little understanding of the potential benefits of choosing natural over synthetic.
I continued to write freelance on natural beauty, wellness and even travel but added mother and baby category contributions to my portfolio. Aromababy went on to become an award-winning brand and I became involved in more media.
I have content published around the world and in Australia for Jetstar’s magazine, business interviews on Qantas’ entertainment platform and have participated in podcasts on Virgin Airlines.
Over the past 3 years I’ve been consulting on external natural beauty projects, bringing a beautiful natural skincare brand for women to market in 2019, which championed an Australian grown superfood.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I begin my day around 7.30 am by checking emails at home with coffee close by. I’m a single mum to two gorgeous sons so I like to be around to see them off in the morning.
I head into my warehouse around 10am most days and go through our online orders, export orders and check on production.
I’m in charge of marketing, product development, and export so it’s quite the juggle. We’ve had a furiously busy few months, being one of the first to produce Australian made face masks made with organic cottons and linens.
These have been extremely popular, for example online with Myer. Where previously we serviced primarily wholesale, over the past 6 months it’s been essential to also provide product directly to consumers which is much more hands on.
I have only one team member at the moment, who comes in a couple of days each week and takes care of the admin side of the business. I’m also involved in a business show which is streamed globally so I also research segments and secure guests for this one day per week. It’s full on.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
My current role does allow for flexible and remote working. My days are a little different at the moment – compared to say, 12 months ago.
Whilst I’m busier than ever, I am definitely working both ‘on’ the business and in it, involved in everything from taking orders to delivering them, writing articles to developing new products.
We do export Aromababy to Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and UAE where I would ordinarily be travelling – especially to Asia, every 4-6 weeks, however because we have invested time in building solid relationships with our distribution and retail partners, communication can all be done remotely if required.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance is really important to me – whilst I am definitely passionate about my business, I am equally passionate about ‘life’, about being present for those I love and about finding some sort of harmony in all the chaos.
I practice mindfulness (meditation) and use aromatherapy every day – I close my eyes and breathe deeply, inhaling a specific essential oil (or blend of several) in the shower.
I aim to exercise regularly although I must admit, during our busy months I was leaving the office late every day and exercise was only on weekends.
I believe it’s important to make space for quiet time so that we’re ‘still’ enough to be able to recognize when we do feel joyful. Once you know what brings you joy, it’s about making more time to experience that feeling.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Whilst I’m not a fan of working 12 hour days and leaving work in the dark, this does happen during our busy times.
After being in business for 25 years I know too well that success is more about working smarter, not harder (or longer) so I’ve made more of an effort to change the way I work.
I believe it’s important to do something that’s purely for enjoyment. Several years ago I returned to adult classical ballet until ‘life’ got in the way and I stopped. I returned to class early this year just however unfortunately, this was just before everything was closed down due to COVID-19.
I’ve taken up meditation, let go of alcohol and been cooking up a storm making everything from handmade pasta to French Madeleines. I still drink too much coffee.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I enjoy Podcast One’s The Mentor with Mark Bouris and am part way through my mentor’s book My Way. It’s his life story thus far – both a lovely read and very inspirational.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I love Zoom – we ran a breakfast radio show I was involved in remotely using Zoom when COVID hit back in March and I’ve held numerous training sessions this way. Skype is great too, I’ve done an interview for SBS News which was recorded on Skype.
As I rely more and more heavily on technology – on my phone too, I can sense upgrades coming. In terms of product, there’s one I cannot live without and it’s our Aromababy Barrier Balm.
Used for everything from dry lips to dry lands, sunburn and even eczema, I always carry a jar with me and have sachets to give out to friends. It’s an amazing, versatile, effective natural soother.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
There are many interviews with successful women in business however I’ve seen quotes by several, successful female entrepreneurs who have referred to ‘marrying well’ as being key to their success.
I’d love to read an interview by someone who has also been through the messy divorce and who then, without a partner (or external investor), juggled the raising of children as a sole parent, with the building of an ethical, global brand. Now that’s something I could relate to!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Whether it is work or life, it must bring you some level of happiness. There’s no point starting a business if it’s not coming from a place of passion – likewise, there’s not much in sense in taking up surfing unless it’s something you love (or have always wanted to try). There are no rules, just make it up as you go and enjoy the ride!
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