Sonya Driver, founder of Eco Tan, Australia’s first certified organic tanning, body and skincare range, doesn’t get intimidated easily.
“I learned the hard way in business,” she says matter-of-factly. “I made the mistakes, I got knocked down… But each time, I learned, and got back up.”
When Sonya came up with her idea for Eco Tan in 2009, she was at a particularly low point. Her marriage had recently broken down, and her beloved 30-year-old sister was diagnosed with melanoma.
“She was absolutely terrified of being in the sun,” adds Sonya.
As Gold Coasters, not being tanned wasn’t an option, so she started looking into safe tanning products and came up short.
“I really didn’t trust the ingredients! This so-called safer alternative just didn’t seem very natural.”
With a background in hairdressing, and later international flight attending, what Sonya lacked in science education, she made up for in sheer willpower and determination.
“I’m not saying I’m a natural chemist,” laughs the Mumpreneur. “I admit the first spray tan I concocted wasn’t perfect – it was organic, so very sticky! Still, it wasn’t toxic and the colour was just right. I built on it and perfected the product from there.”
It didn’t take long for word of mouth to spread, and soon health retreats and holistic beauty therapists starting knocking on Sonya’s door. Especially when in 2011 Eco Tan gained certification with the Organic Food Chain.
A self-confessed control-freak, Sonya thought she had to oversee it all — the formulating, the packing, the sales, and the administration.
“I started to burn out,” she admits. “I knew something had to change.”
That change came about when Sonya started outsourcing to experts — experts who all happened to be women.
“It’s timely to be interviewed for International Women’s Day because everyone who works with me – my chemists, my lawyers, my contractors – they’re all women,” Sonya says, beaming.
“Women just get the job done. My whole Eco Tan team know what they’re doing.”
Sonya also reached out to e-commerce experts and started selling with Amazon in the US three years ago, and Amazon Australia more recently, following their arrival in Australia.
“It makes so much sense for me to be on Amazon,” Sonya explains. “Customers trust the Amazon brand.”
In the meantime, Sonya is keeping her nose to the grindstone and continuing to build, with dreams of expansion within the huge markets on Amazon India and Amazon UK.
“Success does not just happen overnight,” she affirms. “Over the past 11 years we have incrementally and exponentially grown, from the kitchen in my tiny house to, at present, our third big warehouse move.”
Sonya’s stellar success has seen a queue of entrepreneurial women come to her seeking mentorship. Sonya wrote down her story, sharing her secrets with other women seeking to pursue their dreams. Indeed, the mum and CEO to a multi-million-dollar empire’s raw organic business manual, The Nudge, has received rave reviews – just like her product.
Her final words of wisdom to other wannabe female entrepreneurs out there?
“Trust your instincts and play to your strengths, check that your motivation goes beyond monetary gain, and surround yourself with the best people … Oh, and read my manual!”
To shop from women-led small businesses, head to www.amazon.com.au/internationalwomensday