Carving a niche in the cosmetics jungle

With companies left, right and centre spruiking the latest miracle tonic to reverse the effects of aging, it’s a gutsy decision for any individual to go up against the big guys.

Sharyn White never set out to be an entrepreneur, and just a few years ago, wouldn’t have believed that in her 60s she would be starting a cosmetics line.

“I have a background in marketing and public relations, but in a nutshell, no, I really never thought I would do something like this. It’s definitely been a life-changing curve for me,” Sharyn says.

It started when Sharyn was looking for a product with basic criteria, namely an Australian made, anti-aging cream that lived up to its label. When the search proved futile, she decided to investigate creating her own.

“I started researching and chatting to people, looking at all the anti-aging products, and trying a lot of products sourced from all over, and I purchased a lot celebrity-endorsed products, most of which ended up in the garbage bin,” Sharyn says.

“I found a company based in Melbourne and approached them to see if they could help me formulate my product. I discussed my product formulation ideas with the biochemists there who said ‘yes’ they thought it could be done. So we went ahead and I also sent them products which I had purchased for testing. They came back and said the ingredients were carcinogenic, you wouldn’t put them on your dog’s toenail, and that the product should not be in Australia.”

In developing SW Serum, Sharyn’s goal was simply to create a product that she would want to use on her own skin. One with pure, effective ingredients that is Australian made and did exactly what it claimed to do.

Having launched 18 months ago, the journey to market has been rigorous.

The ingredients are sourced from Spain, while the serum is made in Melbourne, and packaged in her local Tasmania. Before a single bottle of the product could be sold, it had to undergo a range of independent laboratory tests. Sharyn says it’s been a very expensive process, but necessary in order to put something on the market that she is proud to sell.

“It’s making me happy, it’s baby steps, and being in the cosmetics industry it’s a jungle out there. I’ve had lots of people say to me ‘Oh, but you’re competing against these enormous companies!’ But I think it comes down to the fact that when you like something, you continue to use it whether it’s the big brand or the small brand. If it’s working for you, and you’re seeing results, then you will keep using it.”

It’s still very early in the proceedings, and Sharyn says one of the biggest challenges is the realisation that starting a business is a two to five year proposition. While accepting that it takes time for a product to become a recognised brand, Sharyn says it can take a toll on her personal confidence.

“Not in SW Serum as a product, but just in how long it takes to get moving in the various marketplaces,” she adds.

Into the future, Sharyn has two more products in the pipeline and is motivated by positive customer feedback.

“It’s so satisfying to read the customer testimonials and when women and men come to me and just say ‘Sharyn I love your product’. That means so much to me. It means that it’s working, and that what I have done is meaningful.”

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