Unconventional spin on a conventional market

How many Royal Australian Air Force pilots leave to start their own natural skincare business? In all likelihood, not many.

MooGoo, now stocked by 1,500 retailers and hospitals nationwide, started seven years ago quite by accident.

At the time, founder Craig Jones was a pilot in the RAAF, and had very little interest in skincare. It just so happened that his mother had the common skin condition psoriasis, and was treating it with an old country remedy: a cream made by farmers to repair the udders of dairy cows.

“When they put the cups on and off the cows, they can be chaffing, and of course you can’t have any blood or anything in the milk, so dairy farmers need something that’s going to repair the udders as quickly as possible, and the cream tends to be used by a lot of people as well for the same reason,” Jones says.

That particular cream is very thick and pasty – and so in his own kitchen, Jones learned how to reformulate it so it would be absorbed more quickly. “My mother, friends and neighbours started using it, and before long I was spending every weekend making the cream and pretty much just giving it away. Then one day we started selling it, and even at that stage we never intended it to be a business.”

Yet become a business it did – and these days, Jones says MooGoo feels like an extension of his personality.

Natural skincare is a crowded market. Jones says it’s almost a case of the latest newcomer trying to ‘out-organic’ the others. Rather than copy the rest, MooGoo sets itself apart in some very unique ways, and by staying true to its founding values.

“We do a few things that probably aren’t commercially sensible, and one of those things is that we don’t go with big chains. If we have a small stockist, and they’re supportive, we will keep them as an exclusive stockist even though there might be a much bigger store or chain right next door,” Jones says.

“I really remember right back at the start, and rejection is pretty hard, but it was mainly from those more corporate type outlets, and I got help from the smaller guys who were prepared to have a go and support me. That shaped the business, and even now, it’s a very trust-oriented business.”

In terms of growth, Jones has firm plans for the future of the business, but ‘doesn’t exist for growth’s sake.’

Earlier this year MooGoo made the decision not to export to China, because at this stage the country still requires mandatory animal tests on skincare and cosmetics products.

“When we first talked to the distributor, we thought ‘wow!’ this could be the next big step up. But once we found out about the animal testing, it wasn’t a difficult decision – and we knew we couldn’t do it.”

Jones believes the decision will certainly hurt commercially, but their principles, and customer loyalty drives the business to operate in the way it does.

“We’re very environmentally conscious, and that’s why we operate in the way we do – the creams are made in a carbon neutral facility, the buildings [the creams] are made in, are constructed from recycled building materials. We pay more for cardboard, all of our packaging is eco-cert – meaning every component is recyclable,” Jones says. “We also get a lot of customer loyalty, because they do recognise that we’re environmentally conscious, though that’s not the reason we do it. And for example if a customer writes to us with a question, they’ll get an answer.”

Now with fifteen staff at its Tweed Heads location, and indirectly many more through its contractors, MooGoo is still run very much as a small business.

“One of the first things I learned was, while the products were selling quite well here, I went over to a trade show in Hong Kong, and when you benchmark yourself against the world, we weren’t up to standard. Sometimes the service level, and the professionalism overseas, can just blow you away. So in an Australian market, this can be a point of difference,” Jones says.

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