Founders of Organic Nation George and Vanesssa Jilly reveal what they learnt on their 25-year skincare journey that includes the launch of some of Australia’s most well-known brands. By Anita Quade.

Tell us why you launched Organic Nation?

Vanessa: “Organic Nation came about as a result of what we saw as a need in the market as well as our own personal evolution within the skincare industry. We travelled through the industry for nearly 30 years, first with Jurlique, then introducing Aveda to Australia, before launching our own brand “uspa” , which was a clean botanical spa/professional brand. This time we wanted to create a range that delivered results (cosmeceutical ingredients), using certified organic ingredients,  concise in size (more salons/spa’s were taking on more than one range and they needed ranges that were not cumberson.”

How did you go about creating this range?

V: We knew we could create a range that met these needs and deliver transparency. We wanted to know exactly where our ingredients came from (soil2 skin) and we wanted certified organic that ensured our ingredients were not grown with potentially toxic fertilises and pesticides that invariably ended up in your skin care and then on your skin. That is when we decided that whilst we had uspa we just knew it was time to advance and create a skincare range that provided everything we wanted so that was how Organic Nation was born.

You have been involved with leading holistic skincare brands for 25 years how have you seen the industry change? 

V: “I have watched and observed the industry change from a “therapy/professional” perspective. As I have always performed and overseen the training, venturing into 100’s of beauty accounts and dealing with our international distributors when I look back over the 30 years I see distinct changes within our area. We were always heavily involved in the luxury spa market. Working and developing products and treatments for this segment of the market. On the other side of beauty was the traditional beauty salon, more a “product on product off” experience. The spa industry has continued to grow and the beauty salons have begun to move into more machine driven treatment options such as laser and skin needling etc – along the spectrum from this we have also seen cosmetic procedures explode. The industry has evolved, the spa industry is a huge part of the “wellness” industry now, with health and holistic wellness being a big driver for many. Beauty salons have connected into the semi “medical” world with registered nurses or doctors being required to administer add on treatments such as injectable options.

How has skincare products evolved?

V: “When it comes to skincare products, I believe what we once saw as “us” and “them” with the product choices (botanical skin care v’s high tech toxic skincare) is also changing.

We see the benefits in clean and green skin care options so we can now utilise high tech ingredients once only available if you were prepared to use toxic chemicals. We now also have better access to certified organic ingredients.”

George: “The consumer is much more educated now. When we opened the first Jurlique store I remember working on the floor and constantly explaining to consumers what an essential oil was! Now they are much more savvy in regards to ingredients, their function and if they are clean. We also now have a significant amount of customers demanding that ingredients be sustainable.”

Organic Nation founders George and Vanessa Jilly

You mention that 90 percent of all skincare products use more water in their formulas than anything else you use organic aloe vera gel instead in your products. Tell us about this? 

V: “Water or an alternative is required to make a product. I liken it to making soup, often you need to add stock or water for consistency. We chose to use certified organic aloe as it helps provide the beautiful luxurious texture our products have, but most importantly aloe vera is hydrating, it is an anti-inflammatory, and it contains over 100 other benefits with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.”

How difficult is it to remain competitive in the market as an organic brand with all the innovations on the market that use actives?

V: “The beauty is that when we created Organic Nation our focus was on merging the two worlds together. We have used the best of organics in the wonders of nature and then we have teamed it up with all the actives brought to us through science.”

G: “It is not a question of being competitive, there are so many ingredient companies now that specialise with wonderful clean actives  – but it is expensive. The question is are you prepared to spend the money to have those actives in your product at percentages that ensure efficacy?. There are products we have in our range whereby just the ingredients cost more than some competing products from other brands. It makes me wonder if they are being honest with their claims. It really is a case of you get what you pay for when dealing with sophisticated actives that perform.”

How do you come up with formulation innovations? 

G: “ I work with a number of chemists whereby I have an idea about the form and function of the product with the particular actives I want to utilise.  The chemist makes it work and at times advises of any significant ingredients innovations that would complement the formulation. It is a long drawn out process. I have over the years developed over 200 products, but even with this background it took 18 months to develop the formulas for Organic Nation.  It really was a challenge using cutting edge actives and keeping the formulations clean.”

What has been the biggest challenge that you have come across in business? 

G: “ In particular in our industry is dis-information. How do you combat companies that perpetuate mis-truths so I would say educating the customer who is bombarded by falsehoods.”

What has been the most memorable milestone with the brand?

G: “For me it is simply the success we are achieving in professional locations where the brand is achieving results. Apart from our traditional Spa locations, we have had significant results and success in Medi-Spas, which has been a new channel for us as a brand. If we can succeed in an environment where the customers demand instant results, then that is a validation that we can achieve results with a clean and green product.”

Your tagline “we’re for beautiful skin, not beautiful models – how important is this message to you?

V: “This is an underlying message that is very important. We are all aware that much of the beauty industry has been focused on playing on women and men’s insecurity. Marketing companies use this angle all the time. Having two daughters we wanted to make sure we didn’t fall into this messaging with our products – this was crucial for us and we think that we have delivered on this message.”

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