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Australian skincare brand Sabbia Co has just reached their milestone of preventing 20 million single-use makeup wipes from being purchased and ending up in landfills thanks to their re-usable cleansing pads and sponges. Founder Katie Eales who launched the company with her husband David Tingle chats to Anita Quade about their eco-journey.

Congratulations on reaching your milestone of preventing 20 million single-use makeup wipes from being purchased and ending up in landfills – with your re-usable pads and sponges. Tell us about how rewarding that is?

“This is one of my proudest achievements to date. The mission behind our brand and skin tools are to give everyone access to simple sustainable skincare, reusable and biodegradable tools that only require water to cleanse, exfoliate and remove makeup/sunscreen/zinc with just water! Everything we do and share with our community is to minimise waste and the consumption of single use items.”

You have also just recently launched your refill program to reduce packaging and your footprint as a company? Tell us about that…

Refill Program.

“In October we launched our refill program which allows customers to purchase skincare refills to refill their glass bottles at home. This is part of our mission to further minimise our footprint. This program will allow our customers to purchase recyclable refill sachets to refill glass skincare bottles at home.”

Upcycling / Recycling Program.

“We started Sabbia Co to help protect the Earth and the Ocean while providing simple and effective skincare options. Our reusable pads last for over 200 machine washes, which replaces over 1,000 single-use makeup wipes. After those 200 washes we wanted to offer a service to up-cycle and recycle them properly to ensure we are still protecting the Earth and eliminating them from ending up in landfill. We are so excited to be partnering with TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes to arrange a system that helps us to lessen our contribution to landfill.”

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Sabbia Co Skincare Founders, David Tingle and Katie Eales

How important is it to you as a company to have this environmental ethos as part of your foundation?

“Protecting the planet is 100% why we are here and doing what we do. I grew up in Port Douglas, in a half Italian / half Australian household. Growing up diving the Great Barrier Reef, camping under the stars and eating 90% homegrown was where I found my deep love and appreciation for the planet. I have always had a passion for skincare and the understanding that it is one of the biggest industries contributing to landfill and also harming the planet / personal health due to the unregulated and harsh chemicals sometimes used.
After finding makeup wipes on a remote beach overseas I can home with the fire in my belly to finally assist in creating more sustainable skin care products.”

How do you gauge your company’s accountability?

“Since introducing our Refill / Recycle Program I can visually see the difference we are making and the education we are sharing. We are now selling almost 90% refills to returning customers. Our return customer rate is currently sitting at 69% which means we have reduced our carbon emissions by over 75% per product.”

Why is it so important to you?

“It’s the mission behind our brand. It means the world to me that we have found and created a community that is just as passionate about reducing their footprint, and having gorgeous skin of course!”

How difficult is it for you when developing products to ensure you maintain this standard?

“It’s the hardest part of the business and my role as a formulator, there have been several products over the past two years that were incredible for the skin but we couldn’t package them or source raw ingredients that weren’t going to harm the planet.”

What is one of the biggest barriers as a small company?

“Startup finance is always the biggest hurdle. Our commitment to our sustainable mission is not cheap. Sourcing sustainable ingredients, packaging and partners is hard and expensive, however that is the whole reason we started Sabbia Co. We will not release a product that doesn’t meet our sustainable standards (there have been many amazing products that we couldn’t bring to market due to this). Being sustainable means that our stock is more expensive than the average business. For example we use recycled cardboard instead of normal cardboard for all of our boxes, glass bottles instead of plastic packaging, compostable mailers instead of plastic mailers and so on.”

Anyone that you have worked with on this program?

“My husband and I own the business together, however I am the soul operator of the business and product formulations. I also work with two sustainable labs that help me to make our products at a larger scale.”

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Sabbia Co Skincare’s Mineral BB Cream

How difficult is it to change the mindset of customers to get onboard with your environmentally friendly approach?

“We have been lucky to lead with education and why, so this hasn’t been a huge roadblock for us. As we continue to grow we definitely have new customers that question why we don’t do sales or discounts. However once we explain the reason customers become more understanding and educated about what they are consuming.”

You founded the company in 2019 – tell us how you set this up?

“The longest and hardest part was product development, once we sourced the highest and most sustainable products we invested $5,000. This was spent 70% on stock for launch, 20% for influencers and 10% of retargeting ads. I taught myself how to build our website, emails, small business operations and all the inbetweens. We now have two staff members to help with the workload and are very excited for what 2022 will bring.”

How is it working with your partner – do you both have the same vision/mindset?

“I won’t sugar coat it, it’s challenging to find time to just be husband and wife but we are learning when to take off our Sabbia hats and when to discuss business. We both care about the planet and impact of our business equally which makes pushing through the hard times easier.”

Are the products produced in Australia?

“Yes, all of our skincare is initially formulated by myself in our Burleigh Heads warehouse and then depending on the product scope we either work at our New Castle lab or our Gold Coast lab to stabilise, test and make at scale.”

What has the reaction been like in the market?

“Amazing, I think customers are becoming more curious and conscious about what they are buying and how it has been made. I think the reason our business is where it is, is due to the fact that we are 100% authentic about our mission and the process of how we create products to reflect that.”

Is there anything you wish you had have known when starting out?

“So many things, I am learning every day. I think number one is to focus on small steps and goals, and to celebrate your wins as much as you can. As business owners I feel it’s easy to skip past a 5 star review with 10% gratification and stress ourselves over targets.”

Any memorable moments along your journey?

“Launching Sabbia Co skincare in 2020, I have dreamt of this moment since I was a little girl mixing potions and lotions in my cubby house. Also reaching the 20 million makeup wipes target. Nothing compares to the feeling of knowing that we are making a difference and protecting the planet. Being awarded the 2021 Gold Coast Women In Business Aspiring Young Women’s Award and Clean and Conscious Editors Choice, Gold and Silver product awards were incredibly memorable. Both of these moments have made me step out of the day to day and really reflect on the work and achievements I have accomplished.”

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Sabbia Co Skincare Co-Founder Katie Eales

What are your most popular products?

“Our Mineral BB Cream, Matcha Clay Mask and Antioxidant Repair Oil are almost impossible to keep in stock, followed closely by our hero Face It Face Kit.”

Are these being used in salons throughout Australia?

“We have recently brought on a Wholesale Manager to assist in managing our wholesale, so far we have two salons who exclusively use Sabbia Co in treatments and many others that use and stock our products. We are excited to expand this area of our business by attending our first trade show this year – Naturally Good Sydney, 2022.”

The Matcha Mask sounds like a cult product – selling out five times in the past 8 months – what makes it so desirable?

“Traditionally clay masks tend to dry out the skin, however the unique combination of White Australian Kaolin Clay, Organic Tasmanian Kelp Extract and Organic Matcha Extract leaves the skin visually hydrated, calming (reduces redness), refined and plump after every use”

You have also added mineral foundation to your range – how was that developed?

“This was formulated in house working with the base of our Multi-Vitamin Moisturiser, which makes it one of the first Mineral BB Creams that actually hydrates, plumps and heals the skin while giving a luminous glow. It has been the hardest formula I have ever worked on but the results and feedback speak for themselves.”

What are your plans for the range in 2022?

“We are launching a new brightening serum in March, followed by a new cleanser and brand new body range in winter.”

This article originally appeared in the March-April 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.

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