It’s never been more important for brands to do more than simply sell products. With the rise of the conscious consumer and the increasing desire for brands to make a social impact, social enterprises are able to flourish.
What is a social enterprises? They’re businesses founded on principles to create a better world by simultaneously taking care of people and the planet. They use their profits to contribute to the community, while reducing their impact on the environment and in many cases donate to causes that enforce this.
Unlabelled is a social enterprise doing just that in the skin care industry. Not only are they a loud and proud skincare brand, but they are also a registered Health Promotion Charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).
They encourage young Australians to just ‘be’ themselves, without the need for labels. Each of their charity partners (Black Dog Institute, QLife, Headspace and Kids Helpline) shares a common vision to improve the mental health of young Australians and reduce the incidence of youth suicide.
To find out more about what goes into such a business, we chatted with Anthony McDonough about his experience establishing Unlabelled with co-founder Chris Glebatsas.
What was your inspiration to start your latest business?
Chris and I have built, grown and sold businesses before, but when it came to Unlabelled, this was more about helping others than making money for us. As you might know, Melbourne was the most locked down city Globally, reaching 259 days of lockdowns. Through our 18 yr old daughter Grace and her friends, we saw first-hand, the devastating effects the pandemic and lockdowns were having on our kids. Young people that previously had no mental health issues, were now struggling with things like eating disorders, anxiety and depression. And we could see this was just the tip of the iceberg. As parents, you just want to do something to help, and so, given our background in skincare, we created Unlabelled for that purpose. Unlabelled is a brand that donates 100% of its profits to the prevention of youth suicide in Australia.
When did you know the timing was ‘right’?
Looking at the research and seeing first-hand how consumer attitudes changed due to Covid-19, we knew that now was the perfect time to democratise luxury skin care products, and make them affordable for everyone. Never before have people washed their hands so often, and with the quality of affordable products on the market being not much better than dishwashing detergent, we decided to introduce a luxurious skin care product at the price of a supermarket hand wash, so as soon as people use our products, they immediately notice the difference in quality.
How did you make your big break?
Because of our background in luxury skin care products, we knew the industry and retailers pretty well, across both premium and mass market segments. We wanted to offer a luxury product at an affordable price, so we went straight to the Retailer who does this best – Chemist Warehouse. As soon as we presented them our range and proposition, they were immediately on board and became our strategic launch partner, which immediately gave us distribution across their national footprint of 450+ stores when we launched in March 2022. Having a national retailer to launch with is an enormous foot-up into what is a tough market and category.
What was your training prior to starting your own business?
I’m originally an organic chemist by degree, however I spent 15 years in sales & marketing roles, building both domestic and international businesses, living in Vienna, Munich and Moscow, before moving back to Australia and starting our own business 10 years ago. Chris has a Master in Finance and was previously an investment banker both in London and Australia. Between us, I handle the branding, product & marketing while Chris manages finance, logistics and procurement and we both manage the sales channels together.
What are the biggest challenges of being dads and businessmen?
Personally it’s never been a big issue for us – it’s actually easier running your own business as you can balance work and family life yourself. I missed out much more when I was working for a large corporation, when Grace was younger, as I was always travelling and didn’t get much time with her, apart from weekends, so running my own business is actually a benefit.
What is your top tip for maintaining a work/life balance?
Running your own business is a 24/7, 365 days a year affair so it’s easy to fall into the routine of losing work/life balance, and yes at times we’ve been there. At one point we had staff in 3 separate time zones and would be answering emails and messages at all times of the day and night. This becomes unsustainable and eventually something has to give. What I’ve found is it’s really important to set boundaries and try to stick to them as much as possible. For example, I try to never check emails after 7:00pm and don’t check them again until I’ve had breakfast the next morning, otherwise your nights & days will disappear into a sea of returning messages – and you also teach your teams that you’re available 24/7 which then creates the wrong culture in your business. Time away from work allows you to be more focussed when you’re at work – it also allows you thinking time which is critical, as opposed to always being in doing mode. Also take a day off where you don’t do any work, at least once a week – it doesn’t have to necessarily be a weekend, as you can decide what your week looks like. You’ll have to plan it in, otherwise it won’t happen, and don’t feel guilty… Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What is your biggest learning since starting your own business?
Everything will take twice as long than you think, and everything will cost twice as much as you budgeted. Make sure you’ve got both the time and the cash to build your business. This is the single biggest lesson I have learnt. The next most important thing to remember is – you’ll become an “overnight success” in people’s eyes after 5+ year of really hard work…
What do you do in your spare time to keep yourself sane?
Chris and I both go to the gym five to seven days a week. It’s the one thing that keeps us sane, and allows us to completely switch off from work. It’s also something we can do, regardless of where we are in the world, and no matter whether it’s snowing outside in Toronto or in the blistering heat of Palm Springs – you can always find a gym open and somewhere to train.
What’s one thing other mums/dads should do who are looking to start their own business?
Just start… Don’t keep putting it off, or waiting for the right time. Once you have the idea, the plan and the money to see it through, you should just go for it. Anyone who is looking or waiting for the perfect time to start a business will never start. No time is ever going to be 100% the right time, in fact that goes for everything in your business – don’t put off making a decision, launching a website, or producing a product, until it’s perfect, as you’ll need to trust your gut as much as your strategy to create something that matters.