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Genius idea behind Australian one-sold-a-minute beauty product

Mark and Melanie Chapman launched a successful business after a trip to Greece. Images: Supplied

We often believe we’re healthier and happier when we’re on holidays. It could be the air, the salt water, the food or just living a less stressful life for a few weeks.

But for entrepreneur Mark Chapman, the holiday benefits weren’t just imagined, and have led to a million-dollar business.

He and his wife Melanie went away on holiday to Greece, and while they were there, his partner’s eczema calmed down.

“We just went down to the local shops, and local foods. And we weren't trying to be really natural and healthy, it's just that that's what they sold,” he told Yahoo Finance.

But when they got back to Australia and began purchasing mass-produced skin care, it all changed. After some questioning, they realised that the soap they’d been purchasing in Greece was from a small business, and the man who made it used olive oil. It seemed like that was the solution - olive oil-based soap.

Santorini in Greece. Image: Supplied

The only problem was no one sold it or made it in Australia.

“So we learned how to make it. Anybody with long term skin issues like eczema - you're always looking for something, right? And the soap was great, it doesn't fix eczema, it just removes the irritant or problem which causes the skin to flare up,” Chapman said.

“And so we were just doing that, and as we knocked down all of these things out of our lifestyle, we found that it was easier to make them than it was to go and hunt down and buy some.”

This fascination with natural products and a DIY approach to skin care led to Chapman one day analysing the ingredients in his lip balm.

“The first ingredient was one of those ‘unpronounceables’. And I typed it in Google and it came up that it was... basically a chemical used for sunscreen. But its side effects were it also acted as a hormone blocker.”

He looked up the chemical and found that it had been tested on rats. The results: it had shrunk their testicles and lowered their testosterone.

Uh oh.

“I'm thinking, ‘Holy crap!’ And I'm thinking, ‘That's crazy man! But look, I'm really sure that it's only if you ingest a certain quantity et cetera, right?’

“But I'm putting this on my lips! I'm thinking, ‘This ain't cool!’ You go to any man and say, ‘Hey, put this on. One of the main ingredients will shrink your testicles and lower your testosterone,’ they're not putting it on their lips anymore, right?”

They decided something had to give.

One sold every minute

Today, they’re the founders of the million-dollar Clean & Pure skin care brand.

Their products, made from Manuka honey beeswax and extra virgin olive oil, are so loved that one lip balm sells every minute.

Customers can also pick flavours like cocoa butter, pawpaw, tinted rose and peppermint.

It started out with just a few things they were making for themselves, before showing their friends. Then, they put it on eBay.

“It just ticked away. We started getting little sales. we didn't do anything, we just put it on Ebay. There was nothing fancy about it. We bought maybe 500 stickers for labels, and we'd just stick it on by hand.”

Eventually, the sales became regular, before all of a sudden they received a 1,000 lip balm order.

“What the hell?” the two thought.

“We're pouring this s**t by 10 at a time. We get 1,000 and we thought "Wow!" And then we hit 5,000 bars of soap. And I'm thinking, "But we make soap in a log bowl that makes 12, and they take six weeks to cure, and now we've got a bloody order for 5,000.”

During this period, he was busy in his consultancy firm while his wife was pregnant with their fourth child.

Mark with his four kids. Image: Supplied

This was so far from where they expected their little hobby to go.

They were so busy, in fact, it took them another year before they began taking Clean & Pure more seriously.

Ultimately, they decided to scale up and bought equipment, machinery and hired staff.

Scaling up

Chapman believes he had an advantage: he’s worked in project controls with a focus on planning, forecasting and working in the engineering environment. He had a fair idea of the business demands and operating requirements.

“Now it's easy. We're currently producing about 8,000 a day at the moment, with four staff. And that's just your standard eight hour day. We've got heaps of capacity to double that and scale up at this point.”

These days, they use eBay as their “testing ground”. It’s their way of measuring the success and feedback from the product.

“I don't have to pay for distribution, I don't have to pay for PR marketing. I can do, but I can just bang it on there, see what they do for us,” he explained.

“You don't want to go and invest $15,000, $20,000 worth of money on packaging to trial something, unless you really know it's going to work. Go and do a small run, get that out on eBay, see how it goes. And then if it works, you get good feedback, then go and give feedback to all your distributors, how it's going, why they should have it.”

They export to seven countries, with the export market making up around 85 per cent of their business.

Mining vs soap-making

Chapman’s expertise is in the mining sector. But he remembers considering his two passions, his job and Clean & Pure.

“I looked at the two, and I thought, ‘Man, there's no way I want to spend the rest of my life in the mining industry.’

“In the mining and consulting industry, everything is driven by regulation. You don't have a lot of flair,” he said.

The reality is that those rules and regulations are there for a reason, and Chapman understands that.

But skincare is something different.

“We love it, personally. And people tell us that they're happy to hear from us, as opposed to when I was in the mining industry. They're happy to actually hear from me. And you've got an unlimited amount of imagination here, and creativity.”

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