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Naturopath turned entrepreneur takes on the world’s beauty giants

Written by Nina Tovey | Monday, 9 January 2017

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When natural health practitioner Jacqueline Evans learned to concoct natural beauty products, she quickly realised there was no turning back. Ten years and tens of thousands of bright bottles later, Jacqui’s skincare range is stocked around the world and her unique formulations are disrupting the beauty industry one product at a time.

When natural health practitioner Jacqueline Evans learned to concoct natural beauty products under the watchful eye of renowned UK pharmacist and homeopath Margo Marrone, she quickly realised there was no turning back. Ten years and tens of thousands of bright bottles later, Jacqui’s skincare range is stocked around the world and her unique botanical formulations are disrupting the beauty industry one product at a time. 

Many people feel compelled to embark on a natural health career after having a transformative health experience of their own. Not the case for skincare entrepreneur Jacqueline Evans – it was learning about Chinese philosophy while studying a Bachelor of Arts that switched a lightbulb permanently on. This fascination led Jacqueline to the world of natural health, and the prospect of helping others while learning about Eastern ideology and the science of the body led to the future entrepreneur switching to study naturopathy with Endeavour College of Natural Health.

When Jacqueline graduated at 23, she packed her bags for a two-year gap break and started a new life in London. After working part-time in a video store, her interest was piqued by a revolutionary alternative pharmacist, called the Organic Pharmacy, building its now famous herbal and homeopathic dispensary and looking for naturopaths to come along for the ride. Jacqueline swiftly applied and was soon spending her days mixing herbal formulas for clients, treating customers on site, and helping the company ‘glam up’ the world of herbal medicine.

“Margo [the founder] was ahead of her time and was so bold to set up such a disruptive business in London’s King Road, a really affluent part of town. It was a groundbreaking period, and an honour to be part of her team,” said Jacqueline.

Margo was particularly focused on developing a natural skincare line to prove there were safer ways to look after the skin, and she took Jacqueline under her wing as public interest in the range quickly built.

“Margo essentially trained me in how to make natural skincare products and it was such a turning point for me, particularly when I learned about the effects traditional skincare chemicals can have on the skin and body. Most importantly, I realised so many of these ingredients were harmful and frankly, unnecessary,” said Jacqueline.

“My eyes were opened to the amazing suite of incredible ingredients we have at our fingertips with remarkable benefits for our skin, and I couldn’t understand why so many people continued to use such cheap, synthetic options.”

It was an experience that instilled in Jacqueline a lifelong addiction to the rush that went along with creating handpoured products.

“I was blown away by the process of blending simple ingredients that transformed into a soft, luscious cream before my eyes. This has continued to this day – when I make a batch of cream it still takes my breath away,” said Jacqueline.

Returning to Melbourne after working with the Organic Pharmacy for two years, Jacqueline stepped into the next chapter of her career in a customer service role for a prominent functional pathology lab owned by healthcare provider Healthscope, dedicated to assessing nutritional, biochemical, metabolic and hormone levels unable to be measured by regular pathology testing. It was there Jacqueline learnt how certain types of laboratory testing could help pinpoint for patients not only the type of disease affecting them but often the cause itself.

Jacqueline moved from working with practitioners analysing patient reports to a technical writing role with the company, writing two books for Healthscope in the process including the Functional Pathology Practitioner Manual which published 10,000 copies.

“Pathology was my heart and soul in those days – I lived and breathed it, so seeing those books come to life were very proud moments for me. I actually still see my book in doctors’ offices from time to time which is always surreal,” said Jacqueline.

Soon after Jacqueline was promoted to Technical Manager where she took on responsibility for developing diagnostic tests and educational programs. A huge win came Jacqueline’s way when after a massive lobbying effort she was able to make general pathology available to all naturopaths across Australia.

“It was big news at the time as patients previously had to go back to their doctor to ask for their test results and the changes we made allowed clients to order routine pathology through their naturopath for the first time,” said Jacqueline.

Jacqueline’s successes came thick and fast in this role, with the opportunity to travel to seminars around the world and apply what she learned on the road to develop new pathology tests, including the original MTHFR gene test which she helped launch with the support of a dedicated team of scientists.

Yet Jacqueline’s passion for creating her own skincare products was never far away, with the naturopath making creams for her friends and family after working all day at the lab. After becoming concerned by the prevalence of hormone imbalances she saw in female test results, Jacqueline started to draw an important link that would change the future of her career.

“I was coming across so many cases of oestrogen dominance, premenstrual syndrome and endometriosis impacting women, and I noticed some of the ingredients from traditional skincare products coming up again and again as hormone disruptors. That’s when I thought there might be a place for me to show people a different way forward,” said Jacqueline.

After meeting with a designer to decide on a name and logo for the skincare range in her head, Jacqueline was approached by then Channel 10 morning show 9AM with David and Kim to feature her range on a beauty segment after a guest presenter heard about her creations through a friend.

“It was absolutely crazy – I didn’t even have a website so I stayed up late putting together a basic website and bracing for the hundreds of phone calls I’d no doubt receive as soon as the segment aired,” said Jacqueline.

Jacqueline’s products made it on the program alongside brands like Aesop and Jurlique, but the throngs of customers didn’t follow immediately as she’d hoped.

“Nothing at all happened as a result of the show, but the blessing was I’d officially launched the business. It was the push I needed to get moving and put the brand out there into the world,” Jacqueline said.

The budding entrepreneur was determined to draw on her natural health background to go beyond just selling a product.

“I wanted to show people beauty is so much more than skin deep, and to encourage them to take a look at what was happening on the inside. I wanted to create a brand people could trust and be sure they were using something safe,” Jacqueline said.

Jacqueline also knew she wanted her products to make an immediate aesthetic statement, and invested heavily in the designing process.

“At the time there was no beautiful organic skincare, and so we worked hard to create modern and elegant packaging and branding our customers would remember. It has worked well for us, particularly with the rise of Instagram which saw many of our products being photographed by our customers and shared organically with their networks,” said Jacqueline.

Jacqueline then launched herself headfirst into her new role as founder of the new kid on the skincare block to establish herself in the market.

“Looking back I really catapulted myself into the beauty industry. I worked so hard networking and learning everything I could about marketing and social media, and our online business and stockist list slowly started to grow from the exposure we were getting from social media and the press,” said Jacqueline.

Two beautiful daughters soon followed, and Jacqueline steamrolled ahead as she became a consummate juggler. Two days after getting home from hospital with her second daughter, an offer rolled in she couldn’t refuse.

“I remember sinking into the couch after dropping my daughter at daycare with my newborn beside me when an order came in from Fitzroy restaurant Kumo Izakaya for six made to order hand soaps. I remember crying because I was so happy as it was the chance to secure an ongoing order, and then quickly wondering how on earth I was going to deliver,” said Jacqueline.

Jacqueline quickly made the soaps when her daughter was asleep, whizzed herself up a green smoothie in an old pesto jar, popped her daughter in the car and drove 45 minutes to the restaurant to hand deliver the products.

“I remember thinking I couldn’t believe I was taking this on, and I actually had to hand my baby to the manager while I ran back to the car to grab the order,” Jacqueline said. 

After running the business from home for several years, Jacqueline’s range started really hitting its straps when she moved to an office space, employed a small team to support her and invested in technology to automate more processes and allow her to make bigger batches of products.

It wasn’t long before American multinational clothing corporation Urban Outfitters came knocking, which saw the range sold across America. The business soon received an invaluable endorsement when Vogue Australia featured Jacqueline and the range in a story on women in wellness, and named Jacqueline Evans Skincare one of Australia’s top 100 beauty brands in a later issue.

There have also been plenty of lessons along the way, such as when a $5,000 product order was damaged on its way to France and Jacqueline ended up losing the products and the client as a result.

“It was such an expensive mistake to make as a small business. But I grabbed onto what I could learn from it – and as a result we now have better training manuals and processes around quality and ensuring lids are on tight,” Jacqueline said.

Today the range has more than 100 stockists around Australia and is featured in the bathrooms of some of the country’s most acclaimed restaurants including Attica, recently named Australia’s best restaurant in the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the fourth year running.

A career high for Jacqueline came when Attica approached her to formulate a bespoke handcream for the restaurant’s diners to complement its menu and enhance the dining experience.

“It was such a great collaboration given Attica’s focus on sustainability and local, great quality ingredients. We came up with this incredible blend featuring lemon myrtle – it was extremely exciting to see it featured in such an iconic establishment,” said Jacqueline.

Jacqueline gave the range a retail presence for the first time earlier this year when Eastland Shopping Centre approached Jacqueline Evans Skincare to sign on as the only natural skincare brand for their ‘beauty garden’, a picturesque shopping experience featuring 12 brands under a canopy of 150,000 preserved flowers.

This saw Jacqueline’s products sold opposite the likes of Kiehl’s, Mecca Cosmetica and Napoleon Perdis.

“I jumped straight away as our business had been so heavily online focused and it was a great opportunity to test the retail waters and get to understand our customers’ needs and feedback in a much more intimate way,” said Jacqueline.

With Jacqueline still making every product herself, she could hardly be more hands on as a business woman. And that’s just the way she likes it. With plans to create an online platform offering recipes, exercises and even meditations for good skin, this is an entrepreneur with one bright future. 

How I keep centered -Our family gets up around 6am, and I like to open the blinds in my lounge room to watch the sun rise. I take a moment to sit and be present to give myself a tiny bit of calm before I start the day – it is my saviour. I am also addicted to having baths – it brings a bit of feminine energy back after stressful days. I love using my rose and vanilla bath salts.

The myth of work life balance -I’ve learned for me there is no such thing as balance. At some point work needs me more, at others the kids or my husband will take priority. It is a constantly dynamic force and always changing.

My biggest lesson in business -I’ve learned I’m a single tasker not a multitasker, and that just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I used to do 50 million things at once and think I was a superhero. Now I realise it’s one thing at a time – that’s made my life a lot better.

Valuing your time and products -Learning I can say no has been life changing for my business – whether that be to a stockist or request for free product. We get emails asking for free products daily and once upon a time I said yes blindly, whereas now I always think about what is best for the business. It’s ok to say no.

The importance of getting the right hands on deck -As the business grows you face a different set of challenges and I’ve learned I can’t do everything and neither should I. Today I outsource where needed to an HR professional, I get help with my bookkeeping and I also have leaned on several business coaches along the way when I need a sounding board. 

Photography by Arnaud Domange

Nina Tovey

Nina Tovey is a public relations expert who has supported a wide range of clients throughout her career, including world leading brands, Government Departments and small-to-medium enterprises. Nina is the founder of public relations consultancy Yoke Communications.

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