Cabin crew, prepare for landing.
The words every flight attendant loves hearing. We were landing into Hobart after a long day of back to back flights and I couldn’t wait to unwind in my hotel room. I was two years into my career with one of Australia’s leading airlines. The travel was exciting and adventurous but the lifestyle was wreaking havoc on my skin. I had suffered eczema since I was a little girl and the dry cabin air wasn’t making it any better. After my shower in my hotel room, I bathed myself in lotion. Yet, I still felt dry and my skin wasn’t feeling any better. I nonchalantly read the label of my lotion bottle, I couldn’t even pronounce half the ingredients. ‘There’s got to be something that’ll make me feel moisturised and nourished’ I said to myself as I desperately guzzled down a bottle of water. Then it hit me – coconut oil.
I had taken a trip to Boracay, Philippines in 2009. My mother is from the Philippines and wanted the family to visit the motherland. I remember lying on the beach, sand between my toes and getting some much needed Vitamin D when one of the locals came up to me. He was selling something in a bottle. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Coconut oil,’ he replied. It’s very good for your skin. ‘You try,’ he urged. I curiously took some. I had heard that coconut oil was used in cooking but didn’t think to put it on my skin. It was such a small moment but completely life altering. I remembered that time in Boracay, as I sat in my hotel room, looking out at Sandy Bay from my window. I should bring some on my overnights I thought to myself.
‘You’re glowing,’ one of the crew I worked with commented. ‘Thanks’, I said, ‘I’ve been putting coconut oil on my skin everyday’. ‘Oooh, maybe I’ll try that,’ she replied. The compliments kept coming. The humble coconut oil was my beauty secret. I started researching other plant based oils I could mix with my coconut oil as the coconut oil solidified in cooler cities such as Melbourne or Hobart but was liquid when I visited humid Darwin or Cairns. By accident, I had become a beauty expert in plant based oils and incidentally created my first formula which today is called the Natural Sun & Body Oil.
ECommerce brands marketing on Instagram was on the rise in 2015 and I, too, wanted to jump onto the bandwagon. Instagram was easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and most importantly, free. I had majored in entrepreneurship at university but had no idea what business I wanted to do and suddenly, I had an idea right in front of me. Being on a flight attendant wage would have usually meant I had no spare funds whatsoever, but living with my parents helped me save. I started putting away most of my salary and living on essentials to fund my little business idea. Luckily, my parents were supportive and allowed me to transform one of the rooms in their house into a small laboratory, where I was mixing and hand pouring the oils lovingly into bottles.
The day I launched, I wasn’t expecting anything but 5 orders came in straight away. And my very first order wasn’t a family member or a friend. It was a complete stranger. I was blown away by this and will never forget that moment. In my naivety, I thought orders were going to come in easily every day. But it didn’t. It was a grind to drive traffic to the website starting from 0 followers on Instagram. And being completely honest, it really felt like a slow slog for years.
I was working on Boracay Skin during my layovers whilst everyone was exploring or having dinners out. ‘Sorry, can’t. Gotta work’ I would tell my colleagues. I didn’t have much of a social life outside of work either. Flying, Boracay Skin, eating and sleeping were on repeat.
By 2018, we had built up a following on our social media accounts, had sponsored major events like Miami Swim Week and featured in media such as Elle and Teen Vogue. However, sales were still not consistent and just trickled in. I was seriously thinking about giving up when an email came through from my airline. They were offering a select few staff on application a year of leave without pay and the job would still be ours when we returned. I was always hesitant to leave my job to work on Boracay Skin full time as I needed a consistent income stream. But I also knew I needed to dedicate myself full time to my business. It’s a dilemma that most small business owners face and I wasn’t an exception. Was this the opportunity I was waiting for? I applied knowing hundreds, maybe thousands of others in my company were vying for the same opportunity. To my surprise, I was one of the fortunate few who had been granted the leave in that round. I had been in a constant loop of the same thing daily for years so I bought a one way ticket to Europe to break my routine and do a bit of soul searching. Traveling does this thing to you, where suddenly you start questioning your life and what’s really important to you. ‘I want Boracay Skin to be successful and be my full time job’ I said aloud to myself, hoping the universe would hear. The universe was listening and upon returning to Australia after jetting around the world, it was a now or never mindset. I was thankful for all my years with my airline but knew it was time to move onto the next chapter, I sent a letter of resignation.
That decision helped Boracay Skin become the successful 7 figure business it is today, selling in both Australia and the USA, and building up to a team of five hard working colleagues. The journey to get here has been full of challenges and surprises, and I don’t know if it will get easier in the future. But it’s definitely another level of the excitement and adventure I enjoyed in my past career. I can’t wait to see what is next for us!