Home cosmetics reaches $1m

SUNSCREEN AND SUCCESS: Stephanie Evans of Oasis Beauty.
SUNSCREEN AND SUCCESS: Stephanie Evans of Oasis Beauty.

Fifteen years ago, Stephanie Evans started making her own skin care and cosmetics in her North Canterbury kitchen.

But what started as a few bottles of home-made moisturiser given away to friends has now grown to supply more than 300 retailers nationwide, with yearly turnover approaching $1 million.

Evans still describes her business, Oasis Beauty, as "a hobby that's got out of control on me."

"It's all a bit of a surprise really."

Her first experiments with skin care began as she tried to save money after contracting a mortgage.

The first recipes she tried were "terrible!" - greasy, ineffective or smelly.

But Evans kept experimenting - until eventually, the products she made started to work.

She began supplying the cleansers and moisturisers to friends who, like her, had sensitive skin, and from there "it just slowly evolved."

The "turning point" for the business came when a friend challenged her to create a sunscreen suitable for children and sensitive skin.

After two years perfecting her recipe, she came up with Oasis Sun; a natural-ingredients sunscreen for sensitive skin.

Once released, it was "a big hit straight away," and with only a few SPF30 natural sunscreens on the market, Evans says it quickly propelled Oasis into "a proper business".

Since creating a limited liability company eight years ago, she says it's simply been "one foot in front of the other" - but the company has experienced dramatic growth.

For the last 5 years, Oasis has grown more that 40 per cent year-on-year, and Evans expects to hit $1m turnover next year.

And the business has since grown to employ three full time workers.

Much of her success she attributes to the company's early web presence, which meant she could reach customers nationally and internationally despite a rural New Zealand location.

"The internet has been key for me. A third of my business comes through that. And also it's brought in opportunities from overseas and retailers. So being online plays a major part of our business plan."

Despite the dramatic growth, Evans has remained hands-on, putting herself through beauty therapy courses, studying search engine optimisation, and reading up on business strategy.

"When you start from nothing, you try and do it all yourself," she says.

With no background in business or cosmetics, she is entirely self taught - a process she describes as "hugely challenging".

A few years ago, no longer able to keep up with demand from the farm kitchen, she began contracting manufacturers in Christchurch and Dunedin to keep creating her original recipes. Despite a growing number of overseas orders, Evans says she is committed to keeping things local.

While Oasis is a small-business success story, Evans says she's in it simply because she enjoys the process - of developing products, working with customers, and learning the skills she needs to move forward. "I try to measure my success not by the amount of money, but by the fun and the journey we're on."