Soak Society is an all-natural, organic and cruelty-free beauty brand made right here on the Sunshine Coast. Inspired by a study-abroad stint in Mexico and serious burn-out, creator Natalie Thorogood sat down with us to talk about bravely launching her businesses, bath-time and the importance of finding balance in your life.
Tell us about how you started Soak Society.
I launched Soak Society in 2015, when I was 26. I had just come back from six months of living in Mexico during a uni exchange. As I was only studying, I had plenty of free time to party and think about business ideas.
I lived in Guadalajara, so it took three hours to get to the beach. I had time to daydream. The bus to uni was a half hour each day so I would just sit and people watch and think. I don’t know if I would have had the space in my mind to come up with the business idea if I didn’t travel.
Since I was living in Mexico, I had a house so it was completely different from a three-week holiday. I was immersed in the culture and it allowed me to think about things in a different way. When I got back home I knew I wanted to do something for myself. I had a few different ideas, but one day when I was driving the idea just came to me. I’ve always loved having baths and Epsom salts. The idea and the name came at the same time—it was so clear, it was just like “that’s it!”
In hindsight, it was probably the worst time to start a business because I was only working a couple days a week in a café, but because I was in hospitality I was getting sore legs from being on my feet all day. I would come home and have baths in my apartment on James Street in Brisbane. I had the idea, but no money, so I just launched with one product and asked my cousin how to make a website. I got information from different people and since then, I’ve added different soaks to the range.
How does Soak Society standout from other beauty brands?
The primary ingredient is Epsom salt, which is very detoxifying. There’s also bentonite clay which is great for the skin. Sea salt is in all the soaks as well. And I only use essential oils for fragrance.
A lot of bath products have synthetic fragrance. I knew from the start I wanted to use essential oils due to the health benefits and because there are no toxins. I use a blend of essential oils in each soak. The scent of the Wellness Soak, for example, was made for both men and women, so it has a fresh rosemary and peppermint scent. It reminds me of the traditional Radox bath scent, but a natural version!
What was it like when you first launched Soak Society?
I launched it online with a website. The only people who bought from me were friends or friends of friends. I remember only going through a 12kg bucket of Epsom salt and now we get pallets delivered. I think back to that and I’m like, “wow, that was a really small bucket!” But at the time I thought it was so big!
We were live online for a few months before my first stockist approached us. The Lab Organics in Melbourne is a natural beauty store. I had no idea how to wholesale, so she had to talk me through the whole process. She taught me a lot and she’s still a stockist today and we’ve done a lot of collaborations together. I thought I would just sell my product online, but I think only a few rare businesses are successful solely online. After I was approached by more and more stores, I decided to learn how to wholesale properly.
When I launched Soak Society, I didn’t have any qualifications. I’m not a naturopath, nor did I have business experience. I just made it up as I went along. It was a feeling, something in me, like a determination. I’m a pretty stubborn person and once I started telling people and made the Instagram, I had to launch it. I had an urge come over me—I just had to do it! When you get that feeling you just have to go with it and see where it takes you!
What sets Soak Society apart from other bath & beauty products?
I wanted to create a product that sat between a cheap box of Epsom salts that you would buy in the supermarket and an $80 French bath salt in a glass jar. Before I launched, I couldn’t find any products in between. At the time, there were a lot of scrubs and things like that, but no bath salts. I wanted to buy something reasonably priced—our large soaks are in the $20 mark—so it was the classic ‘I couldn’t find what I wanted to buy’ so I decided to create it.
The Soak Society range are quality products at a very reasonable price. They are all-natural, vegan, cruelty free, accredited with the CCF and made in Australia.
Tell us about your product range and how they affect the bath experience.
There are four different soak blends—five but one is a collaboration with the Lab Organics in Melbourne—but four are available online and in stores around Australia and overseas. They each come in two different sizes: full size and travel size. I created two sizes because so many people don’t have bathtubs in their houses. And I wanted to create a product that people could take with them on holiday or give as a present.
I launched the Originale Blend first, then Rose, the Sleep Blend and the Noosa Blend. They’re all based on Epsom salts, but they all have a different clay. I love clay for the skin, not just for face masks, but for the entire body. They each also have another salt—one has a Himalayan and the Noosa blend has an Australian sea salt. Each product has a mixture of essential oils and they are all very different. The Noosa blend is zesty and fresh, the rose soak is floral and the sleep blend is lavender and camomile. There is one soak to suit everyone!
The plan is to expand to have more soaks in the range. We’ve just launched an organic bubble bath called BathDew. We had so many customers who were concerned about SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), which strips the skin of its natural moisture. Why would you want to soak your body in that?
I never wanted to make a bubble bath, but I found a really amazing factory near Byron who are manufacturing it for us. Every single ingredient is organic and it’s beautiful and shimmery—it’s a rose gold colour. We’ve added magnesium and larch tree exact which is a vegan collagen. It’s the only vegan collagen source so it’s very hydrating and skin plumping. The scent is magnolia, rose and orange blossom so BathDew has floral, zesty scent.
You’re passionate about self-care. Tell us why and how you practice it.
About a year after I launched Soak, I had a mini-breakdown. I was doing too many things. I had full-time uni, a full-time job, some freelance PR clients and I was also running Soak. I was getting these terrible headaches along the back of my neck. They wouldn’t go away, and it was constant. I don’t know if it was a migraine, but I was feeling shaky all the time and I knew I was pushing it—but I had so much to get done. I kept thinking if I could just get to the end of this thing, or the end of my degree it would be all better.
Eventually I blacked out at work one day and just left. I had an acupuncturist come to the house for a massage and consultation. I figured out how to get things under control after that and a few more months of treatment. It’s just not possible to do that many things—it’s not sustainable. I don’t know what I was thinking! After I blacked out, Soak Society was up and running, but it was still a side business. I had a think about everything, finished my degree and moved up the Coast. I re-branded Soak Society and gave it a message and knew it would appeal to so many people.
Everyone is busy, but I just don’t think you need to be.
Even now, I go into work and I smash out my eight hours and try to be extremely productive during that time—but I don’t go home and keep working. I go home and have a glass of wine with my partner and chat about the day, have a bath, watch Netflix and play with the dog. I relax so I feel rested and ready to go back to work again the next day.
I used to work until midnight every night and get up and six and do it again. It’s not sustainable. I’m passionate about self-care. You shouldn’t feel like it’s self-indulgent if you need to have a bath during the middle of the day. I’m just all about hustle, soak, repeat. It might not be a bath, it might be something else you enjoy, even if it’s just 20 minutes, everyone needs to take time out.
A bath doesn’t take that long. You don’t need an hour or two to take a bath! When you have a shower, you’re moving around and doing lots of things. When you have a bath, you have a chance to just stop and do nothing. You can just lay there and relax—it’s like a lie-down, but you’re treating your body at the same time!
Why do you think we label self-care as indulgent?
I think there is a resurgence in self-care. On Instagram the hashtag self-care and self-care Sundays are popular. I think self-care Sunday is a bit funny because then you’re only saying you can do it on Sundays.
I think entrepreneurs especially should go with what they’re feeling. If it’s possible and you don’t feel like working one day—you’re feeling a bit off—take a break, take a walk. And if you feel like working on a Sunday and you’re in the zone, then swap those days around. I think people think it’s too self-indulgent to do it every week night. Self-care needs to be more common.
For me self-care is a restorative thing and it’s when those good ideas and light-bulb moments come to me. It’s the same principle as living overseas, how can those ideas come to you if you’re constantly doing, doing, doing. You must stop and think about what’s next—what’s my next big idea!
What inspires you?
I think of myself as a realist. I’m a very practical, stubborn, hard-working Capricorn. I find it difficult to be inspired by other people. A lot of the time, inspiration comes from me. I don’t want to sound big-headed, but daily it’s just taking care of myself. I listen to podcasts and watch entrepreneurial videos online. I take ideas from these places and make it my own.
Another thing that motivates me is the fear of failure. I’m such a perfectionist, I couldn’t imagine making a product that people didn’t want or ended the business. I’m very calculated and slow, and it takes me a long time to do things because I do it my way. I’m self-funded because I want the control over what goes into the products.
I love the lifestyle I’ve created for myself, that’s why I get up early every day. I love working, so I have to remind myself to get off the computer and go for a walk. The fear of not being able to do this anymore makes me excited to work and look forward to what’s next. You never know what’s going to pop into your inbox—one email can create something exciting. You never know what each day is going to bring!
What beauty products do you use?
At the moment, I’m using some Coconut Tree products, which is another Sunshine Coast brand. For my skincare, I use Edible Beauty which is a brand out of Sydney. Her motto is that everything had to be edible and those products are lovely.
Ocinium skincare is another great one with some potent serums. I’m a skincare addict at the moment! I collaborate with other brands so I get to try other things. I’m a face mask addict too! Saya Skincare has a nice pink clay face mask. I like to mix it up every day and use some things from my collection. Briese Botanicals is also on the Sunshine Coast and she has some nice serums and skin creams.
How do you stay healthy and happy?
I practice transcendental meditation. I learned how to do it a year and a half ago and it’s been so amazing—it’s changed my life. It takes twenty minutes twice a day, but I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s improved my clarity, focus, energy levels and creativity in my work. I love it, my partner does it as well. We did the course together.
I also exercise, drink lots of water, do Pilates, hip-hop dancing once a week which is really fun, and walk on the beach everyday with my dog in the afternoons. Just the simple things, laughing a lot and spending time with people who are positive and I care about.
Where can we get Soak Society?
There are about ten places. Four in Noosa: Tangerine Beach, Noosa Flow, Bella Rustic, Lamington. Also on the website and there is a full stockist list.
What’s your advice for people starting their own business?
I wish someone had told me at the start to not be limited by thinking you have no money, and to just do it. People I talk to say “I’d love to do this,” and I say just start it! What have you got to lose? And don’t be worried about what people think of you. If that’s what you want to do, just do it.
People so often make excuses—don’t put blocks on yourself. Just start and work things out along the way. Don’t let the fact that you don’t have a big chunk of cash in the bank stop you. Most businesses don’t start that way, I had no money at all. Money shouldn’t stop anyone from doing what they want to do!
For more about Natalie and Soak Society, visit the website.