I first met Leanne, co-founder of Joonya Eco Wipes in a quite unorthodox way – FAR from your typical networking meet and greet. In the process of moving her family to Bali, Leanne was clearing out and listed a bar cart on Gumtree. With my best DIY intentions, I quickly popped around to snap it up (said bar cart is still in the garage waiting to be painted almost a year later).
Leanne and I got talking, and before I knew it, I had a new favourite brand in Joonya. Everything from the packaging, the ingredients and the very handy subscription model was just flawless and well thought out. There was heart in every inch of the brand, and you would have never known it was being run from a home around the corner on the Gold Coast.
Now that Leanne has settled in Bali, I thought we’d have a quick Q&A to really understand what goes on behind the scenes, how she started Joonya Eco Wipes, and what Bali life is like with two young boys.
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So Leanne, tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a mother to Ted (5) and Charlie (4) and the Co-Founder of Joonya Eco Wipes with my husband Rich. When I first became a mother, I walked away from my career in magazine advertising craving flexibility so that I could spend as much time as possible with this tiny baby that I was besotted with. Also, after many years of helping other brands grow, it was time for me to take a leap of faith and pour all of those years of experience into building something of my own that I was genuinely passionate about. We currently live between Bali and Australia with our young family as this business has allowed us to work from anywhere.
How have your boys handled the move to Bali?
They have blossomed over here in Bali. They attend a lovely little preschool and the Balinese teachers are so naturally kind, warm and have limitless patience. Its exactly what I wanted for them in those early preschool years where they need a lot of love, attention and understanding. I love that they hug my children when they have hurt themselves and appear to genuinely love them. They have made friends from all over the world – France, Russia, Germany, Italy, Indonesia and they are immersed in a beautiful culture that celebrates community and mindfulness. Bali will not be our home forever but I know that this experience has opened up their eyes and changed them in some small way.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Our two little boys greet us at around 6.30am demanding breakfast. Richard is usually straight onto the laptop entering the overnight orders and tending to anything in the US that has come through overnight whilst I get the boys ready for preschool. After the school drop, we try to do some laps at the local pool and meet afterwards for a coffee to discuss our work plans for the day.
Working with your spouse has its challenges but we find that dividing the roles and working separately has been a game changer for us. Rich manages the logistics, finance and customer service and I manage the sales and marketing. Some days we like to work from one of the many gorgeous cafes here in Bali however I mostly find it easier to work at home in our villa where there are no distractions.
At 3pm I pick up the boys from preschool and I spend the afternoon up at Finns Recreation Club pool or down at the beach to watch the sunset. After the boys are in bed we usually catch up on any outstanding work from that day and then either read our kindles or settle in for a Netflix binge session.
Where did the idea for Joonya come from?
When our first son Ted was born, he suffered with extremely sensitive skin and developed chronic nappy rash after using various brands of wipes from the supermarket. When we investigated the ingredients further we were shocked to learn the number of harsh chemicals that were used & questioned whether these should be used anywhere a babies delicate skin?
We switched to the ‘natural’ brands however they were very expensive and not very functional (too dry). It was sad to think that a huge proportion of Australian parents could not have access to safe, eco products because of the ridiculous price! We were so passionate to see things change we set out to completely re-think the entire wipes offering and designed a brand of wipes which we as parents wanted to see in the marketplace. Stylish, safe, earth friendly & affordable in bulk.
How did you choose the ingredients/recipe for the wipes?
After extensive research and consultation on the safest combination of ingredients for a baby wipe, we found a wipes manufacturer who had the experience in formulating the right ratios of these ingredients.
The main reason most baby wipes use harsh chemicals is because of the requirement for a strong enough preservative that keeps a moist environment free of germs throughout an adequate shelf life & to save on cost! Premium non-toxic ingredients are more expensive so many choose to use a cheaper preservative to maximise their profits.
We discovered a premium preservative Silver Dihydrogen Citrate (SDC) which is an ionic silver compound that is completely safe in small quantities and very effective at fighting germs. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit body that publishes objective safety scores for cosmetic ingredients on their website at www.ewg.org/skindeep. When you compare the ingredient safety across both Joonya and other major brands – our ingredient list is one of the safest on the market.
What should mums look out for, or be cautious of, when buying baby products?
With a baby’s skin so delicate, everything you put on it can be absorbed into the bloodstream more easily than adult skin so it makes sense to know what is in the wipes that you use.
The most helpful resource to use when researching cosmetic product ingredient safety is by far and away the EWG Skin Deep database at www.ewg.org/skindeep.
A score of 1 = very safe and a score of 10 = unsafe.
When we scan the major brands, some of the “less than preferable” chemicals include the following list:
1) Malic Acid (EWG Score 3-4)
2) Fragrance (EWG Score 8)
3) Benzyl Alcohol (EWG Score 5)
4) 3-Iodo-2-Propynylbutylcarbamate (EWG Score 4-6)
5) Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate (EWG Score 6)
6) Phenoxyethanol (EWG Score 4)
7) Cocamidopropyl Betaine (EWG Score 4)
8) Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride (EWG Score 4)
How did you get from the idea, through to holding the first pack of wipes in your hands?
Firstly we set out to find our perfect manufacturer who had experience working with our desired ingredients. Their product design team worked closely with us to come up with our formula. We surveyed a large number of parents to find out what they want to see in their dream wipes brand and tried to weave this in to our product offering and tested the wipes on our own babies to ensure they performed and did not leave a rash. We then brought the brand to life with a graphic designer and web developer.
The first container load was delivered to our family home and we stored the stock in our garage. I remember staring at the mountain of wipes thinking, oh my goodness… how on earth am I going to sell all of those? We had couriers turning up to our front door, often with half naked babies running around greeting them. I was making sales calls whilst the boys were taking their midday nap and there were a few instances where a baby would wake up screaming and I would have to excuse myself in the middle of a very important pitch.
Two years on, things look a little different. We now have a 3PL dispatching orders, the boys are in full time preschool and we are now available in the USA on walmart.com and jet.com. We won the the Mother and Baby Gold Medal for ‘Most Popular Fragrance Free Baby Wipe’ and ranked #1 in Australia and the US for ingredient safety by various non-tox bloggers www.ireadlabelsforyou.com and www.mynontoxictribe.com.au
Still pinching ourselves…
Have you had any customers that made you feel a little star-struck?
We have a member from the Shark Tank panel that is a very loyal customer of our wipes.
Who would you love to have as a Joonya customer?
Parents that may have previously thought that premium, non-toxic and environmentally wipes were just too expensive for them.