A Feast for the Senses

The ECOYA Group

What do 42 Below vodka and speciality home fragrance ECOYA have in common? The similarities may not be glaringly obvious at first but in fact, not only do both products capture the essence of the region’s purity and nature, ECOYA being manufactured in Australia and 42 Below in New Zealand, they were both founded by three men – Geoff Ross, Grant Baker and Stephen Sinclair, all of whom had the vision to grow start-up businesses into multi-million dollar empires.

The trio has since sold 42 Below, shifting their business to craft beer, financial services, home fragrance and skin care products. Following the sale of 42 Below in 2006, Grant, Geoff and Stephen joined forces again to start a venture capital business – The Business Bakery. Part of their initial investment was the purchase of ECOYA Ltd, which today provides home fragrances and skin care products through two brands – ECOYA and Trilogy Skincare.

We speak to Stephen Sinclair, ECOYA and Trilogy CEO, who tells us that ECOYA had in fact started out as a small business run out of a tiny factory in Taren Point, 20 kilometres south of Sydney. The idea to go into the candle making business came off the back of working with Craig Schweighoffer who had managed 42 Below’s Australian operations. Having visited Los Angeles, Craig found that the US candle market was a fast growing and competitive one. Unlike their American counterparts, however, natural wax candles were not available in Australia, even though the latter was more well-known for its natural resources.

Craig believed that the US’ success could be replicated in Australia and founded ECOYA. He later shared his ideas with Geoff, Grant and Stephen who seized the opportunity and invested in ECOYA in 2008.

At the time, ECOYA was only making around $20,000 in sales per month but the team recognised the opportunities for further growth both in this region and internationally. Thus, they made the game-changing decision to invest additional capital and focussed on brand and product development. The team knew that in order to grow the business, they had to continually improve their products and decided that ECOYA would be better placed if it sat in the affordable luxury category that was lacking in Australia and New Zealand.

“ECOYA is really growing and creating a new category in the price-point that we’re in,” says Stephen. “A few years ago, many people were looking for particular types of candles and there is a market there for cheaper candles. You will also be able to go to the other end of the market with expensive European candle brands, which are out of reach for some people. Thus, there was a real opportunity in the middle for affordable luxury and we created a story and a lifestyle brand around this category.”

The team’s hard work and foresight certainly paid off, leading to an exciting 2010. In May of that year, ECOYA was listed on the New Zealand stock exchange and four months later, the group brought Trilogy Skincare, a natural range of skincare products, into its fold.

The group continues to grow from strength to strength, recently reporting an 18 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue for the year that ended on the 31st March 2013. Today, the ECOYA Group reports over $25 million in turnover a year and it has since outgrown the factory that it first worked out of.

While the strength of ECOYA lies in its brand and quality offering, it is the synergies between the different leadership and management styles that have led to the group’s overall success. Geoff, Grant and Stephen have vastly different skill sets, but when they come together, the magic happens. “I’ve got a finance and logistics background while Geoff has fantastic brand and marketing expertise. Grant is in sales with experience in business decision-making and commercial structure. So with these different backgrounds and our entrepreneurial flair, we complement each other well,” shares Stephen.

With its strong leadership, ECOYA is expected to continue growing. But Stephen adds that through it all, ECOYA will always remain true to its values and vision to provide quality, natural home fragrance and body care in Australasia at a price-point that sits comfortably in the affordable luxury range.

The term ‘luxury’ brings to mind the idea of indulgence and the enjoyment of comforts and pleasures. And this idea of bringing luxury into its consumers’ homes translates into all levels of ECOYA’s products. The team’s commitment to creating luxurious and unique experiences through its candles goes beyond crafting aesthetically pleasing products from the finest natural bases and essential oils to continually creating the most beautiful fragrances with the help of renowned nose and perfumer Isaac Sinclair.

Stephen says that ECOYA has a point of difference because of Isaac’s expertise. Born in Manukau Harbour, New Zealand’s second largest natural harbour, Isaac enrolled at the prestigious Universita dell’Immagine, also known as the School of Five Senses, in Milan at the age of 19 and trained alongside world-renowned perfumers, developing fragrances for international powerhouses including L’Oreal, Guerlain and Lancôme. Isaac has made a name for himself as one of the finest young noses amongst 500 professional perfumers around the world. Bringing his locally-grown and globally-trained olfactory sense to the table, Isaac plays a key role in the research and development of new fragrances.

The idea that lighting a candle at home is a feast for all senses was encapsulated in ECOYA’s latest ad campaign, launched at the start of the year. The “Just Add Candlelight” campaign featured two dancers from The Sydney Dance Company , clad in nothing but warm ECOYA wax. Shot by acclaimed Australian fashion photographer, Jez Smith, the dancers were captured embracing each other in a number of romantic and evocative positions, illustrating the seductive tone that candlelight creates.

The ads definitely caught the attention of consumers, which is exactly what Stephen had set out to do. “We wanted to create some noise and by using our creativity and doing things a little differently, we connected well with our brand and our consumers.”

Connecting with the market and giving consumers what they want is always at the top of Stephen’s mind. Thus, he works hard to keep ECOYA’s range relevant and up-to-date, recently adding a new product to the portfolio – the Madison Jar. Keeping an ear on the ground, Stephen realised that his customers were looking for a larger, boxed jar, something that ECOYA did not have. After in-depth discussions at the start of 2012, the team embarked on developing the Madison range in July. Despite the short timeframe, they managed to bring the Madison jar to market in November, right before the festive season. This was truly an accomplishment and it paid off as sales since the launch right through to post-Christmas have been brilliant. In addition, ECOYA has seen a vast number of repeat purchases, a strong testament to the popularity of this new product.

Following the Madison jar’s success, ECOYA launched another new range two months ago, the Mini Metro – miniature Metro candles from its sub brand, Botanicals. Although it was not intended to be part of the core ECOYA collection, Stephen acquired Botanicals to add colour and vibrancy to ECOYA’s existing range. In launching the Mini Metro, Stephen says the Botanicals line is now complete and plays a key role in offering consumers variety while complementing the existing ECOYA range.

These additions may be new but Stephen reveals that we can expect more from ECOYA this year. For one, the team is looking to refresh the shape of ECOYA’s diffuser and will be extending the Botanicals range. More fragrances are also being developed as we speak, to be launched in the third quarter of the year. Stephen is excited about the team’s Christmas offering this year: “We’ve got some really cool Christmas offerings, with really neat Christmas boxes that we’re working on at the moment,” he shares. “There will also be two new Christmas fragrances that you can look forward to in our festive offering.”

ECOYA is in the business of sharing and educating consumers on how candles can add to the mood and environment of a home. Truly a feast for the senses, burning candles evokes a positive emotion and provides a fantastic experience. Stephen encourages people to have a go at the range; after all, “the team and I have a lot of fun growing and developing our products and we want our consumers to experience what we have created.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:30 PM AEDT