The Blogger-Turned-Businesswoman Behind Oh Natural Online Store
Jenna Mullinger has grown her dream business through her passion for natural, sustainable products
Bloggers often dream about turning a hobby into a business, but Jenna Mullinger has made this a reality, all the while working from home on the Hibiscus Coast. As she tells the story, the progression was more a happy chain of events than a grand plan to become an influencer capable of monetising her reach. Therein lies the authenticity of her endeavour in setting up Oh Natural, a comprehensive website selling genuinely natural products.
The scale of the achievement should not be under-estimated. There are plenty of people offering a few products online, but few have successfully pulled together a diverse collection of brands for personal and household use, while maintaining their own credible identity.
Jenna describes the business as “an online hub of natural and cruelty-free beauty and lifestyle products from New Zealand and around the world — with plenty of sustainable, organic and vegan brands too”. Zero-waste products are a growing focus.
The 32-year-old lives in the same Army Bay street she grew up in, because she loves the coastal lifestyle. After completing a psychology degree, working in administration roles and travelling with her husband-to-be, came motherhood. The couple now have sons aged 6, 4 and 2.
“I’ve always wanted to work for myself and have had various hobby businesses over the years from soaps, to printed T-shirts to sustainable surf wax,” says Jenna. “But nothing that really took off, or at least that I made take off!”
Going on maternity leave with her first son was a turning point, as was advice to follow her interests in the hope that this would pay off later. The natural beauty products fan started her blog and added a small “shop” selection of items then unavailable in New Zealand.
The products, from four brands, filled a wardrobe shelf in the bach the family was then renting. Six years on, the business has 120 brands, including its own, with stock overflowing from a double garage. “It still baffles me when I look back and how it’s grown and how my life has changed. It really has evolved into my dream business and I couldn’t be happier.”
Our target consumer is females — although we are definitely seeing an increasing number of male customers — and I think the age bracket spans across most generations now. Younger people are definitely becoming more aware of whether or not their makeup is cruelty-free and the dangers of toxic ingredients.
In the past couple of years I’ve had the most wonderful help [in online marketing and content imagery]. It makes me laugh to think of all the beautiful pictures to make Oh Natural look all snazzy while I’m sitting behind the scenes working in my dressing gown and slippers . . . but that’s why I love online business.
The biggest challenge is time. I am well used to working the evenings now. Along with that is the guilt you get as a mum for having something else going on in your life that takes up your headspace. I came so close to selling a couple of years ago — but looking back I’m glad I persevered as I would have been giving it away. The most amazing thing for us was that my husband was able to leave his job at the end of last year, so we can juggle the workload a bit more now. This has made all the hard work and late nights worthwhile.
Highlights come in many forms from a lovely review posted on Facebook or email from a customer, to recognising the name of someone semi-famous placing an order, or when I chat to someone and they already know what Oh Natural is.
If someone was starting their own beauty venture I would say don’t skimp on good branding, photography and imagery. Make sure you have something different to bring to the table, with both branding and product offering. I didn’t advertise for years, then I kind of clicked. The business has grown hugely in the past 18 months and it is all really down to this. And if you are saying you are natural please actually be natural.
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