After 15 Years Building Brands, Katey Mandy Built Her Own

The expat entrepreneur steps into her blooming beauty business shaped by local botanicals


Launching on May 1, Raaie harnesses the best of Aotearoa's bounty in its two new serums. Photo / Supplied

There’s no such thing as a typical day for Katey Mandy. One minute she’s a scientist in a lab, the next a salesperson out on the road.

But if there’s one thing Katey knows for certain, it’s that after 15 years of working overseas building brands in think-tank meccas like London and New York, it’s that coming home to build something for herself felt inevitable.

After much time spent unearthing a brand’s “special sauce” — or its reason for being that resonated with people — Katey was surprised that she didn’t struggle to land on what her own special sauce would be.

“The reason to create a brand of my own (and become my own boss) was staring me right in the face. New Zealand is a treasure chest of unique ingredients, many of which are only just being discovered,” she says.

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“I wanted to take the benefits of these wonder plants to the world.”

After two years of research and development, and 148 product iterations, Raaie officially launches to market on May 1, starting with two treatment serums which couple the latest developments in cosmeceutical science with locally sourced botanicals.

“Our botanicals have developed their own defense mechanisms to thrive in the harsh New Zealand sun, and as a result, they have very high levels of antioxidants,” Katey says.

The newbies include the Raaie Vitamin C + NZ Botanicals Serum to protect and brighten skin, alongside the Raaie Vitamin A Retinal + NZ Botanicals Night Elixir to smooth and firm while you slumber. Later in the year, expect to see sunscreen, two cleansers and an active botanical facial oil building out the range, plus new developments in packaging to help Raaie reduce its carbon footprint.

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While still in its infancy, the response to Raaie has already been overwhelming, with multiple retailers eager to stock the range, and receiving a resoundingly positive response during independent consumer testing.

“I knew the products were going to work because we had done our research and invested in the best-of-the-best, scientifically proven ingredients. But getting the overwhelmingly positive response that we did was such an amazing feeling and validated all the hard work we had done,” Katey says.

What do you love about the beauty industry?

I love the fact that when I look around at beauty brands I admire, they are almost exclusively run by women.

It feels like there is a generation of kick-ass women coming through and challenging the status quo. They are tearing down everything that needed changing in the industry  its lack of inclusivity, its disregard for the environment, its spurious claims — and then building it back better.

Just look at brands like Fenty, Mented and Fluide. They show that beauty is about individuality and expression. It’s about inclusivity, not exclusivity. From gender-neutral make-up, ageless beauty, to beauty tools designed for individuals with motor disabilities… these are all things that no one had heard of 10 years ago and it shows we are on the right path.

I also love that there is a new level of transparency and accountability in the beauty industry. The internet, and the knowledge it makes available to all, has empowered customers to call out big beauty corporates for empty claims or non-sustainable business practices.

Indie brands, like us, are able to drive change from the inside by showing that we can source materials that are both safe for the planet and safe for the person. We can design packaging with an ‘environment-first’ approach and take responsibility for the waste we create.

How do you stay at the top of your game?

My support network — a group of incredible girlfriends who would (and have, on many occasions) dropped everything to help out, cheer me up in hard times, and/or celebrate the successes. My husband, Freddy, who is a dreamboat and believes in me way more than I probably deserve, and my two children, Phoenix and Obie, who ground me in the way that only little kids can.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in business?

Like many women, I have a tendency to give my all with work but also with family life. Trying to do it all though is actually impossible and there'll always be cracks. Over the many years of trying to achieve some semblance of ‘balance’, I've learned to create boundaries. I also have made myself more content with being in beta mode, which means focusing on progress, not perfection.

I don’t know if this is a conscious decision on my part, but most of the people I have surrounded myself with in a business context are women. Strong, multi-tasking, intuitive, empathetic women who believe in me and what we are trying to do. There is nothing more powerful than a driven bunch of women lifting each other up.

What do you love most about having your own brand?

I’ve enjoyed being able to build something from the ground up: starting with the product, then moving on to the packaging, the branding, the comms. 

I’ve also loved picking a team of talented people to work with. Photographers, formulators, stylists, designers, PRs. They all have two things in common: they are hugely talented and incredibly nice. That combination fills each day with happiness and leads to an amazing output.

What makes your brand stand out from the crowd?

We use powerful New Zealand botanicals, combined with the latest cutting-edge cosmeceutical science. Our botanicals have developed their own defense mechanisms to survive and thrive in the harsh New Zealand sun, and as a result, they have very high levels of antioxidants.

Growing up in New Zealand, with the hole in our ozone layer, we always had to be super vigilant about protecting ourselves from the sun with sunblock and wide-brimmed hats, and it turns out New Zealand’s botanicals have developed their own defensive mechanisms too.

What are you continuing to learn about yourself and about business even today?

So much is changing every day in the beauty industry because it is growing exponentially and there are so many new players every day. I’m learning not to get distracted, and to stay focused on our path and what rings true to us.

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