Joyce Lanigan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Raw Spirit, a fragrance company made from scents inspired by global adventures and unique expeditions. Joyce co-founded Raw Spirit in Australia with the objective to raise awareness of the richness of Indigenous Australian culture. The brand quickly expanded to collaborate with other Indigenous and marginalized groups in Indonesia, Haiti, and the USA. Now based in New York, we speak to Joyce about what it’s like to be an accidental ‘fragrancier’.
Tell us about Raw Spirit and what inspired you to begin:
I was living in Perth, Western Australia when I was introduced to an oil from the Xanthorrhoea plant, commonly known as the grass tree and native to Australia. A good friend of mine Richard Walley, who is an incredible artist and spokesperson for the Noongar people, gave me a bottle that looked like it had brown sludge in it. When I opened it, the scent was so incredible, it literally changed the course of my life and opened by eyes (and nose!) to the amazing world of fragrance. We went on to create a limited-edition oil called Fire Tree together. This was the beginning of our fragrance brand – Raw Spirit – and a truly global adventure! Since then we’ve worked in Haiti, Indonesia, and also with some Native American groups to expand our fragrance line to eight scents featuring sustainably and ethically harvested “hero” natural ingredients.
What has been your ‘Ah Ha’ or ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment’?
I still think we have a way to go yet before I’d say we’ve “made it” in the USA. What has been incredible is the opportunity to work and collaborate with so many amazing people, like our Master Perfumer, Harry Fremont. Also, seeing our products on the shelves of iconic retailers like Barneys (where we launched in 2015), Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus. We’ve been finalists for the Fragrance Foundation awards several times, which is like being nominated for an Oscar. Not bad for someone like me who came out of the mining sector in Western Australia with no knowledge of this industry at all!
What have been the hardest lessons in starting a business?
That success is not a straight line. We’ve had many ups and downs and when you are in the thick of it it is hard to see the progress. So, every once in a while, you have to step out of the business and look at it from an outsider’s perspective and realize how far you have come.
Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?
There is just no substitute for word of mouth marketing. There are lots of ways to make a quick splash, but you have to have a great product and a sustained marketing campaign to build the momentum needed to succeed long term. Micro-influencer marketing has been the most important element of our plan as we need real people wearing our fragrances and sharing their feedback with their own followers who trust their opinions. I really don’t think there is any one thing that makes you succeed–it has to be the sum of many parts. It is more like baking a cake, you have many ingredients and they have to be in the right measures for it to be successful.
Do you have any mentors, and how have people been with sharing information and their networks?
Yes! I have several mentors who give me advice and feedback. It’s important as being an entrepreneur is a lonely business and your team expects you to have all the answers. So, it’s helpful to have others you can talk to, so you get a fresh perspective on ideas and plans.
I’ve found the fragrance and beauty industry to be very open and I feel great solidarity with other beauty entrepreneurs. I try to repay the kindness that I’ve experienced by sharing information and contacts. I believe that Indie brands are all part of an important shift in consumer behavior as we are focused on transparency, sustainability and authenticity and we need to work together to make sure these vales become the norm in all beauty businesses regardless of size.
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?
Ask for others opinions, listen to their advice, but at the end of the day trust your gut – it’s so easy to find reasons why something will fail, but sometimes you just have to believe that you have the passion to make something succeed. Worst case and you fail – at least you’ve been brave enough to give it a good red-hot Aussie go!
Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business?
Our first two fragrances (Wild Fire and Desert Blush) feature natural ingredients from Western Australia and they both immediately transport me back to WA. They continue to be our best sellers. Also, my business partner, Russell James, is an Aussie and a photographer so we also bring in a lot of West Australian imagery into our marketing.
What’s next for your business?
The global adventure continues! We are getting ready to launch a new scent – Nama Flame – which will feature ingredients from the awe-inspiring country of Namibia.
Something just for you from Raw Spirit:
As thank you to everyone reading this interview, Joyce and Raw Spirit has offered a 20% discount on all of their products until 12/31/2020. Simply use the code AUSTRALIA at their website www.rawspirit.com.
Complete our quick survey + go into the draw to win a gift from Raw Spirit
Raw Spirit have generously partnered with Australian Women in New York and are giving away a Relax and Unwind Pampering Kit to anyone who completes our survey and enters their email address. The gift (pictured below) is valued at a whopping US$206 and is available to residents of the USA only. What an incredible prize! Go into the draw by completing the AWNY survey here.
Where can Australian (and Kiwi) Women in New York find Raw Spirit?
All photos supplied.