To say Sonya Driver is determined is an understatement! This single mum from the Gold Coast, is the creator of the award winning, organic Eco Tan and skin care range and is passionate about educating the community and changing the cosmetics industry. She’s about ‘fighting the good fight’ and keeping it real and maybe this is why her highly successful company is about to go global!
The Eco Tan Story:
In 2010 Sonya’s youngest sister (who was 30 years old at the time) noticed a freckle with a red scale on the front of her arm and finally convinced her doctor to take a biopsy. The results revealed she had stage one melanoma, which required surgery and left her with a very deep scar. Since that time, she became very conscious of looking after her skin and avoiding sun exposure but one of the things she looked for and couldn’t find was a safe, organic, self tan product. Because Sonya was in the hairdressing industry for years, she took it upon herself to find her sister a safe self-tanning product.
This took Sonya on a big search and she researched the ingredients in various beauty products and found that so many companies claimed to be ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ but were far from it. She was horrified by how many petrochemicals and carcinogenic substances were in cosmetics. Sonya says fragrances and dyes are the most commonly used substances in cosmetics and they are the most dangerous.
The cosmetic/beauty industry is currently unregulated and Sonya believes we should have a labelling system that gives people a breakdown of the percentage of ingredients that are organic and non organic. At this time, it’s up to consumers to educate themselves, read labels and buy Australian certified organic because of their strict guidelines and processes.
The fake and misleading claims in the beauty industry angered Sonya but she used that energy to propel her to make changes and educate people and she decided to make her own certified organic tanning products.
At the same time this was happening, Sonya’s life went through massive upheaval. Her husband at the time rang to tell her he had found someone else, so she found herself as a single mum, with two young daughters ( 3 and 7 years old) and no money. So she had a lot of fire in the belly and channelled this into her work. Then in 2011 the Eco Tan product she developed was the first and only organic self tan product to be certified by the Organic Food Chain! Eco Tan is now available to buy in a variety of outlets and can also be applied as a spray tan in many beauty salons around Australia.
Sonya has also won awards (more recently she won International Women’s Day Business Leaders Award) and feels humbled and a bit surprised by the accolades as she keeps so focussed and doesn’t often stop to realise what she has achieved and created. Sonya says there is so much more to do! And her vision is quite altruistic rather than building a company so she can retire early on a yacht. “What I would like to do is make a difference and support charities and missions and change the community,” she says.
What does Sonya do to nurture herself and her skin?
*Avoid lots of sun exposure- I know health experts who recommend 20 mins of early morning sunshine and that’s fine but she says some people can and others may not be able to do this.
*I use paw paw and aloe vera on my skin (from the garden) for bumps and scratches. I also use certified coconut oil on my skin daily on the face and body. Nature is simple and has the answers!
*I feed my spirit with prayer and God’s word- I love the power of words!
I’m not on any extreme diet but the meat, fruit and veggies I buy have to be certified organic. I won’t compromise on that.
*My friends try to encourage me to relax and do yoga but I find peace by being active and in the last 6 months I’ve joined a running group which is great for managing stress and to be with like minded supportive people. I get up at 4am and train and I will also do a health retreat once a year.
*It’s important to build your own community and find a way of moving your body that you love-that will sustain you. Don’t try to do an activity just because people say that’s what you’ve got to do.
Sonya’s top business tips:
*Always listen to your gut feeling.
*Do the research! Build the right foundation- Ask yourself: why have I built this business? What drives me? It can’t be built on just wanting to make money, there has to be more substance.
* Have faith in yourself and keep going. Don’t over commit. I didn’t get a loan, I started small and grew it bit by bit. I was hairdressing in my shed till 11pm so I could afford to buy ingredients to start formulating the first batches of Eco Tan.
*Let it grow organically, if it’s meant to be it will, don’t force it.
*Be aware of the thing called fear- the battle is in your head.
*I don’t try to be liked; I try to keep it real.
*So many people are talented and have great ideas but so many are paralysed by fear! It shocks me- this fear of failure that people have…failure doesn’t even exist it only exists if you stop. I’ve failed thousands of times but I don’t stop.
*Get good advice! A big international company copied one of my products and then tried to sue me. With the help of a local lawyer I won the case after 18 months and the lawyer I hired didn’t charge me a cent.
*I don’t focus on the negative or toxic people. If there is something I need to look at myself I will. I’m all about self development but I don’t let people destroy me. I don’t engage them and I keep moving forward.
Over the next twelve months Eco Tan will be moving offices to a bigger spot on the Gold Coast and the product will be launched in NZ, Europe and the USA. Sonya says she is also driven to bring out more certified organic, holistic products that people can afford. On a personal level she is building a new house that is eco-friendly and says she wants to create a nice place for her girls and new partner to enjoy.