How The Beauty Chef Founder Carla Oates Built Her Empire

Meet Carla Oates: author, entrepreneur and founder and director of The Beauty Chef – a wellness empire built on the foundation that beauty begins in the belly. Here, as part of our #WHCareerCoach series, she talks candidly about starting a side hustle, overcoming adversity and the secrets behind her success.

What inspired you to start up The Beauty Chef?

Around 18 years ago, before launching The Beauty Chef, I had been working as a beauty editor for a mainstream newspaper and I became concerned with the amount of toxic chemicals in skincare. I’ve always been interested in holistic health and wellbeing, so I started researching natural alternatives and the benefits of looking after your skin with clean ingredients and plant compounds that can rejuvenate the skin from the inside, out. I made the decision to start writing only about natural and organic health and beauty.

I’d also had eczema as a child and as a teenager, I worked with a naturopath who dramatically changed my diet. The effect this had on my skin was profound and from there, I understood the link between what you put in your body and good health – and good skin. Then, around 10 years ago, my own daughter experienced similar skin issues so it led me to research what might be causing them. After investigating various studies that looked at the connection between the food we eat, our gut health and our skin health, I put my family on a gut-healing protocol. This included lots of probiotic-rich, lacto-fermented wholefoods and after including these in our diet regularly, our skin and overall wellbeing improved dramatically. 

Friends and family started asking me what I was doing differently and why I looked to ‘glowy’ and from there, I began to really understand the power of the gut-skin connection. This was really the birth of The Beauty Chef, as from there, I began experimenting with different ingredients in my kitchen at home, and eventually, I created my first inner beauty product – GLOW Inner Beauty Powder.

Had you had any experience running your own business prior to this?

I had worked as a freelance writer and stylist previously, so I think this helped prime me for working independently on my own business.  

What was the process of bringing your idea to fruition?

I have been fortunate in the sense that The Beauty Chef has evolved very organically. When I first began experimenting with lacto-fermenting ingredients in my Bondi kitchen, it was simply to help improve the health and wellbeing of my family. Very quickly though, I realised I was onto something and wanted to share this knowledge more broadly. When I first launched GLOW, there was no ‘inner beauty’ category so it was certainly a challenge to break into the mainstream beauty market. But I trusted my intuition and knew that it was important to help shift the existing paradigm of the beauty industry and help to educate women about the power of the gut-skin connection.

What’s the philosophy behind The Beauty Chef brand?

My philosophy is that ‘beauty begins in the belly’ – that glowing skin is basically a reflection of healthy cells and a healthy, robust, diverse microbiome.

Can you tell us more about the link between beauty and gut health?

While it doesn’t sound very glamorous, the gut is truly where the seeds for good gut health and beauty are planted. It’s where at least 70 per cent of our immune system lies, it’s where we metabolise hormones, make detoxifying enzymes and nutrients and neutralise pathogens. Research into the human microbiome now also shows that there is also a connection between our gut bacteria and virtually every single aspect of our health so it’s important to nourish ourselves from within and feed our microbes all the amino acids, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, prebiotics and probiotics that they need to thrive.

Studies also show that those with a healthy gut, have a better fatty acid profile in their skin, meaning their skin is more moisturised, hydrated, plumper and protected.

How do your products differ from others on the market?

What sets The Beauty Chef apart from other brands on the market is our holistic view of health, beauty and wellbeing. Unlike other probiotic supplements on the market too – which often only contain one or two strains of bacteria – our unique bio-fermentation process, Flora Culture™, involves introducing 14 species of bacteria and beneficial yeasts into our ingredients to ferment for a period of 6–8 weeks. This results in a potent, natural and food-based probiotic which nourishes the gut and promotes radiant skin from within. This process also ensures that the final formula is not only rich in probiotics, but also prebiotics which feed the good bacteria in our gut.

If you could give women one piece of advice about starting a side hustle, what would it be?

I know it is a cliché, but behind every successful business is a lot of hard work. I often say this to my children. Do what you love, because success requires hard work, so you might as well spend the hard work doing something you wholeheartedly enjoy. Plus, you are bound to be more successful doing something that you have fire, passion and drive for. There are many good ideas out there, but to make them concrete requires hard work and resilience.

It’s also essential to be clear about your brand purpose and points of difference and stay true to yourself at every step. This remains important throughout the evolution of your business, even in terms of the collaborations and brands you partner with as these partnerships become a reflection of you and your business as well – that’s why we’re so thrilled to be involved in the Wellness Weekend with The Byron at Byron – it’s a great brand fit!

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced with the business to date and how did you overcome these?

One of the main challenges for The Beauty Chef is managing cash flow. As demand increases, production runs and shipping costs can increase significantly. And trading terms and margins from our bigger retail customers are not always favourable. It is a juggle, but I have learnt to prioritise our objectives and also where we sell our product. You can’t be everything to everyone at the same time. Focusing on key channels and regions is important – so you don’t spread yourself too thinly.  Navigating product regulations for export can also be time-consuming and expensive as each country has different regulations and standards when it comes to claims and allowed ingredients in products. Trademarking is another area that can be costly – it’s a rigorous process and although it’s super important in terms of brand protection, it’s very expensive so it’s important to have a budget dedicated to it.

The Byron at Byron will host a wellness weekend with The Beauty Chef and Emma Seibold from Barre Body on November 9-11. You can purchase tickets here.

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