The idea for Luna Bronze was planted a few years ago when Maddy had Basal Cell Carcinoma skin cancer removed from her jaw line. She always loved being tanned, but after the whole ordeal, she didn’t want to risk further damage and more skin cancers.
Maddy and her co-founder, Rhi, trialled so many sunless tanning products but none ticked all the boxes. Most were loaded with chemicals, difficult to apply and had a nasty smell.
They identified a gap in the market for a luxe natural self-tanning range that offered something fresh and unique. The self-tan sector of the beauty market is highly saturated and they knew they had to create a product that was totally different.
Read their interview with Mamamia.
What is Luna Bronze?
Maddy (left) and Rhi (right). Image: supplied.
What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?
Rhi: I have always worked as an EA in design and architecture.
Maddy: I have been working in finance and accounting for over ten years. My background came in handy for our business.
What made you want to start your own business?
Rhi: I have always wanted to do something great with my life. After Maddy's skin cancer scare I knew this was it, the calling I was waiting for.
Maddy: My biggest motivator was to do something different and to use my creative side. I'd always wanted to work for myself and my run in with skin cancer somehow set me on a path that allowed me to stumble across something I've become really passionate about.
How did you come up with the name?
Rhi: Our company mantra is 'Tanning. Minus the Sun.' Luna is Latin for moon, so the opposite of sun.
Describe the staff/ownership structure of Luna Bronze.
Maddy: Rhi and I are co-founders of Luna Bronze and our 50/50 ownership still remains the same since day one. All business decisions are made together and although we don't always have the same opinions, we always eventually meet on common ground.
Did you require investment to start your business?
Rhi: Our savings were our initial investment into the business. We knew we had to go all in. No risk, no return. Through a lot of juggling and tinned tuna for dinner and support from our families, we have been able to remain the sole investors in the company.
What kind of advice did you get before you started and from who?
Maddy: Rhi's step-dad has been an amazing support to the both of us during this whole process and he has always said to us to remember we can only do what two people are capable of doing and and not to forget to ask for help along the way.
What's the single best piece of advice you got?
Rhi: The best piece of advice I have received is from Maddy. From day one she has always said we need to make sure we be realistic and under promise and over deliver. We never want to let anyone or ourselves down. We are not perfect and things will sometimes fall behind whether it is in our control or not.
Maddy: The best pieces of advice I've received are all from my Dad. I learnt from him to try to deal with the facts and options I have rather than let emotion overrule my judgement.
What's the smartest thing you've done since starting Luna Bronze?
Rhi: We didn't overextend ourselves when we first launched. We had one product: Glow Gradual Tanning Moisturiser. We kept things simple. We didn't spend a heap of money on our website or purchase expensive mailing packaging. Instead, we kept our overheads to a minimum while investing our income straight back into the business.
Listen: Emma Betts talks about her life after being diagnosed with skin cancer. (Post continues after audio.)
Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?
Rhi: Social media allows us to market our products and connect with our customers every day.
Maddy: With me being based in Sydney and Rhi being based in Melbourne, technology is key. We share files, to do lists and communicate using Slack to ensure our conversations and random thoughts are organised and filed into relevant channels rather than clogging up our email inboxes. We've also integrated our website with Xero, a cloud-based accounting software. All of these systems are also available in the form of an app.
What do you do when you're feeling like you're in a hole emotionally (or financially)?
Maddy: We know when the other needs a break and we tell them to turn their phone off, switch off and relax and the other half will pick up any slack.
What are your non-negotiables?
Rhi: I will answer this one for Maddy. COFFEE! The day doesn't start for Maddy until she has had her coffee. I know she will be able to guess mine straight away.
Maddy: I know Rhi's day doesn't start without her morning run. It works well for me because she will bring me a coffee on her way back and then my day can begin. I also set aside time each weekend where I put my phone away, switch off and spend time with my husband, Matt.
What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?
Rhi: I think we both thought that Luna Bronze would be a side hustle for a maximum of three months and then we would be able to leave our regular jobs and focus solely on it. Boy oh boy did we get that wrong. It took two years to reach that stage.
Maddy: We've both been lucky to have supportive employers who've allowed us to gradually step back and spend more time on our business. While it took a lot longer than we would have liked, we needed that financial backing during the early stages of building the business.
Tell us about your proudest moment.
Maddy: My proudest moment to date was launching our range of products into all of the Mecca Maxima stores across Australia and New Zealand. To have a company like Mecca Brands approach you and want your beauty product in their stores gave me the confidence to know we are doing something right.
Rhi: I agree. I also had a moment when our Gradual Tan 'Glow' was named the best tanning product in Australia by the beauty experts at Cosmopolitan Magazine.
How much sleep do you get every night?
Maddy: We both aim to get at least seven hours most nights. I always say to Rhi to think of sleep like a bank. You need to put in what you take out. If you miss hours during the week then you need to invest those hours back into your sleep balance on the weekend.
What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?
Rhi: Make sure you are ready for it. Forecast your finances for the first 12 months and then triple that number. Be prepared for the curve balls and have fun with it. You are going to make more mistakes in the first 12 months and learn so much. So laugh at yourself along the way.
Do you have a mentor?
Maddy: We always say to each other that we need a mentor and hopefully they will come along soon. For now, we bounce our ideas off our partners, friends and family but most of them don't understand the ins and outs of how a start up company works. We have two friends that own a company called Memobottle which ran one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns. They have given us a lot of guidance along the way.
Since we're in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Start Ups do you recommend?
Rhi: I have loved watching the growth of The Make Haus by Dani Butchart. This young mum is an inspiration and her design and styling company has grown so much in such a short time.