Rebecca Medcalf, co-founded Organic Index with her two sisters Emma Dowling and Melissa Krueger to promote natural, organic and crafted body products from Australia and New Zealand. From the belief that beauty and wellness are inseparable, the sisters have forged a successful online and bricks and mortar business. Rebecca shares their story.
At what point did you decide to work together as a family and start Organic Index? What were the first steps you took?
We officially started Organic Index together in 2015, however Emma, Melissa and I have been raised in a family business environment from a young age. It was a natural progression for us to develop Organic Index as a family enterprise. We have a very close relationship, depth of knowledge and interest in natural skincare. And a desire to create a platform to really showcase Australia and New Zealand’s leading brands.
The first step we took to start Organic Index was definitely industry research. We wanted to know what sort of opportunities were in this industry. So there were many conferences, market research reports, trends and statistics. This formed the basis of our business plan. We needed to know our customer behaviour, needs and wants to ensure we could deliver an exceptional experience. We also started compiling a huge database of products that met the Organic Index criteria. The internationally recognised Real Beauty Manifesto formed our guiding principles for finding suitable brands. Another big step in starting Organic Index was really defining clearly our Brand Story. What we stood for, why and how we delivered in-store, online and within key business relationships.
Tell us a leadership lesson you learned from one of your global expeditions
Over the years Emma, Melissa and I have travelled a lot, both professionally and personally. One particularly rich experience I had was travelling as part of a volunteer crew for a medical ship to remote areas of Papua New Guinea in 2015. It was an incredible and humbling experience to journey into villages that have no running water, sewage facilities or healthcare and form a connection and level of trust with these communities and families.
Rebecca in PNG
We were holding new-born babies in our arms one moment then hugging village elders as they received their first pair of glasses a few minutes later. The diversity and variety of needs that we were able to meet in such remote conditions was a true testament to the organisation’s leadership skills. As a team we were able to deliver real value to these communities in a way that respected their culture, heritage and lifestyle without compromising any relationships or outcomes. I really appreciated the ability to first seek to understand before being understood, and the tenacity and drive to selflessly achieve the best outcomes with whatever resources are available at the time.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy to find new customers and retain them?
The most important aspect of our business is ‘The Experience’. We make every effort to exceed our customers expectations whether that is in-store or online. We do this by telling the story behind our brands, the reason that they are part of our range and what it is that really stands out about them. Transparency, trust and consistency is crucial to our success. In-store is a very visual and sensory experience as we have testers available for every product on the shelf. It is not unusual for customers to spend up to half an hour or more exploring their options and enjoying the process.
Where do you see Organic Index in 10 years?
Within 10 years we want to see an Organic Index showroom open in every capital city of Australia and a simple, fresh and creative online platform for people to engage with. Our showrooms will be calm and inviting spaces to enjoy, learn and connect with others. Our online community will have access to brand stories, makeup tutorials, ingredient indexes and much more. We want to become the A to Z index of Australian and New Zealand natural skincare, body care and make up brands.
What’s been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge so far has been finding the right spaces for our business to grow and working with different software options for all our inventory management. It is all the behind-the-scenes work that never stops and takes a lot of time and effort. Sometimes it amounts to nothing and you have to pick yourself up, dust-off and try again. For every win you see from the outside, there have been at least ten fails behind the scenes.
What are you most proud of?
I am really proud of all of Organic Index so far! It has been a from-scratch journey, so every little decision, order, sale, payment, brand placement and relationship has been because we have driven that. I’m really proud that we have kept going and built one of Australia’s most in-depth range of natural products. They are all local, which is fantastic. We are really proud of what we have to offer in this space.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
I think it would be to back yourself. Speak your future into existence. Own it before ‘it’ is real. That sounds overly simplistic, I know, but unless you have breathed life into your idea and can own it with conviction, it will be so much harder to get it off the ground. I spent so long perfecting my pitch before I even had a single business card. It was embarrassing and weird at the start, but now Organic Index speaks for itself.
What is a must-have Organic Index product for Autumn?
Autumn is the perfect time to pick-out your ideal lip balm, nourishing moisturiser and favourite woody fragrance ahead of the cooler months. I love Autumn and Winter because it is so ritualistic to have hot baths, soft slippers and warm teas. I would suggest a Generics Organic Vanilla Lip Balm, Mukti Marigold Moisturiser and The Seeke Courage Fragrance.
Femeconomy approved brands have at least 30% of women on the Board of Directors or are 50% female owned. So far over 700 brands meet our criteria. Look for our badge to shop Femeconomy approved brands.
Female leaders will create gender equality. #femeconomy #shop4equality