Aussie company proves it scrubs up very well to charm China

07 December, 2006

With exports of soap products to China more than doubling in five years, Australian companies are scrubbing up well, according to Austrade, the Australian Government’s export promotion agency.

Melbourne-based Ltd Promotions Charmed (registered trademark) is one Aussie company targeting the China market with its soaps, bath bombs and body butters.

Founded by Linda Tacey, the divorced mother of five, turned her adversity into dollars, developing Charmed from scratch into a multi-million dollar business.

“It’s taken six years to get to the point we’re at now, from the backyard to a turnover of $2 million in sales this year,” Tacey said.

“After the first nine months of starting my business, the company grew so much I had to buy a small 200 square factory.  To begin with, money was my biggest problem. I virtually started off with none, so structured everything to ensure there was cash flow.  One week I’d market the product then the next sell it.  I also ensured I had a good accountant and bank manager.

“I found Australia such a small market with so many companies doing the same type of thing, I expanded into exports.  I already export to New Zealand and now China is developing.

“This year I was approached by Austrade to participate in its Celebrate Australia event in Shanghai, the reaction I got at the event was better than expected.  Many buyers asked for my card and a company has contacted me wanting to act as our China distributor.” 

Austrade’s Shanghai-based Senior Trade Commissioner, Christopher Wright said the China market is ideal for Australian small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) especially those with quirky or niche products like Charmed.

“Consumers in the world’s most populous country have diverse tastes, so capturing just a small proportion of the market in China offers Australian businesses enormous potential for growth,” Wright said. 

Tacey said she always goes to China twice a year to attend trade fairs and learn about the latest packaging techniques, so the approach from Austrade was timely.

“China has a lot of interesting packaging and jars that we don’t have here.  I source my packaging outside of Australia, this way I can spend more money on ingredients with packaging costing less,” she said.

Tacey said she started her business after being forced to leave her job after her divorce because she had two sick children that needed to be looked after at home.

“Every time I tried to get back to work, the children got sick (her daughter is diabetic and son asthmatic),” she said.

“If it wasn’t for the divorce and having to fend for myself, I would never have started my business, so it was a lucky omen in disguise.

“My son with asthma was the one who came up with the name Charmed.  Our logo has five stars, all representing each one of my five children,” Tacey said.

Charmed products utilise the many natural ingredients in Australia such as aloe Vera, apricot kernel, shea butter, sea kelp and medi-honey.  Medi-honey has anti-bacterial properties and is a natural moisturiser and it is used in all of Charmed body butters. Tacey said she tries to source as many local products as possible for the soaps.  Most come from Melbourne, the honey from Queensland and sea kelp from Tasmania.