RARELY does a product created in a Gold Coast kitchen make its way into more than 60 countries. But Miessence cofounder and mumpreneur Narelle Chenery has done so in less than a decade with her range of organic cosmetics, achieving annual revenues of $10 million.

The origins of Narelle Chenery’s innovative range of organic skincare, cosmetics and household products were concocted for a penchant for pure, chemical-free products for herself and her young family.

Launched in 2001 by the company Chenery founded with husband Colin and engineer Alf Orpen, Miessence became the world’s first certified organic cosmetic manufacturer and enjoyed rapid global expansion.

The products are independently certified to international food grade standards by the world’s leading organic certifying organisations, including Australian Certified Organic (ACO), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and IFOAM (Europe).

Chenery came up with the concept after becoming perplexed that the skincare and cosmetics she was using were not as ‘natural’ as they professed to be. Then there was the array of toxic chemicals she was using to clean the home.

“Ten years ago when we started, ‘organic’ had nowhere near the buzz it does today,” says the 39-year-old.

“I was pregnant with my third child and worried about all the dangerous substances I was exposing myself to. I started making my own, experimenting with formulae on the kitchen bench.

“So many people have allergies and reactions to skincare, shampoos and other household products, or they just don’t do what they promise. It became clear there was more than a small gap in the market for truly pure, organic products with integrity. Actually, it was more like a giant chasm.”

She used knowledge gained from her applied science degree to overcome the technical challenges.

“The main issues for natural cosmetics are those of shelf life and emulsification. The big brands and most of those who label themselves ‘organic’ rely heavily on synthetic preservatives and emulsifiers.

“The response to the certified organic Miessence range was enormous. Our sales grew by 2500 per cent in the first 18 months in Australia and ONEgroup quickly developed in other significant ways.”

In 2003 Miessence joined forces with John Hunter to form ONEgroup (Organic Natural Enterprise Group) and introduced a new distribution and sales model for the Miessence brand.

“The formulas are ongoing and are being continually developed, improved and tweaked. We started off with one product and now have 150,” says Chenery.

“People don’t realise that 89 per cent of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for human safety.

“The average woman is exposed to more than 130 different chemicals every day. My aim is to help them learn to read labels so they know if a product is as pure as it claims to be.”

ONEgroup now has an annual turnover of more than $10 million and operates with almost 50 staff out of its Ashmore manufacturing plant.
Products are sold directly to more than 60 export markets via online sales and are found in selected health food stores and beauty therapists in the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

Chenery says the model ‘is built on the fundamental values of long-term sustainability and integrity with nature’.

An energetic educator and activist for social and consumer change, Chenery travels the country and frequently overseas to spread her message of uncompromising passion for educating people on ‘green washing’.

She has recently launched a range of certified organic perfumes and is working on a nutritional range of whole food supplements, as well as a range of organic home products.

“I’m creating a recipe book too, so people can buy the basics and for a few cents, make their own. That will free them from the toxic cocktail of chemicals most people use in their homes,” she says.

“I thought ‘if I could do anything in the world, what would it be?’ And I decided to throw all I had into it and take it to the world. I have so much still to achieve and I’m really excited about the future. There’s a whole world of people out there to make healthy.”

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