We’ve all heard the staple business advice: nice guys never win. Business is about being tough, ruthless, and always keeping the dollar value in mind. But Australia is witnessing a new wave of business owners, and Alannah Browne is leading the pack when it comes to proving nice guys actually do get ahead.
Alannah was 19 years old when she first noticed the rash. Angry and red, it covered her entire body. Doctors tested for everything – eczema, allergies, viruses – but nothing was showing up. It was a medical mystery. After suffering through her skin infection for almost three months, Alannah remained adamant that she should try and resist the doctor’s orders to trial antibiotics and high-strength creams. It didn’t make sense, given that there was still no diagnosis. The answer, she felt, needed to be more natural; a holistic remedy as opposed to a bandaid solution.
And so she embarked on a trial and error journey to cure herself. Using only what she found in her pantry, Alannah mixed and matched everything from salt to olive oil before finally one day landing on a magical combination that she says cured her rash in just a week.
“I had to question why this rash had come up if it wasn’t a reaction,” says Alannah.
“I realised I had to change everything. I had to look at my health and wellness…I was a vegan, but I wasn’t eating properly. I was working out 2-3 times a day. I was out partying. I was stressed, and realised I wasn’t as healthy as I thought. And I’m a big believer that the solution to these type of problems need to come from within.”
Coconut oil and sugar. It might sound like something you would sprinkle on your breakfast cereal, but for Alannah, it was a life-changer. Combined and along with a few other coconut ingredients, they made a potent body scrub that Alannah used daily to scrub away the infected skin, and heal the new skin underneath. The disinfecting nature of the sugar also acted as a natural preservative, whilst the coconut oil provided a deep moisturising effect, soothing Alannah’s dry and irritated skin.
“It was a total fluke,” says Alannah. “I was experimenting with different combinations for around a month before I got it right. And it started working straight away.”
And this is where it gets interesting. Whilst most of us would have thanked our lucky stars and moved on with our life, Alannah couldn’t help but feel that she needed to pay it forward. If she had stumbled across a fully organic body scrub with medicinal qualities, shouldn’t she share it with the people she loved?
And so began what Alannah dubs her ‘side hustle’: in amongst working as a Tax Depreciation Specialist and model, she begun packaging up small quantities of the scrub, and gifting it to family and friends. It was an instant hit and everyone kept coming back for more. Before long, she was selling them from her desk at work. In fact, she was talking about her product with such enthusiasm at a party during this period, that one of the guests pulled her aside – he wanted to invest.
“I was saying that I was struggling taking cash from people, and that I was building an online store so it would make the payment process easier.”
For someone who had never even considered making a profit from her product – let alone starting her own business. Her online store was a baptism of fire for Alannah, just 24 at the time.
And yet, Alannah felt that she had room to grow beyond the scrub alone. The former model was strongly driven by her experiences of low self-esteem that she witnessed in the competitive pageant industry. She wanted to create more than just a beauty product – she wanted to establish a brand that would teach women to love themselves from the inside out, guiding them through the skills and advice needed to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
“In business, you have to remember your ‘why’,” says Alannah.
“For me, that was about the customer. When I was entering pageants, I remember always looking around and feeling like everyone in that room was equally as beautiful – it was like, ‘why should only one person win?’ So this has been a massive motivator in the brand: knowing that we have a voice, and can talk to woman.”
After three years of managing the hugely successful Alannah Browne brand, she felt ready to revise the structure of her business. Whilst being a “solopreneur” was crucial to the early days of getting the brand off the ground, she knew it was time to welcome a team of investors who could do more than just provide financial support. She needed people who could help her grow.
When we spoke, Alannah was fresh out of meetings with her lawyers as she continued to restructure the management team. The role of tough-nut negotiator still doesn’t come naturally to the gentle natured Alannah, although she’s giving it a good shot.
“I still don’t like it!” She laughs.
“It makes me feel so uncomfortable and I get so much anxiety around business confrontation and legal deals… I’m working on it. It’s definitely a mindset. It might not be a strength of mine, but it’s something I have to do as part of owning a business.”
It’s clear that Alannah tolerates the legal jousting purely because of her deep love for what she does. Unlike so many entrepreneurs who go hunting for the product that will launch their career, Alannah went the other way around: her product came first, with the business success she found coming much later.
Moving into the self-managed business world wasn’t an easy one. Alannah had to feel her way through the industry one lesson at a time. She learnt that, as a small brand, she needed a strong following, online and off. She learnt about the importance of having a good judge of character. She learnt that yes, people do unethical things and even famous brands sometimes take advantage of smaller businesses – but nothing that a good legal team can’t protect you from.
It has been a steep learning curve, but one that paid off.
Looking ahead, and the Alannah Browne brand has still managed to hold court in the notoriously congested luxury-organic market. In a world saturated with items claiming to be ‘organic’, Alannah’s product is the real deal – not that she never expected to grow to where it is today.
“It was a bit of a gamble when I first started,” says Alannah, “bringing together the luxury market and organic products. No one was really doing it. But today, people are getting to know about their own health.”
And there’s already new projects on the horizon. The Alannah Browne label is getting a makeover in 2019, with a comprehensive rebrand already underway. Expansion is also within Alannah’s sights, with a range of new products and – don’t say I told you – a television show launching soon. Alannah is tight lipped about her exciting new projects, but says that her mission is simple: “I just want to make people feel beautiful for who they are, by creating and providing beautiful things that don’t leave a footprint after they’re finished being used.”
Sounds straightforward, but it’s a mission that has taken many years of commitment and passion. Just like her original recipe of coconut oil and sugar, Alannah is proving that the simple things are usually the best – but hardest to achieve.
Oh, and that nice guys always win.