Founder Friday With Viva La Body

Jun 25, 2020by Justine - F&F

Viva La Body is a brand that we have been obsessed with since they arrived at F&F. They make beautiful products ranging from natural deodorants (best seller) to shampoo bars. They've got you covered for all natural beauty products that are 100% vegan, cruelty-free and palm oil-free. We know Jo and husband/business partner Micko from working with them, but we wanted to dive deep and get to know them on a personal level and grab their best business secrets for you! 

If you're currently developing a product, have an idea or are just looking to be inspired, read on for some amazing and insightful wisdom from Jo. 

Viva La Body Zero Waste BeautyViva La Body Zero Waste Beauty
How did you start Viva La Body?
We just had an idea and ran with it! We are still running with it today! Micko and I have always worked with the idea that we have nothing to lose so let's just do it!
Where did the idea come from?
Micko and I were cruising from Melbourne back to Darwin in an old EJ Holden after a big trip overseas. Micko was already in another business that was going well and was exciting for him. However, I really hadn't found my thing. I have always had a passion for natural products and essential oils and making my own facial care. In our conversation on that long drive, we hit upon making soap.  And then things got exciting!
Founder Friday With Viva La BodyFounder Friday With Viva La Body
What's the story behind the name?
I really can't remember how we came up with the name! I do suspect that around that time there was an Elvis Likes to Party political party that started up in Darwin and I am sure it had something to do with it. Perhaps subliminal references to Viva Las Vegas?!  Originally, our name was Viva La Soap and over time when we developed our range, we decided to change it to Viva La Body.
How did you develop your products?  

Generally, we think about what products are useful to people and then start formulating. There is no hard and fast rule for VLB. We just don't want to fill the world with useless products!
Did you have products that didn't work, e.g. natural deodorants? 
Funnily enough, our natural deodorant is a rare first-time-got-it-right product (apart from a few bits that have been refined)!  We created a Facebook group and asked what products people wanted us to make. Deodorant kept popping up. I was a little disconcerted because any natural deodorants I had tried never worked so I thought that it was something out of our technical expertise and always avoided making it. Anyway, we bowed to the call outs and gave it a go and ta-da IT WORKS! I CAN'T BELIEVE WE MAKE IT!!!
However, we have had so many failures! Our initial batches of soap were disgusting bright blue scented with pine scotch that would make your eyes water when you sniffed them!!!  But looking back, in one way they aren't really failures because it is all about the process and refining techniques.
Founder Friday With Viva La BodyFounder Friday With Viva La Body
It's a huge concern for people switching over to a natural deodorant that they will sweat and stink. Will your deodorant stop you from smelling? 
We are happy to report that there is no adjustment period using our deodorant. It works straight away and works well!  I guess the thing that is different for people is that they are used to a wet glue-like texture for their deodorant. Ours is a dry finish and they may not think that it has applied properly. But just a couple of swipes (and you can massage to distribute if you like, though not really necessary) and you are sorted! Every now and then it is good to give your pits a break from all deodorants. Get to know how your body smells! Our society seems to be quick to shave our body hair and cover our smells! But it's good to be comfortable with who you are! On the weekends I try to give the deodorants a break and use a little lemon juice instead.
Can you describe the difference between natural and unnatural deodorants?

Natural deodorants generally contain gentle non-synthetic ingredients. They can be plant-based ingredients, contain pure essential oils and things you can probably find in your pantry! I find it really strange that people would want to block their sweat for 48hours (as some brands claim). Sweating is a necessary and natural body function to rid the body of toxins! Some of the ingredients in commercially produced unnatural deodorants are pretty nasty and may have bad side effects with long term use. If the ingredient name is hard to pronounce and contains more than 24 letters my alarm bells ring!
Why did you make your products vegan, ethical, and cruelty-free?

The mission statement for our brand is "What we put into the earth will return to us".  It makes us accountable for all our actions and we bring everything we do back to this statement. Probably from a purely selfish point of view, we want to feel good about what we are doing and being an ethical manufacturer feels good!
It’s not easy to start a business and it’s even harder to keep it going. Are there any times you’ve found particularly hard? 
There have been quite a few times that business has been hard. From starting our own VLB concept stores and all the lessons learned there. In particular, understanding how to manage people in order to grow your business (our strengths are making things not managing people so that is always challenging!). A couple of years ago when retail first started to struggle that was hard and we decided not to continue with bricks and mortar retail. In hindsight, it was one of the best things that has happened to us. Our new direction is exciting and it inspires Micko and I. We took our time to redefine our business and where we wanted to head. I also took up yoga and have become mad keen for handstands!
What advice can you give to someone wanting to start a business?
The biz experts say "DON'T DO IT!" because a really high percentage of businesses fail in the first year. I think that you should be prepared to put in the hard work and expect no monetary reward for at least three years. Everything needs to go back into your business to develop it for future stability. If you think you can go without pay for three years and still feel passionate about what you are doing then it's probably the thing for you! If not, drop it like it's hot!!
Founder Friday With Viva La BodyFounder Friday With Viva La Body

Are there any charities initiatives Viva La Body supports?

We are working with Orangutan Alliance, our certifying body (that our products are palm oil free), on a project One Soap Plants One Tree which will be launched 19 August on World Orangutan Day. For every soap sold a tree gets planted! This project is looking at reforestation of habitats that have been cleared due to palm oil farming e.g. in Borneo. It's a very exciting project and we really hope that our customers come on board to support it and help out Orangutan Alliance.  We donate to various causes and get approached often to donate products for raffles and fundraisers. We have even helped out with a little refuge for rabbits - Rabbit Runaway in Victoria.
In our local community, we are working on an amazing project to help out with Aboriginal health outcomes but it is still under wraps for now and I can't say much about it. We are really excited about this and hope to share it with everyone very soon.
We have consistently donated to many causes/events over the years including preventing youth suicide, RSPCA, various Indigenous Health projects such as rural breast screens, Flying Doctors, NT Fireys and so many more.  I think just about every primary school in Darwin has hit us up for their annual Mother's Day raffles!
Who inspires you?
There is a really lovely woman here in Darwin named June Mills. She's a Larrakia Elder and has spent her life fighting for justice for indigenous people and her people. She's constantly offering healing to people and trying to bridge the gap and join us together. There's a young group of girls here in Darwin called BLK WMN 4 JUSTICE who are really stepping up to take over the work that she's done. On Australia Day or Invasion Day they organise smoking and healing ceremonies and try to educate everyone on the injustices that Indigenous Australians face. 


If you're keen to try some all-natural hair, skin and body products, we highly recommend Viva La Body

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