How to cultivate engaged employees

How to cultivate engaged employees

We chat to Megan Larsen, founder of natural skincare range Sodashi, about how to create an inclusive and inspired company culture.

BY Nicky Champ, 8 min READ

“One of the driving forces in the success of Sodashi has always been its people.”

Picture this: you and your colleagues gather in the company boardroom every day to close your eyes and meditate together for 20 minutes. Can’t imagine it? Ok, how about a day off on your birthday? Those are just two of the perks of working for Sodashi founder Megan Larsen. We sat down with the Business Chicks Premium member to find out more about how she’s run her successful skincare business for 18 years and what she believes makes for an engaged and inspired team.

What was your first full-time job?

I went straight from school into working in a pharmacy. We would prepare old school formulations; we treated everything from carbuncles to corns to making creams and potions. At the same time, the [in-house pharmacy] cosmetics houses were educating me in the application of cosmetics and skincare. From there, I ended up studying beauty therapy, natural healthcare, and aromatherapy. And that’s how I became more interested in the benefits of natural skincare.

Your skin is amazing, but did you ever have problem skin? And was that the catalyst for creating Sodashi? 

I’ve always had very sensitive skin, so I’ve had to be quite careful what I used on my skin. Sodashi was really a culmination of all that I’d learned and studied. I think you get to a stage in your life where you realise everything you have done up until that point has all been for the benefit of what you’re going to do in your next years.

How did you first fund your business? 

I funded Sodashi from my previous health business [a health food shop and wellbeing centre in Perth]. I continued to fund it using every available piece of capital that I generated for the last couple of years. I think when you build a business, and especially when you’re building a product-orientated business, not a service-orientated one, everything that you need to make that product needs to be purchased. So for the first five years, everything was self-funded.

How did you attract a following? Was it marketing? Or word of mouth? 

Yes, it was say word of mouth. We have some strong advocates of our brand. We’d probably call them brand ambassadors, who have spread the word through a genuine love of the product and some of those people have a strong voice in the spa industry. I do believe if you produce a product that really works, then people will talk about it.

Sodashi is now in 25 luxury spas worldwide. How did you build the spa side of the business?

 I strategically worked hard to build some high-level work relationships in the spa arena. I also educated them about the benefits of natural skincare and wellbeing products. I worked very closely with the head of Four Seasons Global Taskforce to put in place a directive where each Four Seasons spa would offer a natural product. The head of the taskforce at a time had a preference for Sodashi, which was great. We’re now in 18 of the Four Seasons properties worldwide.

What were your biggest challenges in taking Sodashi global? 

For every country we started exporting to, they have their own importation requirements so you have to go through that process to have your products approved. We were still very new to the spa industry, so we were still learning what the global spa industry really wanted. At the time, we were helping to shape it and developing products that were really shaping that industry. We the first pure natural product to go into the spa industry, so that also meant were leading the way for many others and I think sometimes being a pioneer has lots of advantages but it also has lots of challenges as well.

Tell us a bit about your company culture. Why are birthday holidays and meditation important for your staff?

One of the driving forces in the success of Sodashi has always been its people. What you put into anyone is how you’re going to nurture them and look after them. Those sorts of things help people feel passionate about the company they’re working for.

One of the things I love about Transcendental Meditation (TM), and the reason we give our team the chance to learn this and join our group daily meditation ritual, is because there’s been a lot of research into TM and it shows that it helps the body to rid itself of a lot of stress. And I do believe we’re all challenged on a daily basis by stress especially if you’re in an environment that can be fast-paced or dynamic. So I love giving our team the tools to manage that. I love how people blossom after learning it. I think that’s really special.

“I do believe that the health and wellbeing of each individual team member are really paramount to having an engaged team who will help move our business forward.”

Giving everyone their birthday off might’ve been self-motived in the beginning! I don’t like to work on my birthday, so I figure if I don’t want to, then why should people at Sodashi work on their birthday? We have been doing that for 17 years. I do believe that the health and wellbeing of each individual team member are really paramount to having an engaged team who will help move our business forward.

In five years, where do you see your business going?

World domination. Am I allowed to say that? I think you have to think big, always. Sodashi just bought on a new General Manager who I think is going to be integral to our growth, so I’m excited to hear her ideas and suggestions. We are currently working to expand in the Middle East, which I think is a great market for Sodashi. We haven’t had a good crack at the USA yet, so that would be good to look at our strategy in that market too.

connect Connect with Megan here. Check out Sodashi’s beautiful products here.

Photographs: supplied.


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