Auckland mum-of-four Catherine Sanvictores is an artisan and a passionate ambassador for mental health. She’s the founder of Mia Belle, a family business that opened in 2017, and handcrafts thoughtfully formulated eco-friendly skin and hair care products in small batches.
The quality and ethos of her brand has not gone unnoticed and is celebrated this month with a launch in Japan.
While still on her own journey of recovery from trauma, post-natal depression and PTSD, Cath has built two successful businesses which has given her an outlet to channel some of the things she is passionate about – mental health, self-care, mindful living, slowing down and reminding others of how crucial this is.
Care and respect for self, family, community, and environment is hugely important to Cath. Although she is still learning to manage the ups and downs of depression, she’s passionate about living life fully regardless of the challenges.
“Mia Belle, a name that was inspired by my daughter’s name Mia Isabelle, is my passion project and it has given me a lot more purpose,” says Cath.
By offering beautiful, handcrafted plant-based products made from the best organic ingredients, Cath wants to elevate and uplift people’s day. It’s there to remind them that they can gift themselves that time to pause, love their natural beauty, and see the value of taking care of themselves.
Mia Belle is a boutique skincare brand that strives to be sustainable, and the products are formulated using only premium ingredients. Cath reduces her own use of single use plastic as much as possible by using glass, aluminium containers and bottles, packaging from recycled paper, compostable materials, biodegradable corn-starch pellets, and by avoiding bubble wrap.
“People are searching for beautiful products that are not only good for their skin and better for the environment as well as being allergy conscious and cruelty-free. Creating my own line of products means I am completely in touch with what goes into them. I love using them for myself and my family, and it’s amazing to share the love with others.”
Launch coincides with Olympics
This philosophy that you can be kind to yourself while being kind to the planet inspired Hidemoto [Hide] Yamauchi, President of beauty brand ForNation, to launch Mia Belle’s New Zealand-made solid shampoo and conditioner bars in Japan. They are in stores to coincide with the launch of the Tokyo Olympics.
Hide says: “Japanese buyers love products from New Zealand, a country known for its leadership in sustainability. This business and product range has a real feel-good factor, which we believe will inspire people.”
In July 2019, Hide’s then 15-year-old son took part in a homestay student exchange programme at Orewa High School in Auckland. As the boy has a keen interest in business, Hide took this opportunity to pass on his legacy and gave his son an assignment; to find a high-quality, eco-friendly New-Zealand made product that he loved.
The teenager tried out every solid haircare bar he could find while in New Zealand, and Mia Belle was his favourite. The connection was made, and the first shipment to Japan was arranged in December 2020. Due to the multiple lockdowns since then, there was a soft launch only. As the Olympics is a time for celebrations, the time is right to launch the Mia Belle range in a bigger way.
Cath says she is thrilled that her family business and her sustainable brand will reach a new market in Japan, and that more users will reduce the plastic waste in their personal care products.
Her interest in natural products and ingredients started when her son developed severe allergies to peanuts, eggs and other triggers like dust, pollen, grass, synthetic fragrance, harsh cleaning products and laundry powders.
“I started making my own cleaning products and laundry liquid, and we had to be careful with what we put on the table as traces of nuts could be dangerous. We had to look for alternative solutions as off-the-shelf products were not suitable for us. That’s why I started researching and studying natural alternatives,” she says.
Cath quickly discovered that there was a demand for luxurious beauty products that not only delivered what they promised, but also had a minimal impact on the environment. People are increasingly searching for quality products that are good for their skin, eco-friendly and cruelty-free.
“Through Mia Belle, I can channel my passion for sustainability, mindful living, mental health and wellbeing. That is something I like to promote through my range. I believe in family values, bringing joy, and helping others feel relaxed,” she says.
Cath’s family (pictured below) has fully supported her through her study in becoming a cosmetic chemist, and she says she couldn’t have done it without the support of her husband and kids. Now the business is growing, her family is more involved than ever.
More than 70 stockists around New Zealand now stock Mia Belle products, and that number is growing. Proherb Ltd is their sole distributor. The hair care bars are solid shampoo and conditioners made with organic oils, have no nasties, and are made with natural, organic elements.
The scents selected by ForNation for the launch in Japan include the top three sellers in the shampoo and conditioner bar range. Cocolime (Coconut Lime), Beloved (Vanilla Jasmine Sandalwood) to induce tranquillity, and Epic with a blend of citrus and peppermint to start the day with a boost.
The products are suitable for men, women and children with different hair types, even for those with sensitive and dandruff prone scalps, due to the pH balance and the gentle yet effective ingredients. They last up to three times longer than your ordinary shampoo, up to 100 washes per bar.
Following the launch of the hair care bars this month, more of Mia Belle’s products will be rolled out in Japan soon. A natural clay face bar cleanser, a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner bar and the all-in-one bar will be available in Japanese stores in 2022. These pH-balanced, non-soap-based formulations are, like the hair bars, plastic free and zero waste.