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High-profile entrepreneur Edna Swart is looking at significant overseas growth following a deal with Australia’s sixth-largest retailer.

The deal will see Swart’s ed&i body products retail in selected Chemist Warehouse stores throughout New Zealand as well as their e-commerce channels – and is set to provide a platform for trans-Tasman export growth.

Chemist Warehouse, which generates over $3bn in revenue annually, has over 500 outlets in Australia and plans to open up to 70 stores in New Zealand.

Swart says her business operates under a social enterprise model, with tens of thousands of dollars being returned to charity annually.

She says the company had a 245% increase in sales revenue in the last financial year and is targeting over $8 million in sales revenue by 2025. The new deal with Chemist Warehouse is set to provide export access into their Australian stores over the same period.

Swart says beauty is such a commoditised space that products need to deliver more than efficacy – they must also have a brand story that resonates with the consumer.

She says the ed&i brand story focused on the shame and insecurity she faced battling severe acne and later a breakdown in her health has resonated with her customer base.

Along with topical skincare products, Swart has invested heavily in R&D to expand the locally-made range to include nutraceuticals that harness traditional Chinese beauty ingredients.

Swart says the company has sold into 13 countries around the world with orders from as far away as Japan, Britain, Ireland, Singapore, Germany, and the United States.

“Channel diversification is a key part of this strategy and while we were selling well in supermarkets around the country at one stage, we eventually opted to exit that retail network in favour of Chemist Warehouse – which has a better alignment with our target consumer.

“As part of this partnership, we will also have access to their customer base via email campaigns.

“We have 11 products in the range and will expand that to 15 products by the end of the year – which will position 2023 as a pivotal year to establish a foundation for expansion into other global markets.

“Most of our business is still predominately via e-commerce from our own website and we have an amazingly loyal community with a return customer rate of over 78%,” she says.

Swart says while the Australian market is significantly larger than New Zealand, they will need to invest heavily in building the brand to meet the retailer’s sales expectations.

She says she wants to bring in a wider customer base and making the brand less focused on herself.

“Brands which are intrinsically linked with the personality of a founder are always going to face challenges in markets where there they have low recognition.

“While there have been benefits of this model during the start-up phase of the company, the next stage of its development will be outside of New Zealand.

“Despite having an existing retail partner in Australia, we are going to need to make a significant marketing investment to achieve our revenue aspiration there,” she says.

Swart says they have developed a customer base of over 30,000 customers and 100,000+ social media followers and are now seeing up to 3,000 orders per month.

She says while the company has made an impact in the adult acne category she wants to pivot towards the highly lucrative anti-ageing market.


Reality check

Swart, who has featured on local TV shows including Celebrity Treasure IslandBoss Babes and The Great Kiwi Bake Off says customers relate to people, not a business.

She says her time away from the business and subsequent diminished sales while she filmed Celebrity Treasure Island resulted in a stress-related health scare that saw her end up in hospital.

“My cortisol levels were high and I think my body just subconsciously went into shock when I saw the state the business was in. I was terrified of failure it just wasn’t an option, so I looked at the business and what we need to do to rebuild from a more solid foundation.

“I also needed to refocus the business so it was not solely around me. The strategy worked, when two years later I was on my honeymoon and we had a record month in sales,” she says.


A passion for helping others

Swart is a passionate supporter of Stroke Foundation NZ as her mother passed away from the condition when she was a teenager.

Last year $1 was given to the charity from every product sold which has so far seen tens of thousands of dollars donated.

In addition to financial support, Swart donates hours of her time, filming educational videos to support teenagers who may be dealing with a family member’s stroke.

Swart says packaging sustainability is also a focus for the brand and the range is predominantly packaged in refillable and recyclable aluminium, or glass bottles.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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