The Aussie ‘Yes Men’ behind an international skincare giant
Meet the two UTS graduates behind the world’s second largest natural beauty brand, Yes To Carrots.
When it comes to mistakes, exporting has probably been the steepest learning curve with the most important lessons. “The biggest challenge was allocating enough time and resources for each new market we opened up,” says Kalish. “We wanted to devote the same amount of attention and passion into every market, but with a small team initially and pure distance, we just couldn’t be everywhere at once! I wish we could have hired our old selves to assist us in those days to maximise every new market launch!”
They also learn a lot from doing something very simple that many businesses neglect: asking their customers what they think. Yes To prides itself on being a customer-centric company, with its dedicated group of brand loyal fans who they call VICs (Very Important Carrots). “Every two months we host a video conference where we invite the VICs to learn more about the products and the company culture, and most importantly we ask them what products they’d like for us to launch and how we can improve our existing items,” says Leffler.
There have been countless awards for the business over the years, but perhaps most significantly they’ve been named Most Ethical Cosmetic Brand by PETA, the largest animal rights group in the world, for two out of the last three years. Kalish says: “We like to call our typical Yes To consumer someone who is ‘light green’. This is someone who is educated and taking steps in their life to lead a greener, healthier lifestyle.”
The initial excitement in starting the business hasn’t diluted at all in five years and Kalish says he feels extremely proud of their success so far. “I still get a huge thrill out of seeing a Yes To product on any retailer shelf, because I know how much blood, sweat and tears went into getting it there!” His advice to Aussie start-ups is to think global from the very beginning. “I think that by nature, Australians are very entrepreneurial and small business entrepreneurs have been very successful here. However, in order for Australians to make a huge international impact, they need to think global, take advantage of good old fashioned Aussie gusto and take additional risks necessary to become truly significant on the international stage.”
Leffler, who is one of the most charismatic and smiley people you’ll ever meet, says: “Yes is the most powerful word in the world. It’s incredible what can be achieved if you start and end your day on a positive note. Our competitors are often large companies with a much longer process to say ‘yes.’ In contrast, Yes To is a positively driven, fast-moving company, which our retailers love!”
These two never sit still, even when they’re not working, and downtime has nothing to do with lying on a beach doing nothing. “One would think that with all the travel we do that we would love to sit still but this could not be further from the truth,” says Leffler. “At any given moment we are travelling to a sandy beach, game reserve, mega-city, or awesome snowboarding mountain. We are also big foodies and love to try any exotic meal that you throw at us!” They like to give back too, with part of the proceeds from every product sold going to the Yes To Seed Fund, which gives children fun and engaging ways to connect with Mother Nature.
What’s next? “In 2012 we will launch in six new countries, launch a significant number of new products and implement one of our largest Yes To Seed Fund initiatives to date,” says Leffler. “We’ll also continue our plans to become Australia’s favourite natural beauty brand.”
Lance and Ido’s top three pieces of advice for business owners
1) Emails are for introduction and follow-up. Real business needs to be done face-to-face.
2) Never say no to a meeting. You never know where it might lead because opportunities never come about exactly the way you think they should.
3) Build and invest in real and genuine relationships with your customers and suppliers. The trust factor you develop from genuine relationships will earn you far more down the line then plain dollars ever will.