Women with GRITT
April 08, 2021
by Rose Garnett

WOMEN WITH GRITT: The Beauty Chef Founder Carla Oates On Gut Health, Risk-Taking And Why She Credits Her Entrepreneurial Flair To A Childhood Lemonade Stand

by Rose Garnett

“Pioneering the inner beauty category with The Beauty Chef was incredibly challenging. In 2009, the concept of inner beauty was very left of field and the concept of an inner beauty powder was even weirder. To think of where I started to where I am now is very cool and rewarding.”

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

Mention ingestible beauty supplements and you’ll without a doubt hear Carla Oates’ name mentioned. The founder and CEO of The Beauty Chef, Oates is an expert in all things gut health and beauty from the inside out.

Launching her business with the iconic GLOW Inner Beauty Powder in 2009, the Bondi-local has dominated the ingestible beauty market since. Now with a 13-product-deep offering and an ultra-loyal following to boot, the mother of two has hit her stride. “I feel so proud to have founded a business that has helped to create a positive paradigm shift in the beauty industry,” she says. “We pioneered inner beauty, nutrition and gut health for beauty—and I love that before people have thought about putting their makeup on, let alone their moisturiser, they have made a GLOW Inner Beauty smoothie in the morning.”

But beyond her business prowess and ability to identify a gaping hole in the market, Oates is also one of the most humble and hardworking women in the industry. You know the ones we’re talking about—those women who have an immediately calming presence about them and can put anyone at ease. It’s this trusting nature that’s kept her customers loyal for so long. 

In this interview, Oates speaks to Gritty Pretty about gut health, the challenges of building The Beauty Chef, the value of risk-taking and why you should never underestimate a lemonade stand.

 

Hi Carla! Before we dive into all things The Beauty Chef, we’d love to know a bit more about you. So, what are some of your fondest childhood memories that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

Thank you for having me! One of my most poignant memories is being in the kitchen watching my mum cook and make beautiful bread baskets. She would knead the dough, plait it, form basket shapes, bake them and paint and lacquer them. She’d then scoop me up and take me along to the shops to sell them in a boutique in Woollahra. 

Mum also became a fashion editor when I was school age and although she worked very hard, she was always home to cook us dinner. She was creative, strong, kind, hard working and always so stylish and elegant. She always did everything with a smile and is definitely a great source of inspiration for me.

 

She sounds like an incredible woman. Where do you think you inherited your entrepreneurial drive from? 

My sister and I ran lemonade and mandarin stores on the street and I set up a ‘healing’ clinic in our house when I was about nine years old. I used all of mum’s creams and lotions and offered massages for $5. I was always happy when I thought I was helping others so I think that’s where my drive stems from. 

 

Sounds like you’ve loved health and wellbeing from the very beginning. Can you pinpoint when you realised this passion for the first time?

As a child, I suffered from eczema and allergies and my mum took me to see a naturopath who dramatically changed what I ate, removing processed foods as well as allergens such as gluten and dairy from my diet. My allergies and eczema subsided so I experienced first hand the connection of food as medicine—how what we eat affects our skin and health. My uncle Nic and his boyfriend Luis also had a macrobiotic food business and were amazing healthy cooks. They really inspired me with their approach to food.

 

You started your career as a beauty editor before launching The Beauty Chef. What was the turning point when you realised you wanted to launch your own brand?

As a beauty editor, you get inundated with so many beauty products. I was so excited when I began but my excitement soon dissipated after researching the ingredients and becoming increasingly concerned with the toxic chemicals found in skincare products. I knew that looking after your skin properly started with what you ate and knew that none of the chemical laden products would be able to help, heal or regenerate the skin so I decided to make it my mission to help change the paradigm and educate women on how to look after themselves in a healthier, more holistic way.

That’s when I left the newspaper, wrote a book called ‘Feeding Your Skin’ and became the natural beauty writer for Wellbeing magazine. For six years I also penned a natural beauty column called ‘DIY beauty’ for the Sunday Telegraph newspaper and during that time wrote hundreds of articles on natural health and beauty.

Then, about 13 years ago, I came across some research on the link between gut health and eczema and as I explored this more closely, I decided to put my family on a gut-healing protocol which included eliminating certain foods from our diet while also introducing a lot of gut-loving, lacto-fermented wholefoods—including sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi. We found we had better energy, happier tummies and healthier, more radiant skin. This was in 2009 and from there the first iteration of GLOW was born.

 

What were the practical steps you put in place to create GLOW and launch The Beauty Chef?

GLOW Inner Beauty Powder was originally developed through trial and error in my Bondi kitchen and then working with a manufacturer who ferments wholefoods. When I created GLOW, I called the brand Carla Oates Beauty. It was 18 months later that I changed the brand name to The Beauty Chef.

After creating the product, I developed a simple website where customers could purchase the product online and from there the business grew very organically and from word of mouth. It wasn’t until the third year when I saw a substantial increase in demand across various different retail channels that I felt it necessary to create a strategy and business plan to support the additional growth.

In terms of funding, how did you get your business off the ground?

The Beauty Chef products came from a genuine need rather than the approach of setting out to start a business, so I began the company with a few thousand dollars—$3,000 to be exact. My first big break in a commercial sense came when I was approached by an agent at TVSN, the TV home shopping network to sell GLOW.

In order to facilitate this opportunity, I funded the first run of products myself. GLOW was received positively, meaning I needed more money to up the quantities that were being produced, so my sister and a best friend invested in the business and are still shareholders. To this day, GLOW is the number one seller in TVSN’s health category—and the continued success helped inject capital into my business.

 

That must have felt amazing knowing that your sister and best friend believed in your vision—but as we know, entrepreneurship isn’t always easy. What has been the most challenging and the most rewarding part of your business journey to date?

Pioneering the inner beauty category with The Beauty Chef was extremely challenging. Back in 2009, the concept of inner beauty was very left of field and the idea of an inner beauty powder formulated from fermented foods with probiotic bacteria was even weirder. I was told by numerous people that it was too strange a concept and would never succeed. To think of where I started to where I am now—where we have a global brand with over 700 doors, and have built a state of the art bio-fermentation manufacturing facility in Sydney—is very cool and rewarding.

 

How do you go about juggling your business prowess with your personal life?

To be honest, as the business has grown, this is probably the hardest part. Family and community are very important to me and I do find it hard to get the balance. I think family and friends and love are the most important things in life, as well as creativity and creative expression. I absolutely love my business and our team but managing 50 people and wearing the hat of CEO, creative director and product developer makes it hard to always get that balance. I’m working on it, though. And that’s all you can do. Part of finding this balance will be learning to let some things go (i.e. not be such a control freak) and hiring a general manager! Being mindful and stricter with my diary around time with friends and family as well as exercise and time for healthy meal planning definitely helps.

 

And how does this juggle lend itself to your beauty routine? Is beauty something you always make time for?

I’m certainly not your traditional beauty buff. I’m a big believer in inner beauty rather than external products. I truly believe that beauty is wellness and wellness is beauty. Beauty is not just about how you look, but how you feel. If you look after your gut—which regulates your skin, immunity, metabolism and brain health, your skin will not only be healthier, but your body and mind will be too. Beauty really does begin in the belly. I also love natural but active skincare—a few of my favourites are the Marie Veronique Protective Day Oil, Coola Classic Face Organic Sunscreen and the Sodashi Body Brilliance Cream.

 

To wrap up, we would love to tap into that brilliant mind of yours while we have the chance. So, what advice would you give to women who look up to you?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. There are many times that I have been filled with fear and self-doubt and done it anyway and it felt so good to conquer that fear. We as humans are capable of so much, we just need to believe in ourselves.

Mention ingestible beauty supplements and you’ll without a doubt hear Carla Oates’ name mentioned. The founder and CEO of The Beauty Chef, Oates is an expert in all things gut health and beauty from the inside out.

Launching her business with the iconic GLOW Inner Beauty Powder in 2009, the Bondi-local has dominated the ingestible beauty market since. Now with a 13-product-deep offering and an ultra-loyal following to boot, the mother of two has hit her stride. “I feel so proud to have founded a business that has helped to create a positive paradigm shift in the beauty industry,” she says. “We pioneered inner beauty, nutrition and gut health for beauty—and I love that before people have thought about putting their makeup on, let alone their moisturiser, they have made a GLOW Inner Beauty smoothie in the morning.”

But beyond her business prowess and ability to identify a gaping hole in the market, Oates is also one of the most humble and hardworking women in the industry. You know the ones we’re talking about—those women who have an immediately calming presence about them and can put anyone at ease. It’s this trusting nature that’s kept her customers loyal for so long. 

In this interview, Oates speaks to Gritty Pretty about gut health, the challenges of building The Beauty Chef, the value of risk-taking and why you should never underestimate a lemonade stand.

 

Hi Carla! Before we dive into all things The Beauty Chef, we’d love to know a bit more about you. So, what are some of your fondest childhood memories that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

Thank you for having me! One of my most poignant memories is being in the kitchen watching my mum cook and make beautiful bread baskets. She would knead the dough, plait it, form basket shapes, bake them and paint and lacquer them. She’d then scoop me up and take me along to the shops to sell them in a boutique in Woollahra. 

Mum also became a fashion editor when I was school age and although she worked very hard, she was always home to cook us dinner. She was creative, strong, kind, hard working and always so stylish and elegant. She always did everything with a smile and is definitely a great source of inspiration for me.

 

She sounds like an incredible woman. Where do you think you inherited your entrepreneurial drive from? 

My sister and I ran lemonade and mandarin stores on the street and I set up a ‘healing’ clinic in our house when I was about nine years old. I used all of mum’s creams and lotions and offered massages for $5. I was always happy when I thought I was helping others so I think that’s where my drive stems from. 

 

Sounds like you’ve loved health and wellbeing from the very beginning. Can you pinpoint when you realised this passion for the first time?

As a child, I suffered from eczema and allergies and my mum took me to see a naturopath who dramatically changed what I ate, removing processed foods as well as allergens such as gluten and dairy from my diet. My allergies and eczema subsided so I experienced first hand the connection of food as medicine—how what we eat affects our skin and health. My uncle Nic and his boyfriend Luis also had a macrobiotic food business and were amazing healthy cooks. They really inspired me with their approach to food.

 

You started your career as a beauty editor before launching The Beauty Chef. What was the turning point when you realised you wanted to launch your own brand?

As a beauty editor, you get inundated with so many beauty products. I was so excited when I began but my excitement soon dissipated after researching the ingredients and becoming increasingly concerned with the toxic chemicals found in skincare products. I knew that looking after your skin properly started with what you ate and knew that none of the chemical laden products would be able to help, heal or regenerate the skin so I decided to make it my mission to help change the paradigm and educate women on how to look after themselves in a healthier, more holistic way.

That’s when I left the newspaper, wrote a book called ‘Feeding Your Skin’ and became the natural beauty writer for Wellbeing magazine. For six years I also penned a natural beauty column called ‘DIY beauty’ for the Sunday Telegraph newspaper and during that time wrote hundreds of articles on natural health and beauty.

Then, about 13 years ago, I came across some research on the link between gut health and eczema and as I explored this more closely, I decided to put my family on a gut-healing protocol which included eliminating certain foods from our diet while also introducing a lot of gut-loving, lacto-fermented wholefoods—including sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi. We found we had better energy, happier tummies and healthier, more radiant skin. This was in 2009 and from there the first iteration of GLOW was born.

 

What were the practical steps you put in place to create GLOW and launch The Beauty Chef?

GLOW Inner Beauty Powder was originally developed through trial and error in my Bondi kitchen and then working with a manufacturer who ferments wholefoods. When I created GLOW, I called the brand Carla Oates Beauty. It was 18 months later that I changed the brand name to The Beauty Chef.

After creating the product, I developed a simple website where customers could purchase the product online and from there the business grew very organically and from word of mouth. It wasn’t until the third year when I saw a substantial increase in demand across various different retail channels that I felt it necessary to create a strategy and business plan to support the additional growth.

In terms of funding, how did you get your business off the ground?

The Beauty Chef products came from a genuine need rather than the approach of setting out to start a business, so I began the company with a few thousand dollars—$3,000 to be exact. My first big break in a commercial sense came when I was approached by an agent at TVSN, the TV home shopping network to sell GLOW.

In order to facilitate this opportunity, I funded the first run of products myself. GLOW was received positively, meaning I needed more money to up the quantities that were being produced, so my sister and a best friend invested in the business and are still shareholders. To this day, GLOW is the number one seller in TVSN’s health category—and the continued success helped inject capital into my business.

 

That must have felt amazing knowing that your sister and best friend believed in your vision—but as we know, entrepreneurship isn’t always easy. What has been the most challenging and the most rewarding part of your business journey to date?

Pioneering the inner beauty category with The Beauty Chef was extremely challenging. Back in 2009, the concept of inner beauty was very left of field and the idea of an inner beauty powder formulated from fermented foods with probiotic bacteria was even weirder. I was told by numerous people that it was too strange a concept and would never succeed. To think of where I started to where I am now—where we have a global brand with over 700 doors, and have built a state of the art bio-fermentation manufacturing facility in Sydney—is very cool and rewarding.

 

How do you go about juggling your business prowess with your personal life?

To be honest, as the business has grown, this is probably the hardest part. Family and community are very important to me and I do find it hard to get the balance. I think family and friends and love are the most important things in life, as well as creativity and creative expression. I absolutely love my business and our team but managing 50 people and wearing the hat of CEO, creative director and product developer makes it hard to always get that balance. I’m working on it, though. And that’s all you can do. Part of finding this balance will be learning to let some things go (i.e. not be such a control freak) and hiring a general manager! Being mindful and stricter with my diary around time with friends and family as well as exercise and time for healthy meal planning definitely helps.

 

And how does this juggle lend itself to your beauty routine? Is beauty something you always make time for?

I’m certainly not your traditional beauty buff. I’m a big believer in inner beauty rather than external products. I truly believe that beauty is wellness and wellness is beauty. Beauty is not just about how you look, but how you feel. If you look after your gut—which regulates your skin, immunity, metabolism and brain health, your skin will not only be healthier, but your body and mind will be too. Beauty really does begin in the belly. I also love natural but active skincare—a few of my favourites are the Marie Veronique Protective Day Oil, Coola Classic Face Organic Sunscreen and the Sodashi Body Brilliance Cream.

 

To wrap up, we would love to tap into that brilliant mind of yours while we have the chance. So, what advice would you give to women who look up to you?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. There are many times that I have been filled with fear and self-doubt and done it anyway and it felt so good to conquer that fear. We as humans are capable of so much, we just need to believe in ourselves.

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