For childhood friends Maddy Balderson and Rhiannon Hall, it was a serious health setback that first set them on the path to a business venture of a lifetime.
“The idea was planted a few years ago after I had a Basal Cell Carcinoma skin cancer removed from my jaw-line,” Maddy explains. “I have always loved being tanned but after that whole ordeal, I didn’t want to risk further damage and more skin cancers.”
“[We] trialed so many sunless tanning products but none ticked all of the boxes for us; most were loaded with chemicals, were difficult to apply or had that nasty fake tan smell.”
Realising they had identified a gap in the market, they set to work on developing Luna Bronze - a sunless tanning range promising a natural golden glow, without any of the nasty additives. But with no prior experience in product development, this was easier said than done.
“I have always worked as an EA in design and architecture, which is worlds apart from the beauty industry, so it was all very new to me,” Rhiannon says.
And although Maddy had never run a business on her own, they drew on her financial smarts to get them off the ground.
“I had been working in finance and accounting for over 10 years so [this] was something completely different,” she says. “It turns out my background has come in handy for the business.”
The next step was finding a team to help bring their ideas to fruition.
“It was all hands on deck,” Rhiannon reflects.
“The self-tan sector of the beauty market is highly saturated and we knew from the get-go that we had to create a product that was unique and provided what the other brands did not.”
This meant that every free minute away from their full-time jobs were spent brainstorming, testing and mapping the road ahead.
“We had our design team behind the scenes building our beautiful branding and website whilst we worked on our first product; ‘Glow’, Gradual Tanning Moisturiser,” Rhiannon says.
The brief was simple: easy to use, hydrating and nourishing, with a fresh essential oil fragrance and chic minimalist packaging.
“As soon as we developed it, we knew we had a game changer,” Rhiannon admits.
Fast forward 18 months, and with two new products under their belt, Luna Bronze has earned a top spot on every beauty guru’s wishlist. It’s stocked in Mecca Maxima stores across Australia and is making waves on the international market.
“I never thought that in my wildest dreams that our little idea, sprung from a casual conversation, would actually develop and grow so quickly,” Maddy admits, crediting their simple “tanning, minus the sun damage” philosophy with the brand's success.
“We’re giving our customers the choice to use a natural product that is good for their skin and good for the environment,” she says. “Our skin absorbs up to 60 percent of the ingredients we apply to it so minimising the number of synthetics we use is important.”
And if you think the term "natural skincare" inspires serious Nimbin (or Ooompa Loompa) vibes, Maddy and Rhiannon are out to prove you wrong.
“These days natural and organic products aren’t just some small batch product made in someone’s home,” Maddy says. “Now they include active ingredients that actually deliver results.”
Despite Luna Bronze’s growing popularity, building a business from the ground up doesn’t come without its hard knocks. The pair faced numerous rejections before they found a fitting manufacturer, and as Rhiannon explains, work-life balance is a constant daily battle.
“We have experienced so much and learned so much in such a short amount of time,” she says. “Every day is different and every day we are faced with new challenges; some scary and some exciting.”
As far as skin cancer prevention goes, the girls have learned from past mistakes. Their one golden rule? “Wear sunscreen. Every day. No exceptions.”
“We always think, ‘it’ll never happen to me’ but once it happens to you or someone close to you, your whole perspective shifts,” Maddy says.
“Your skin is your largest organ and it needs to be looked after for life.”
“There is no such thing as a healthy tan,” she continues. “If you love being tanned, then fake it with a good natural product instead.”