Our client Stephanie Evans talks to NZ Business Magazine

A year ago Oasis Beauty owner Stephanie Evans achieved a significant milestone; she was no longer working for nothing to bankroll the business.
“I get paid every fortnight, just like the other staff members – I probably look forward to payday more than anybody else.”
Evans is the quintessential innovator; she recognised a problem and came up with a marketable solution – in her case creating “a skin cream that could smell, look, perform and feel the way I wanted it to.” It was loads of fun she says, but it was initially just a hobby she did after work and during the weekend.
That was 15 years ago and it was a couple of years before she felt sufficiently confident to expand the market beyond her own bathroom. She began selling in a small way; “I’d have a table at local fund-raising events, I did expos and even a five-year stint selling by party plan. At that stage I was still working full time and making the creams in the weekends.”
Today manufacture is outsourced – but remains in New Zealand – and 16 different Oasis Beauty products sell online and in 250 retail outlets throughout New Zealand.
Key to success was listening, particularly to negative feedback, and making changes to the formulae she was producing. “I was solving problems and over time the negative feedback diminished and women were making repeat purchases. It was then I felt I had created something that had the potential to provide me with a modest living.”
Going to market was a gradual process. “Stepping up from school fetes to lifestyle expos to online selling, then retailers; but now I’m an overnight success!”
The business has evolved as she learnt more, says Evans. “The real challenges have come with the astronomic growth curve Oasis is currently on. This needs to be handled very carefully as I’m not prepared to carry a lot of debt to finance growth.”
She’s a perfectionist but believes sometimes getting to market is better than waiting until all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted. “You have to make a decision to go for it at some point and deal with unforeseen issues as they arise.”
New Zealand is a small market; particularly for a skin care specialist company. And while Evans has two obvious ways to grow the business – increase the product range or export – neither are currently options, she says.
“About five years ago I went through the process of simplifying the range and deleted a number of products where sales didn’t justify carrying them or they didn’t fit
my strategy.
“It was a good decision. Carrying a smaller range of multipurpose products means we are more focused with our marketing efforts; our raw and finished inventory stockholding is healthier and I’ve been able to improve our GP by negotiating better packaging and manufacturing pricing.” Any future additions to the range will be customer-driven, she says.
Deciding not to export wasn’t easy. “I spent a lot of time going down the track of being export-ready and it’s taken me about three years to decide against it. I believe there is still plenty of scope within the domestic market for Oasis to grow and that’s where my focus is.”
It was a decision based on stress versus reward. “Exporting could deliver big bucks but it would also bring increased stress levels and financial worries. Life’s too short for that and I’m enjoying the journey Oasis is currently on. Saying that, I’ll always look at any opportunities that present themselves, but I’m not actively chasing export business.”
It’s chasing her though; online sales around the globe are growing and Evans would like to see that continue. “Online selling is an area of the business we put a lot of effort into and that’s showing in our growth figures.” She sees e-commerce as supplementary to their other market channels and uses the Oasis website to support and drive business to
their retailers.

Effective online strategy
Evans is a firm believer in the value of an effective online strategy and advises any small business to put aside budget for this. “Whether you sell online or not you need to have a decent website.” It needn’t be expensive. “Ours cost a very small amount and returns that investment every week.”
Most of their online work is handled in-house but professional help is sought when required and they’ve budgeted for a website update
next year.
Oasis spends “a fair amount on online advertising and you can’t use social media platforms such as Facebook nowadays without putting money behind your posts.” (Actual spend is currently around three percent of turnover.) That said, the majority of new business comes from word-of-mouth. “This is testament to the years of R&D I undertook to get the products right and the effort
we put in to providing customers with a really good experience. Nothing beats good service.”
Ten years ago, Evans relocated to Oxford in rural North Canterbury. It’s an idyllic lifestyle, but there are challenges for the business. Initially she had to load orders into her truck and drive to the designated courier pick-up point. “Rain, hail and snow, every day! Once my volumes picked up I threatened the courier company I’d take my business elsewhere if they didn’t pick up.”
Couriers now come to the door – frequently stepping over Tom the pig, sunbathing on the doormat.
Getting round to see customers is another challenge. Evans, who travels the country for face-to-face sales and training calls, says the amount of driving and flying can be tiring. “But it’s worth it to be able to operate the business from the beautiful area we live in. It’s a very stress-free environment and I love getting home at the end of the week.”

Read more http://nzbusiness.co.nz/articles/15-year-overnight-success