It’s our 22nd Birthday & to celebrate we’re going to take you on a journey to discover our story behind the story.
The Urban Rituelle story began back in 1993 when Scott & I met in the magical location of Oludeniz in Southern Turkey.
After only knowing each other for a very short time, our early travels took us to far away & exotic locations including India & Nepal, where we explored the ancient cities of Jaisalmer, Dharamashala & Kashmir in the far north of India.
We trekked to Annapurna base camp in Nepal & experienced the ancient temples & shrines of Kathmandu.
After wandering the world together Scott & I returned to Sydney, setting up in inner city Newtown.
It was during this period of inner city living while studying ceramics at Sydney College of the Arts, that Urban Rituelle emerged.
Our first products sold at the Glebe markets were items we had bought on our travels, including beads from India & cushions from Thailand. However we always believed in Australian manufacturing & were looking for a product we could make in our home ( & also fit into our small Honda Civic!)
Scott & I shared a love of products that nurtured both body & soul & enhanced our everyday rituals. We soon had a lightbulb moment that led us to creating our range of vegetable soaps & scented candles. We knew we had found our calling when our customers returned to our stand every week, to buy their favourite soaps & candles.
Blending ancient cultures & modern sensibilities our first products were made to celebrate the time honoured ritual of bathing. Inspired by the purifying ceremony of the Turkish bath, one of the oldest cleansing traditions in the world, the Turkish bath is a unique ritual, pampering our sense of well-being and promoting healthy skin, body & mind.
We met our first wholesale customer at the Glebe Markets, a gorgeous woman named Dee, who had 2 stores in Leura & Katoomba, NSW. This chance encounter opened our eyes to the possibility of wholesaling our products & introduced us to the Australian gift & homewares industry.
After driving my little Honda Civic to regional NSW towns such as Berry & Bowral, looking for retail stores to stock our soaps, Urban Rituelle launched to retail partners nationally at the Sydney Reed Gift Fair in September 1999. As they say, the rest is history.
From humble beginnings in an inner city market stall, Urban Rituelle is now an international, award winning company & recognised as a leader in our industry.
In celebration of our 22nd birthday, our team asked us to reminisce about some of the highlights & challenges of our 22 year journey.
Do you have any pinch me moments?
Leanne: Being stocked in Anthropologie in the USA, one of the best retail stores in the world & most recently having our products selected as the scent of Australia for the Australian Olympics Village in Tokyo!
Scott: Buying our 1st warehouse in 2001 & moving our business from our spare room into a real warehouse with a forklift.
What are you most proud of?
Leanne: Our beautiful team of people, who live & breathe Urban Rituelle values of kindness. They support each other, care for one another & truly work as a team for success. 22 years in business with your husband is also pretty cool!
Scott: That we manufacture our own products in our facility in Caringbah, that we are Australian made & that we are powered by 100% sustainable renewable sources.
How is working in a husband and wife partnership? Do you both have clear roles?
Leanne: It has benefits & challenges of course. The benefits are that we have one common goal, always working to make the best decisions for our business, team & family. The challenges are that the business crosses over into every part of our life, there is no barrier between the office & the kitchen, however we’ve got better at creating a distinction between home & work recently.
Scott: We do have clear roles but there is a lot of collaboration, particularly when it comes to planning, strategizing & problem solving. We also manage the financial side of the business together. I spend my days looking after the manufacturing, production, logistics & export sales. I am also the driver of new technology & systems improvements.
Leanne: I look after the creative direction in the business, marketing, brand building, the company website , HR & product development.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Scott: With 21 years in business, we have had our fair share of challenges. Our 1st BIG challenge was related to our expansion & growth into the USA in 2008. We were stocked in major US retailers including Anthropologie, had 80 sales representatives & were doing 8 trade fairs a year in the USA. We were doing sales training calls at 2am, we had stock in a warehouse in Los Angeles, and we had a 2.5 year old and 1 year old at home. AND ….then the GFC hit! Our Australian business was still very successful but our US business was hit hard. After the GFC we worked to close down & pull apart the US business. It was a hit to our ego as we were so proud of our USA business. We had to return $350k of inventory from our LA warehouse & pay to store it here. We couldn’t pay our suppliers & cash flow was a disaster. We spent weekends doing bus shopping clearance sales for many years to recover. That was definitely a hard period, but it taught me how to get back up once you get knocked down.
Leanne: Our most recent challenge has
been the business shut downs due to Covid19. In those early weeks of
March 2020, my headspace moved from shock, to survival, to opportunity.
The phones stopped ringing & retailers started closing their doors.
We reduced the teams working hours to a bare minimum & cut back on
all expenses. We put together tight cash flow budgets & every
meeting held was tightly focused on our plan of action. We had to act
quickly to find opportunity & innovate, we knew we had to focus on
our community & how we could help.
We quickly put together information for our customers about our soaps & hand washes, focusing on the importance of hygiene & hand washing. We figured the only way our business could survive was by selling soaps & hand washes. By late March the phones ringing hot with people desperately looking for hand sanitisers, so that’s what we decided we needed to make. Within a week we had a big plan – we had bottles & pumps in our warehouse & we could fill them with hand sanitiser. It intuitively felt like the right thing to do for our business & our team & our community. Two weeks later we were taking orders for sanitisers & sending them to customers Australia wide.
What do you love most about what you do?
Leanne: I love creating things! I love creating a business, brand & products that make people feel good.
I love creating new products, new fragrances, new marketing concepts & creative storytelling.
I love thinking about new ways to do things, looking for constant improvements & new projects. I love the opportunities that I get to mix with amazing people & have wonderful experiences. I also really love building teams & employing local people, we have an amazing team & I love to see them thrive as we create opportunities for them to work together in our wonderful family business. I also love being in control!
Scott: I love seeing our strategies & initiatives come together & I love it when I see a team that are all on board & working together for the same goal of creating the best product in the marketplace. I also thrive on the knowledge that our customers are having the best experience with our brand. I get the biggest thrill when the team ‘hum’.
Twenty two years on & together with our incredible team, we proudly celebrate the success of our award winning Australian-made & family-owned business.
Happy Birthday Urban Rituelle!!