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Meet Shanah Baxter, co-founder of Peggy Sue, a self-care brand for the skin and the soul-The Day Ahead
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Meet Shanah Baxter, co-founder of Peggy Sue, a self-care brand for the skin and the soul

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The idea for Peggy Sue started with a simple plan to make soaps for Christmas gifts. Co-founder Shanah posted a few pictures on Instagram of soaps she’d made, and they became an instant hit—selling over 1000 units pre-Christmas just through Instagram.

Following the surprising success of the soaps, Shanah and her good friend and fellow NSW South Coast-based mum, Alysha Hack, set out to create a range of all-natural skincare that was kind the environment, beautifully packaged, and encouraged taking time for self-care. Basically, Australian-made skincare, bath and body oils for the skin and the soul.

This concept of creating a self-care ritual and taking time out to look after your skin and your wellbeing became even more central to the Peggy Sue brand after Shanah suffered a devastating personal tragedy in 2019. “I noticed that one of the few moments where the weight of the world felt a tiny bit lighter, was that 10 minutes I would spend each morning and night doing my skincare ritual,” Shanah told The Day Ahead.

Read on as Peggy Sue’s co-founder Shanah shares the story behind the brand and its sweet name, the guiding eco and ethical principles and why they love being part of the A-beauty community.

Alysha and Shanah Co-founders of Peggy Sue | Shop now at The Day Ahead

Alysha (L) and Shanah (R), Co-founders of Peggy Sue

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Tell us about when you started Peggy Sue and how the idea came to be what it is today?

“The start of the Peggy Sue journey began with me, Shanah, in October 2016, and was incredibly unglamorous. It actually started out with the idea of making soap for some Christmas presents one year. These soaps were fun and pretty, and after posting a photo of the soaps online, a few people commented that they were keen to buy some as gifts too. I had a six-month-old daughter at the time, whose name is Peggy. Cue the new Instagram account that was created ‘Peggy Sue Soaps’, now @peggysue.co.

In the lead up to Christmas I sold about 1000 soaps purely through Instagram, I didn’t even have a website at that stage. I was completely shocked to say the least. There was really no time to have any sort of business plan or goal here, it was purely just a hobby that started exploding into something that could be pretty great. I had grown up with a mum in the skincare industry, so I was pretty familiar with the ins and outs of products and skincare routines, however with the rise in environmental awareness, I wanted to create a brand that was as eco-friendly as possible. But on top of that, [like] most women, I wanted products that were beautiful and aesthetically pleasing as well, instead of brown and generic like a lot of eco-friendly products can be.

Cue Alysha, one of my good friends and now co-owner of Peggy Sue. We worked incredibly hard to create a range of all-natural skincare products that were just that: as eco-friendly as possible and nothing short of aesthetically pleasing. Each product has been carefully thought out and curated with love. Our range is kind on the planet, perfect for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and designed to not only nourish and care for your skin, but also help us all slow down each day and enjoy meaningful moments of self-care, where we can re-centre our minds and show ourselves some love.”

As a conscious self-care brand by women for women, how does this ethos guide your brand and product development?

“We have often wrestled with the idea of ‘self-care’, as we know that it can sometimes be seen as vanity, or it can feel like a sugar-coated way of being selfish, especially when you have kids. But for us, this idea was flipped on its head when I went through every parent’s worst nightmare. Alysha journeyed alongside me throughout my second pregnancy in 2019. My husband and I were over the moon when we went along to our 20-week scan and in the first 10 minutes had found out that we were having a little boy. Our first son, and Peggy’s first sibling, what a dream come true! But by the end of our scan our world had been completely tipped upside down. We found out during this scan that his heart hadn’t grown properly, and that he had no hope of survival after birth. Say what now!!? I will never forget walking out that day. I got into the car with Peggy and just burst into tears. Peggy asked, ‘What’s wrong mummy?’ I was shaking, I couldn’t even talk. I never knew heartache like this existed. We decided we would still carry him to term, our sweet little boy who we named Tobias, meaning ‘God is good’. We met him, and we loved him endlessly, then we said goodbye when he was just 10 days old. The best 10 days of my life. For both myself, and for Alysha who walked closely beside me.

“I noticed that one of the few moments where the weight of the world felt a tiny bit lighter, was the 10 minutes I would spend each morning and night doing my skincare ritual. Self-care for us has had nothing to do with vanity. After going through a tragedy like this, we have a deep conviction and understanding that a self-care routine can be such a beautiful moment where you stop and re-centre yourself. Through all the stresses of life, your skin can often [reflect stress] the [most], which is why forming a regular skincare ritual and using natural skin-loving products is so beneficial to not only your skin, but to your mind and overall wellbeing.”

Can you talk to the ingredients you use and where you source them from?

“We work tirelessly with our manufacturer who is based on the Gold Coast to ensure that our ingredients are all-natural and of the highest standards. Our long-term goal is to have clarity, all the way down our supply chain to the farmers that grow our ingredients. Sadly, in the cosmetics industry that kind of clarity just isn’t available on a lot of the ingredients yet. This is one of the reasons we choose to use organic ingredients wherever possible. This ensures that the products we are using, and the farms in which they come from, are not harmful to the environment or the workers growing and processing them. We will continue to strive in this area to ensure we are providing the most natural and ethically-produced products possible for our small business.”

How are sustainable and ethical practices incorporated into your business?

“Over the past year we have worked incredibly hard and have been guided by a sustainability advisor to ensure our sustainability and ethical efforts are headed in the right direction. We are members of APCO [Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation] and REDcycle [a Melbourne-based recycling organisation] that means all our packaging and bottles have ARL [Australasian Recycling Label] logos on them to inform consumers how to recycle and dispose of their packaging correctly. We also ensure that our warehouse is following best recycling practices by having different bins for materials. As a small business we have a long way to go but we know even the smallest changes can have a great impact.”

What is the importance to you of being made in Australia? And why is it so unique in the beauty industry?

“We love being able to say that we are Australian made! It means that we can support jobs within Australia ourselves and also work with a small manufacturer based in the Gold Coast who also supports Australian jobs :).”

What changes have you seen in the Australian beauty industry and the ‘A-beauty’ category in recent times?

“We’ve seen a big shift towards consumers wanting to understand what ingredients are in their beauty products and where those ingredients come from. We believe this has meant the A-beauty category is leaning more towards natural or organic products—which we LOVE to see! The more we learn that natural doesn’t mean ineffective, the more we hope to see the industry thrive. More and more of our customers are amazed at the results they are seeing from their new natural skincare ritual. It warms our hearts!!”

What excites you about the potential and future of Australian-made beauty and skincare products?

“There are some incredible Australian-made products out there and we only see that continuing to grow over the next few years. It’s great to see more choices for consumers and to support one another within our own beautiful country. We are also super excited about the number of small Australian skincare businesses coming up with new and exciting ways to slim down on the waste the beauty industry creates. With more and more sustainable skincare products available we’re showing that self-care can care for our planet too!”

What is the one product you always recommend from your range?

“Gosh, all of our products are so loved by our Peggy Sue community, but a standout would have to be our PM Blue Tansy Oil. We have blended blue tansy oil, jojoba oil and blueberry oil to create a product that glides on like silk and significantly calms irritated skin, leaving it looking plump and hydrated. It is also available in our AM + PM [Vitamin] Duo, where both products work to enhance your skin’s natural glow and are SO indulgent.”

What is your personal beauty regimen?

“Of course, I love using our entire Peggy Sue range each day, but what I love most is that each product is so easy to use and only takes a few minutes a day, which is great when you’re time poor. My morning routine consists of our Herbal Cleanser, AM Vitamin Serum and Dawn To Dusk Facial Cream. And my evening routine is Herbal Cleanser, PM Blue Tansy Oil and Dawn To Dusk Facial Cream. Just four products that provide such a beautiful in-depth skincare ritual. As for body care, our beauty oils are all I need in that department and I often use them daily when I jump out of the shower, the three blends mean I can choose a scent based on my mood that day. Oh, and I have a Lip Conditioner with me everywhere I go—that tiny tube is a life saver!”

What has been the most rewarding part of being a business owner?

“Peggy Sue started out at our local markets, so if it wasn’t for the incredible Illawarra community we would not be where we are today, shipping orders out all around the country. Alysha and I are in absolute awe of this amazing community that has formed around, and then continued to support, Peggy Sue. It’s these moments that remind you why we do what we do and what we find so rewarding.”

And what has been the most challenging?

“As a small business, things can change frequently and you have to be ready to pivot at any point. Sometimes these setbacks can be incredibly challenging, however, you have to be ready to brainstorm and problem solve as best you can. Being a tight knit team certainly helps in this area but there are days that just feel tough. Remembering that it’s okay to have tough days and that, just like the seasons, things will change and grow and ultimately pass.”

What had you been doing in your career prior to founding Peggy Sue and how did that experience translate to founding a beauty brand?

“Well, Alysha and I had completely different careers prior to creating this gorgeous business. I worked in a cafe as a barista and Alysha was a nurse. A huge career shift for both of us but no regrets so far!”

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