The story begins in 2017 when Hannah Pereira moved from the US to Australia after dropping out of university. Her career opportunities were limited and she found herself working in hospitality and childcare, fields of which she was not passionate about the work.
“I grew up in a family where my parents were entrepreneurs and set the standard for what dedication and hard work can get you,” she explains.
“I knew I wanted to build a business, especially as my husband, Ashton Pereira, was business oriented. Overtime, I tested many different business ideas but finally landed in the beauty industry with bath bombs, which were a very trendy item at the time.”
She taught herself how to make bath bombs through Youtube and utilising Facebook groups. With lots of practice and hard work, Pereira was finally able to perfect a bath bomb recipe, which is notoriously difficult to do and takes a lot of practice and time to master, she says.
Handmade in Australia, Bath Box’s bath bombs are also cruelty-free, vegan and environmentally-friendly.
“This has always been important to us, as we have carefully selected and tested all the ingredients that are added to our products. For example, our glitter is plastic free and biodegradable. We refuse to add anything otherwise. This was a difficult decision to make as these ingredients are hard to source and expensive, but at Bath Box we will not sacrifice our values as it is important to us, our customers―‘Bath Babes’―and our community.
“We also try to support local Australian businesses when we can. Once you are involved in the manufacturing industry, you can see how some materials can be hard to source locally and affordably, but we do our best. We purchase all our flowers and powdered ingredients such as matcha green tea and rose petals from a local Australian supplier, something of which we are very proud of.
“Our bath goodies such as bath bombs, salts, dusts, bubble bath, etc are all handmade in Australia. They are made in our warehouse by our dedicated and passionate production team. Our comfort range is designed by us, made overseas and imported into Australia with the final assembly and packaging taking place in our warehouse. Our warehouse is located in Melbourne and we ship all products from here to our Bath Babes.”
After some early setbacks, Bath Box calibrated its product range to meet customer demand and the success quickly followed. This led to bringing on an additional family member, Kimberley Pereira, to accelerate growth by managing the launch of new product categories.
“Since starting Bath Box we have been faced with numerous challenges, but one that really stood out for all of us was risking it all. In the beginning, Bath Box started as a hobby that we all did after our full-time jobs. It was our 6pm-12am and sometimes even 2am daily grind,” Pereira remembers.
“With the business starting to take off and work hours increasing, we had no other option than to quit our jobs and go all-in on Bath Box. I quit my job in childcare, Ashton put a hold on his career in corporate and Kimberley forwent completing her Master’s Degree.
“Our next biggest challenge was growing faster than we could keep up. In the beginning we were doing everything ourselves but as we started to grow it became a problem, but a good problem to have. It showed us what we were doing was right and our business was growing.”
Indeed, the agile nature of the business and importance Bath Box puts on ‘what the customer wants’, has allowed them to rapidly adapt and continue to grow exponentially, with sales of $2.1 million in 2020 (up 327 per cent from 2019!), even though Pereira and her husband worked remotely for six months of the year.
“We were visiting family in the US when the Covid pandemic struck. What began as a short trip ended up turning into something much longer and due to travel restrictions, we had to quarantine in Sydney for two weeks before returning back to Melbourne.
“This had a somewhat negative impact on operations at Bath Box but was mitigated by Kimberley who was still in Australia managing staff at the factory. Having a family owned business is a huge benefit because you always have people you can rely on and trust,” Pereira says.
“As a family-owned business we have always rallied together during good times and bad. This has given us the courage and discipline to always carry on and keep striving to reach our goals. For example, in the beginning when working from our garage, we were struggling to keep up with orders.
“Family members would come on the weekends and help us pack parcels and make products, even our eight year old brother at the time would come and help us as he would see our family working together and wanting to help us succeed.”
As an online store, Bath Box saw a surge in customer traffic during the pandemic, with Australians shifting to online shopping as they spending more time at home than they ever did before. Not only this, but Australians were looking for alternative ways to relax, as many of their previous outlets such as cinemas, beauty salons and other service-based businesses were unfortunately forced to close due to the pandemic, she says.
“Since Covid began, there has definitely been a growth in online businesses. Most Australians have spent a lot of time at home and with restrictions, were limited to where they could shop, ultimately resulting in an increase in online shopping.
“Due to this, we have seen more online businesses opening and having success. With mobile phones and the internet, you now have everything at your fingertips, so it has never been easier to shop online and/or open an online store. Plus, with little to no overhead costs, more businesses are choosing to operate online over having a physical store,” Pereira adds.
“During Covid, Bath Box was there to provide Australians with luxury bath products that they could use to relax at home. This change in customer behaviour combined with online advertising and marketing made it easy for customers to find Bath Box. Our products, specifically our Bath Pillow and Bath Caddy were going viral on social media. As more people visited our website, our customer base increased and sales grew exponentially.”
Pereira realised e-commerce was the most successful path for not only her business but future businesses that have a similar model to Bath Box after opening a pop-up store in Southland Shopping Centre for the two weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.
“We invested in furnishings and excess stock, however, it did not turn out as we expected. We believe no mistake is a mistake but a learning lesson, and this was no different because we learnt so much. It was truly astonishing to see that there was no significant foot traffic during this time period.
“Mother’s Day is usually a huge time for retail stores. It is a time where they capitalise on gifts for mothers and you see signage for it at every store, however, we were shocked that with all of this in the surrounding stores, there were very few consumers out and about,” she says.
“We are starting to see a trend of brick-and-mortar retail stores closing their doors and moving online or closing down permanently. That being said, more people are having success online. There is a demand for online shopping and with the advances in technology it has never been simpler to start a business online. Since the Covid pandemic, this has been more evident than ever.”
From Bath Box’s infancy, Pereira’s husband has been video recording the journey (some clips are available on the Bath Box YouTube channel) and claims in a 2018 recording, ‘one day [we are] going to forget how hard it was to [build] a multi-million dollar business’. This is now achieved less than three years later.
So what can we expect next from this successful online retailer?
“New products of course. We love expanding our range and currently have our newest collection of Bubble Bath Dust. Which is as its name says, bubbles in dust format. Simply add your powder to running water and agitate the water with your hand to create bubbles.
“Business must be dynamic and if you do not adapt and change you will not make it. So of course, we are always thinking about the next exciting idea for bath products. We will also be focusing on getting more involved with our community and engaging with Bath Babes on social media.
“Ultimately in the very long term, a super exciting idea would be to open up a spa service for our Bath Babes, where they can come to a luxury Bath Box spa and try out bath bombs and other products. We would also love to host events where you can make your own bath bomb, celebrate product launches, meet our community and more. But then again you know, that is the dream one day,” she enthuses.
“In closing, we hope our story and business ethics can inspire others to start their own businesses or follow their dreams and passions. With hard work, dedication, passion and sacrifice anything is possible. There are people out there willing to help you whether that be family members, a mentor or even someone you look up to.
“Never let the fear of failure deter you because we knew nothing about starting a business, making bath bombs, sales and marketing, but we taught ourselves, learned along the way and are still learning. But now, we have a self-made multi-million-dollar bath company and it just goes to show that you can do it too.”
The secret of Bath Box’s success
● Transitioning from a job to your own business can be difficult. Make it easier by spending every minute outside your job working on your business. Give up Netflix, Friday-night drinks and going to the movies, at least until your business takes off.
● Create opportunities in business to take risks where the upside is many times greater than the downside. Too many businesses fail by taking unnecessary risk, where the reward isn’t worth it.
● Get ahead of your competition by doing more than them and doing it faster than them. Keep working when they rest. If they take five days to deliver, find a way to deliver in three days. If they can offer 10 per cent off, find a way to offer 20 per cent off. And so on.
● Build a strong online presence that is engaging for your customers―website, social media, customer service, etc. The world is transitioning to digital and the Covid pandemic has accelerated this transition greatly.