Just four weeks after Alison Goodger gave birth to her third daughter, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The Australian businesswoman, who co-founded popular brand Sukin with her brother Simon O’Connor in 2007 before selling it on in 2015, had never considered ‘the end’ before, but her diagnosis hit her ‘like a freight train travelling at a million miles an hour’.
In July 2015, Alison came to the end of a 12-month handover of the business she had built from scratch to the ‘men in suits’ to do with it what they wanted - an experience she calls ‘stressful’.
She welcomed her baby girl Eloise in September that year, but just four short weeks later, Alison was told she had three tumours in her breast.
“It was just this monster rollercoaster of a range of different emotions within a very short space of time,” Alison told Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Certainly cancer presents a lot of it’s own challenges but I think when you’ve got a newborn, it’s almost like it’s pushed to the side and you just have to sort of find your feet and stick one foot in front of the other and get through it because you don’t really have a choice.”
After a mastectomy, Alison was given the all clear, but she said she takes each year as it comes because every time she goes back for a scan, she’s reminded that she’s on ‘cancer watch’.
While Alison had always been passionate about wellness and natural skincare, her cancer journey made it more apparent to her how important eliminating toxic ingredients from skincare is.
“With cancer, I had to stop blaming myself,” she said. “Because I dissected every part of my life to try and find the why. It took me a while to realise that I think it just came down to bad luck.
“So once I stopped blaming myself, I kind of was able to pack it away and move forward and I think that’s why Alkira became such an important project for me. It was almost like this next journey to give me some sort of long-term goals, to write that next chapter. It’s time to move on and do something a little bit more productive with my life rather than being a cancer patient. ”
Alison and her brother, Simon, launched Alkira skincare in April 2020, a cruelty-free, vegan brand packed full of Australian native extracts such as Kakadu plum, finger lime caviar, quandong, Davidson plum, lilly pilly and kangaroo paw.
For Alison, it was extremely important that Alkira was a natural skincare brand. “It’s just about eliminating that toxic load, which it always was before I had cancer anyway, it was always just the way I like to live my life,” she said.
While it’s been a success, selling out of whole lines of products online, the launch came with a plethora of challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Launching the brand during a pandemic, God it’s been tough,” Alison said. In hindsight, if I’d have known I would have held off.”
As the majority of the country went into lockdown in April, Alison had a whole warehouse full of new stock for Alkira and she couldn’t hold off the launch any longer.
“I had stuff I needed to move so we just had to pivot our strategy a little bit. Our background being in Sukin, I was well versed in bricks and mortar and how to sell products in store and that’s what we were doing again, but all of a sudden we had to become more of an online brand, which is not really my space personally,” she said.
“For me, I just sort of struggled with that element because the world of skincare has changed quite dramatically and I think you need to have a lot more of an online presence and you need to be a bit more of a personality that sits behind the brand and that’s so different from my personality. You really have to expose yourself and your brand and I find that quite challenging because I’m quite a private person. It’s just a different climate now but that’s ok we’re adapting, we’re growing, we’re learning.”
Launching a new brand while people stayed at home and surrounded themselves with the familiar was a major task, but Alison soon found very quickly that Alkira was able to fund itself, which she says is ‘always nice in business’.
“We’ve had quite a few lines that have sold out and we’ve had to reorder again so for me as a new brand that’s just a good sign,” she said.
Along with the hard work it takes to start up a new business, Alison also makes sure she maintains a work-life balance, despite juggling working from home and being a mother to three children.
Her two non-negotiables are that she always picks her children up from school and that they sit down together for dinner as a family every night.
“I’ve always worn two hats, being a mum and being a business owner so at times it can be quite challenging but when I’m at work I’m focused I’m super efficient, I don’t waste time with meetings unless they have an end result and I plough through my to-do list,” she said.
Alison is excited about the next step for Alkira - the launch of four new products into Chemist Warehouse in April.
“They are a bit more active driven so we’re using those beautiful native Australian extracts combined with some actives to deliver some really cool results,” she said.
She’s also been working tirelessly to bring Alkira to the Asian market as she thinks those Australian native extracts 'just speak volumes to that customer'.
“That’s the thing with skincare, it’s such a competitive and cluttered market and there are so many brands on the market but really all you need to do is find your niche and unique position. You don’t need to be all things to everyone but you just need to find those pockets and those demographics that are really keen for your products and work tirelessly to target them,” she said.
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