INTERVIEW: Liv Williams
People of the Earth is a mum founded business offering a range of sun protection products that seamlessly blend in fair trade, eco-conscious plastic-free packaging, and a commitment to organic ingredients. And look, it doesn’t hurt that their products are shimmery, shiny and metallic, akin to the top-tier highlighters found in the most prestigious cosmetics collections, and glide onto your skin like butter.
The duo behind this innovative venture, Freja Dixon and Julia Sare, kick started People of the Earth on a whim and a prayer, sparked by a single ‘what if’ conversation. We chat with Julia about how it all started—in the boarding house at an Adelaide all girls school if you can believe it—and their vision for the future.
Your journey as friends began during your boarding school days in Adelaide. When reflecting on where you are now, can you trace the path that has led you to this point?
Absolutely! Freja and I have had similar life journeys. We magnetised to each other immediately at boarding school. I remember her encouraging me to skip homework time and we were caught playing piano in the music room on one my first nights at school which led to a term long Gating! We both were quietly (and not so quietly) rebellious, resisting the norms and we also shared a love of adventure. We formed a deeper solidarity on recognising each other’s grit and leadership in challenging conditions whilst trekking across Kangaroo Island with a cohort of Wilderness girls in atrocious weather.
We both spent our early twenties travelling and working around the world. This inspired an appreciation for culture and also for diverse natural environments. Seeing first hand the disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ really affected us and made us question how to make a difference.
There has always been an attraction for both of us to live the life less well travelled. Our teenage rebellion matured into a continual seeking: ‘how do we live life, if not better, in a more beautiful and meaningful way?’
In our late twenties we entered motherhood. Ah, motherhood! With all of its wonder and challenges! We were both doing it as single mums and the constraints of a 9-5 job really hit us in juggling providing and meaningful time with little ones. Motherhood under financial stress imbued in Freja and I tenacity and drive to make meaningful changes to our lives and others.
So People of the Earth was born as a creative expression of our passions, a solution to survival and a way to make a difference.
How much has your shared love for wild places, the outdoors, and conservation played a role over the years in the business and your friendship?
Environmental love is a value platform we both share.
Although little kids ensure life takes on a slower, less adventurous (yet busier) form and there are fewer wild adventures, our love for this beautiful earth has always contextualised and inspired our friendship.
And in the very same way it does our business.
Starting a business together can be a significant challenge for any friendship. Can you tell us how your friendship has evolved through the process of building People of the Earth?
It is not for the faint hearted! I am fortunate to have Freja. 27 years of friendship now! We communicate well and listen well. There is a lot of love and respect for each other. I think these are the key ingredients needed to navigate challenges. Our relationship has deepened and matured a lot. I think we have both learned to keep an eye on the ‘big picture’; meaning we never sacrifice our relationship over small decisions. We have the art of give and take perfected. When we see a decision means a lot to one of us there is the kindness to lean into that and go with it. Working together over time we have learnt our strengths and weaknesses and how they compliment each other. Also, empathy is key. Navigating tough and stressful times over the years through motherhood and personal events we have developed an understanding that our capacity to meet workloads ebbs and flows and we support each other in this. A great tag team if you will!
Can you share the inspiration and journey that led to the creation of People of the Earth and its commitment to environmentally and socially responsible products?
People of the Earth started with a beach walk and a ‘what if!’ conversation! We were both living in Byron Bay and spending so much time on the beach and in the ocean with the kids. Natural sun creams on the market at the time weren’t very inspiring. Claggy on the skin and full of canola or grapeseed oil. We were in our very-young-children era and were so inspired by the ocean at that time. We still are!
We had a vision of being able to immerse ourselves completely in the wildest of places and leave no trace. Of knowing our kids could frolick outdoors without having to make the compromise of slathering them in SPF we didn’t feel great about.
We brainstormed and envisioned on that walk what the ultimate sun cream would be like and also the ultimate business. We wanted to create something we felt amazing about. Environmentally, socially and for our children.
If we had any idea about the challenges weaving all of this into successful business and formulating our own Bioactive SPF would be, we would never have started! Ignorance was definitely on our side!
Both being single mums at the time and living on a shoe-string budget it was a meagre $150 we pooled together to begin experimentally formulating. We also had the bonus of a friendship with a retired organic skincare chemist with a penchant for champagne lunches in exchange for formulating advice! This teamed with test runs of long surfs produced Sunbiosis (formerly Sun Butter), our first People of the Earth baby.
How did motherhood for both of you impact your drive to develop this brand and its products?
As many of you will know all too well, holding your first born in your arms and soaking in their absolute purity really switches on a deep analysis of all that we consume and are exposed to.
It was frightening to read that babies at birth already have measurable toxic sunscreen chemicals in their bloodstream. Not from their Mother’s milk mind you, but from the water their Mother’s drink during pregnancy. Sunscreen chemicals cannot be filtered out of our waters. And these chemicals are hugely hormonally disruptive. For our women, our children and our aquatic life this is very concerning.
All of this ignited a drive in us to create products that are safe choices for families. And safe choices for our Earth and our Oceans.
We love your shimmery surf zinc, and our little people also just LOVE this idea! How did you come up with it?
It was inspired by the fluoro zincs of the 80’s and cricketers. We thought let’s do this but make it natural! It is a product that appeals to mums as much as kids. Use it as a high SPF bronzer or a highlighter for a glowy beach look. And take the challenge out of slathering your kids with getting them excited with some sparkly fun!
What are the core principles that drive your brand, and how do you ensure that your products remain reef safe, plastic-free, responsibly sourced, and sustainably made?
Ooh this could be a very long answer! Our business choices are guided by the conservation ecology principles of protect, restore, maintain, regenerate. We apply these principles socially also.
For example when choosing ingredients we ask:
- What happens to this ingredient in ecosystems and human systems once consumed? i.e Is it completely biologically safe at every level?
- Does the production of this ingredient have a positive social impact?
- Does production of this ingredient have a positive environmental impact?
I will use Shea Butter as an example here. The nut of the Karite (Shea) tree in Northern Ghana is valuable so the trees are protected. Trees in Sub Saharan grassland are scarce as cut down for firewood. So protecting the Karite tree means the biome around it is protected also. Gathering nuts is traditionally women’s work. And our coop has provided women with equipment to process the nut as selling the butter fetches a much bigger profit. With women in control the profits are directed towards creating schools, medical centres and access to fresh water!
I could go on for hours about every ingredient we have selected! They each have a story.
Ensuring we purchase direct from co-operatives that are women led or where profits are committed to ecological conservation is a big one for us! And always ensuring that beyond fair trade prices are paid.
If we cannot purchase direct from a co-op we purchase via the Australian importer who we trust and have verified their practices and authentic direct relationships with the co-operative.
Some other principles that guide us are:
- Question everything always.
- Look as deeply as you can and follow the trail right to the end. eg Labels. We could not prove the safety of any label laminates or prove that they were truly plastic free so our stickers are paper only.
- Keep things as natural as possible. Organic, Raw & Unprocessed.
- We only use Eco-certified non-nano zinc oxide as the UV barrier in our products because it is the only mineral with a significant body of peer reviewed science evidencing that it does no harm.
How important is it for you to support other women in your business?
Women supporting women is something we are very passionate about. The challenges women face are very real not only in developing countries, but even here in Australia in 2023. Child care shortages are a big issue here on Yaegl country where I live. This is a Women’s issue. It keeps Aussie mums in financial stress. As we expand, flexibility to support single mums in employment will be a priority.
Whether it is continuing to seek suppliers that employ single mums or sharing and demystifying with the women around us the path to doing beautiful business and how achievable and empowering that can be, we will always have a hand in supporting women.
Can you tell us more about your first product, SunBiosis and what sets it apart from conventional sunscreens and even some natural sun blocks?
SunBiosis is a unique product.
Usually when you purchase a skin cream or serum the bioactive only accounts for 1-2% of the formula and is delivered in an inert substrate. But SunBiosis is an entirely bioactive formula that delivers your broad spectrum UV protection! This is due to all the ingredients being nutritionally rich and cold pressed/raw processed, conserving all of their nutrition. This means it not only is high SPF but also supports your immune system to counter UV damage as well as soothing, healing, moisturising & nourishing. We have Mum’s use it as a nappy balm even! And eczema and sensitive skin sufferers loving it.
With your backgrounds in ecology, organic chemistry, herbalism, and naturopathy, how does this knowledge influence the formulation of your products?
Yes! Knowledge from all of these fields influence our formulating choices. This is the joy and meaning in formulating for us. There is a nutritional alchemical magic in the synergy of combining herbs and plant butters, oils & waxes. Not only do we want to create products that are socially and ecologically positive but also vibrantly alive with pure skin nutrition.
What’s on the horizon for People of the Earth, and do you have any exciting developments or products you’d like to share with your customers in the near future?
People of the Earth is growing quickly at the moment for which we are so grateful. Motherhood has been all consuming for so long and Freja and I are transitioning to a new phase of life. Her youngest is five and my youngest is three. So watch this space! More products for sure. An after sun care range is around the corner.
B-Corp certification is on our list. Deepening our relationships with our wonderful growers and harvesters is something we are really excited about. We look forward to being able to support the women who produce our coconut oil, cacao butter, shea butter and sustainable myrrh etc in new and more meaningful ways.
We can’t wait to take on a bigger team here on Aussie soils and provide flexible working opportunities for single mums. We want to keep thinking outside the box! Endless are the ways business can be good and do good and for us this is only the beginning.
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