A shared passion for wellness, gut health, clean ingredients and the occasional glass of wine led two industry experts and friends, Cate Lilja and Karissa Mather, to create a beauty  ingestible that packs a punch. Here they share with Retail Beauty what it took to create OPTY.NC, and the business lessons they learned along the way.

How did you get into your current role?

Karissa: I began my career in the skincare and cosmetics industry, working for L’Oréal in Australia. Then I travelled for a year, before landing a role at The Estée  Lauder Companies in London, and then New York. I adored my job. It was very glamorous at times, lots of hard work, but plenty of fun too. While living in New York I really started to learn about and study the gut-skin connection. I was experiencing gut health issues at the time, having been diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I was really struggling with it. Finding modern medicine pretty unhelpful, I turned to traditional modalities for support. They worked wonders! Herbal supplementation along with diet and lifestyle changes helped me recover from IBS, and I feel healthier as a result.  I returned to Australia, over 10 years ago now, and started working in the health and wellness industry. This is where I met Cate. We launched OPTY.NC together three years ago.

Cate: I turned to natural therapies in my 20s to recover from adrenal burnout and a depressed immune system. It worked; by addressing the root cause rather than addressing the symptoms as allopathic medicine had been. It was then that I decided to study naturopathy. I was so drawn to the research and product development side of the industry I pursued it as a career and 15 years on, having formulated some best-selling products in Australia and globally, here I am developing products for OPTY. 

What is the most important advice you have been given?

K: More recently, I think this piece of advice has resonated with me most: Only look back to see how far you’ve come, not to judge yourself for something you hadn’t yet learnt.

C: Measure twice, cut once. I started in this industry in R&D (Research and Development) where attention to detail is essential. So, I can now apply this rule to all aspects of my work, it’s a reminder to stop and pay attention to the task at hand and to give things mindful attention.  

What has been your proudest achievement?

K: From a career perspective, having the tenacity to start my own business. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine, and to actually back myself to make it happen has been huge! But it also made me realise how much I appreciate security. When you re-mortgage your house, walk away from a salary, and put your own cash in, along with the blood, sweat and tears, everything changes. It’s been exhilarating and terrifying at times.

C: Launching Ultimate 1.0 was a very special moment for me. Having developed products for so many other brands over the years it was so wonderful to be able to launch a product for which I was also the brand owner, so had final sign off on all the detail and big picture decisions. We were able to bring to market a product that we know works, uses all the best ingredients and all at the right dosages.

Can you share some of your successes with starting up a business?

K: What I love most is hearing from happy customers – people that have experienced results and improvements in their health and wellness from using our first product, Ultimate 1.0 – Complete Skin Food Elixir. Customer service is part of my role, so I get to talk to our customers daily and I love it. Hearing their success stories makes me feel we have truly achieved our purpose with OPTY.NC. The efficacy of the elixir is also reflected in the multiple local and global awards it has won over the past few years, across categories such as editor’s choice, best beauty supplement, best gut health drink and people’s choice.  I’m so proud of the products Cate develops. She is incredibly knowledgeable and has decades of experience and is able to create wellness solutions that truly deliver results.

C: Starting out, I never imagined I’d be a guest on QVC, or interviewed for industry publications! I have always thought of myself as a driving force in the background designing product, looking after quality assurance and regulatory affairs – some of those things that are essential but not always public or consumer-facing. I feel our major success is what we have achieved with just two of us, we have been agile and flexible and grown despite challenges. 

What challenges did you overcome?

K: Ah, there have been so many, and they pop up daily! From little things like dealing with tech issues (alas, I am no IT expert) to major issues like navigating the impacts of Covid-19 and the many ways it has affected us as a start-up. The challenges have taught me there is a solution for everything, you just need to take a step back sometimes and gain clarity and perspective before moving forward. For some things, the answer is obvious and you can decide and move forward quickly. Other things take time to work through and require more consideration before proceeding. I’ve had to learn this the hard way.

C: Oh, the surprises that come up when you’re in a start-up environment! We launched right before covid lockdowns started so we had a lot of challenges, needing to pivot to online and really rethink our strategy early on. I do think all of these things are for the best, with each iteration we have become stronger and more agile. 

What do you love about your industry?

K: Working in the health and wellness space is incredibly rewarding as you’re creating products that really support people to be and feel healthier. I love how impactful a product like Ultimate 1.0 – Complete Skin Food Elixir can be. It’s improved my gut and skin health tremendously and I’m proud to back a product I know really works for me and our customers.

C: The people and the passion they have for making people well. Everyone from my raw material suppliers to my customers and my competitors. There is a great sense of comradery in the nutraceuticals and nutricosmetics space and I have the pleasure of working with a lot of people I have known for many years who are very passionate and all carve out their own unique and important space within the industry.   

What makes OPTY.NC unique?

K: When Cate develops our propriety blends, she sources only sustainable, nutrient dense, clinically trialled ingredients and incorporates them into our formulations in active dosages. That’s why our customers experience great results, so soon after taking our products. The range – which will soon include six exciting new products – incorporates multiple benefits in one. Ultimate 1.0 – Complete Skin Food Elixir contains 12 super charged gut and skin-loving ingredients in one delicious elixir. It’s four products in one. Our goal is to reduce the number of supplements needed, to help people simplify their gut and skin health routine. This was a key finding from our customer research before we launched the Ultimate 1.0. Many of us can relate to the experience of starting a  supplement program with great intentions. Yet, after a few days or weeks of having to take several products, consistency drops off. OPTY.NC makes it easy to achieve results with the simplicity of a single, daily elixir that is really lovely to drink.

C: We set out to create the gold standard. Ultimate 1.0 – our first product has the very best in efficacious ingredients at the right dosages, and addresses all of the needs of the gut and skin in one daily dose. This provides convenience for the consumer and encourages long term use for optimal benefits.    We have new products underway that meet all of these same product development principles for efficacy, convenience and superior quality. These are tailed and expertly engineered to meet consumer demand – we are so excited for this next chapter – watch this space! 

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