Moth­er­hood and busi­ness — na­ture and science

Living Now - - Editoral - by Grace Cul­hari

We are proud to be a ve­hi­cle for Grace Cul­haci’s story in our ‘ Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence’ se­ries. Through her own health is­sues she dis­cov­ered that the so-called nat­u­ral prod­ucts in her bath­room cup­board con­tained petro­chem­i­cals — so she set out on a mis­sion to cre­ate her own. She’s done that so suc­cess­fully that she won a gov­ern­ment award.

broke out in a rash from my neck down to my toes. I didn’t want to com­pro­mise our baby’s health – so didn’t take any medicine as, on re­search­ing, I found that the drugs all crossed the pla­cen­tal blood bar­rier.

To get re­lief from the in­ces­sant itch, I would sleep in an oat­meal bath of tepid wa­ter with Sam hold­ing my head so I wouldn’t drown.

This con­di­tion height­ened my con­scious­ness of what I was putting on my body in the way of skin­care and per­sonal care prod­ucts — if medicines cross the pla­cen­tal bar­rier, did skin­care have an im­pact as well? I be­gan read­ing books from lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists (Aus­tralian Dr Din­gle, and Cana­dian David Suzuki) to learn about skin­care in­gre­di­ents and what to avoid. In one evening I re­moved ev­ery prod­uct from my bath­room that con­tained a toxic in­gre­di­ent. I dis­cov­ered that prod­ucts that claimed to be nat­u­ral fre­quently con­tained known car­cino­gens and toxic in­gre­di­ents. This lack of hon­esty was deeply dis­ap­point­ing, but the in­spi­ra­tion I needed to make a dif­fer­ence.

Af­ter my daugh­ter was born I started to en­rol in cour­ses to learn the craft of soap mak­ing, and skin­care for­mu­la­tion. The more I learned the more dif­fi­cult it all seemed. I be­gan in­ter­view­ing in­gre­di­ent sup­pli­ers and they were rather dis­cour­ag­ing.

None of them seemed to think it wise for me to make my own prod­ucts and sug­gested con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers. I met with sev­eral of the rec­om­mended cos­metic chemists only to be told it wasn’t pos­si­ble to cre­ate a skin­care range with­out petro­chem­i­cals. It was at this point I de­cided, in typ­i­cal Cana­dian fash­ion, to do it my­self! I spent the next few years ex­per­i­ment­ing and study­ing the or­ganic stan­dards.

Dur­ing my sec­ond preg­nancy I was di­ag­nosed with an in­op­er­a­ble tu­mour on my op­tic nerve. This con­di­tion af­fected the vi­sion in my right eye and I was in se­vere pain. My doc­tor in­formed me there was noth­ing he could do but wait for the tu­mour to grow a tail and hook into my brain, at which point he would re­move my eye. I re­mem­ber think­ing, this will not hap­pen, I am go­ing to watch my daugh­ters grow up!

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the news, my hus­band and I im­me­di­ately emailed our sup­port net­work and asked if any­one had an al­ter­na­tive ther­apy to rec­om­mend. One dear friend named Dan who is a raw food ve­gan sent me an ar­ti­cle on B17 ther­apy. Af­ter much re­search and sourc­ing pes­ti­cide-free apri­cot ker­nels we be­gan the ther­apy. Within 30 days my sight started to im­prove and my pain com­pletely dis­ap­peared.

My right eye­sight is now sta­ble at just 30% vi­sion and my brain has adapted, en­abling me to func­tion nor­mally (well dur­ing the day at least — at night I’m as blind as a bat!).

What I ob­served dur­ing my early years of skin­care mak­ing was that while many women make healthy food choices they are will­ing to com­pro­mise on their skin­care and use syn­thetic in­gre­di­ents — the equiv­a­lent to a junk food diet for our skin — be­cause they feel or­ganic skin­care, while safer, might not de­liver the re­sults they are look­ing for. I wanted to de­velop a skin­care range that would of­fer gen­uine safety but was also re­sults based.

And thus the zk’in range (pro­nounced skin) came into be­ing.

Sam sup­ported me 100% in this de­ci­sion — so much so that he built me a small lab at the side of the house so I could work from home and be free of the kitchen. This lab later be­come our first cer­ti­fied or­ganic space.

We quickly out­grew that space and moved to a larger build­ing in the in­ner west. My grand­par­ents moved in with us to help us with af­ter school pick-up and af­ter school care. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but both Sam and I found the com­mute very drain­ing and robbed us of pre­cious time with our girls. I be­gan to feel guilty about work­ing so hard and re­sent­ing the very thing I was try­ing to cre­ate. Af­ter two years of try­ing to jug­gle rais­ing a fam­ily with grow­ing the busi­ness the build­ing was put on the mar­ket. We viewed this as an op­por­tu­nity to make a change that im­proved our work/life bal­ance. Sam and I both set our sites on re­lo­cat­ing to Rydalmere which is an in­dus­trial es­tate only ten min­utes’ drive from our home. We had a small bud­get and re­ally needed to find a land­lord that would work with us, rather than ex­pect us to ren­o­vate the build­ing. For­tu­nately that is ex­actly what hap­pened!

Our new fac­tory is so close to home I can dash to my daugh­ters’ pri­mary school so I don’t miss out on be­ing a mum, and can make it back to the of­fice to carry on with my du­ties as CEO with­out mak­ing too big of a dent into my day. Life has def­i­nitely im­proved and I’m so glad we made the change.

Our fac­tory is now GMP cer­ti­fied (ISO 22716) as part of our on­go­ing com­mit­ment to qual­ity and I’ve reached a place of har­mony. I no longer re­sent what I have cre­ated but feel proud of our achieve­ments. I still work too hard, but at least I can be home by 6pm each evening, cook din­ner and spend time with my beau­ti­ful daugh­ters. Af­ter their bed­time I’m usu­ally on my lap­top, which I know I need to stop do­ing. That is the goal for this year — to work no more than 40 hours per week.

One of the big high­lights of our achieve­ments over the last 12 months has been the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s award­ing us an R&D grant for con­tribut­ing new knowl­edge to science. I worked ex­tremely hard to cre­ate a preser­va­tive sys­tem that was free of petro­chem­i­cals and 100% nat­u­ral. In fact the ‘z’ in zk’in is a ref­er­ence to our zero tol­er­ance pol­icy for any un­nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents. I have to ad­mit that was a very fine mo­ment, par­tic­u­larly when I think back to those that said it couldn’t be done.

We fea­ture clin­i­cally proven ac­tive in­gre­di­ents, ev­ery prod­uct has been der­ma­to­log­i­cally tested and ap­proved

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