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Sonya Driver

Founder of Gold Coast skincare brand Eco Tan.

Sonya Driver, image supplied.

She’s the founder of one of the Gold Coast’s (and Australia’s) most-loved skincare brands and Sonya Driver is a longtime local to boot.

We sat down for a chat with Sonya about the lessons she’s learned throughout her time in business and how Eco Tan gives back.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
18 years.

What do you love most about living here?  
I love the people and the relaxed, beachy lifestyle of the the Gold Coast. I’m also not complaining about the beautiful beaches either!

Tell us why you started your business Eco Tan? 
My gentle-spirited sister was diagnosed with a melanoma that left a horrible scar after being cut from her arm. In an attempt to lift her faith and be a strong, positive influence over my fragile sister, I crawled into a new life. My sister and I loved getting regular spray tans together but we were concerned about the ingredients we were constantly covering ourselves with. That’s when I began to research the ingredients used by many different brands, regardless of their claims. It only took me a few minutes to decide not to use their products anymore. After all, our skin is our largest organ and much of what we put on it is absorbed into our bloodstream. So, I started buying samples of cacao, flower essence, chamomile and all things natural and organic and started mixing batches out of my tiny kitchen in Currumbin.

Image supplied by Eco Tan

Talk us through your product range… 
All of the products are certified organic, vegan and cruelty free, 100% natural, non-toxic and Australian made… a mouth-full I know. I wanted to create products with real ingredients that really worked and wouldn’t harm the Earth or our skin! Because there’s honestly nothing beautiful about ugly ingredients. We’ve got products ranging from organic tanning mousses, creams and waters, to all natural sunscreen, nourishing body care products and beautiful skincare products – everything you’d need for an at-home pamper night. I wanted to create products that worked for everyone, from my 71 year old Mum to acne prone teenagers and even babies!

Why are eco-friendly products so important to you? 
First and foremost, Eco Tan is about always doing good, whether that be for your skin, the community or the environment. I’m always asking myself; how can we do better? I’m a strong believer that we can’t compromise the Earth or Mother Nature in any way, shape or form, so it is super important that my brand reflects this. We’re super proud to be recognised as an Australian organic brand and a leader of organics in almost every country. When it comes to Green Packaging and environmental care and diligence, my team and I are ticking Mother Nature’s box in more ways than one.

On our way to being completely paperless, my team and I have unplugged the printers and are committed to finding ways that we can make positive sustainable changes. To do this, our team has partnered with Greenfleet! Greenfleet is an Australian not-for-profit environmental organisation whose mission is to plant native biodiverse forests on our behalf and help fight the impacts of climate change. Our company office and warehouse operate solely on renewable energy and we refuse to accept plastic into our warehouse, in an effort to be a plastic free warehouse. Where we can’t eliminate plastic completely, we do the next best thing… like using sugar cane or post recycled materials for our product packaging.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt in the last 10 years? 
There’s been so many! Trust your gut is number one. When you feel peace about a certain situation, you know you’re making the right decision. I know that any time I’ve gone against my gut, I’ve regretted it. I’ve also learnt a lot about human nature. I would have to say that I’ve always had a sixth sense for reading people and their energy, and bringing out the best of them. This is why having the right people around me and having the right team is absolutely key. Be careful of your Judas. It’s also important to know that no one is smarter, wiser or knows better than you for your own journey.

Anything you’d do differently? 
Many, many things… I’ve never understood people that say they have no regrets, I have many.

Image supplied by Eco Tan

Talk to us about how Eco Tan gives back…
Nothing compares to love, and this is really the beating heart of Eco Tan. Giving back has always been part of my nature. Even the registry for my wedding presents was selected so that guests would be buying presents that the people at Friends with Dignity could use. We are always on the look out to help others in our local community and wider abroad. Without trying to sound like a Saint, the list is most certainly longer than your arm. Whether it’s our brand new foundation, helping The Sanctuary provide protection to women and children, buying computers or school needs for the less fortunate, supporting local charities such as Friends with Dignity, initiating projects overseas to create jobs and opportunities, allowing homeless people to use our shower facilities, or sponsoring the operations of a local animal shelter, giving back is the heart and soul of not only me, but also my brand.

In November 2018, we launched our first not for profit product; Eco By Sonya Hand & Nail Cream for Rafiki Mwema. In a never seen before move, 100% of our profits from the sale of every one of this product go directly to Rafiki Mwema. We are also extremely honoured to have been awarded a plaque at The Sanctuary for our contributions.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to switch to Eco friendly products, who might not know where to start? 
It’s really simple… look past the fancy packaging and marketing machine and research ingredients!

What’s the plan for the rest of 2020 for you and the business? 
My team and I will definitely be focusing heavily on our foundation with the intention of being poverty busters! There’s also lots of innovative and exciting new formulas and products that you’ll have to keep an eye out for.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast:
Cafe for breakfast: Salt Water at Currumbin – the avocado and corn fritters are HUGE and to die for. Plus they do the best raw, fresh juices.
Coffee spot: Good Day Tugun
Restaurant for dinner: The Collective in Palm Beach or Sticky Rice in Tugun.
How does your weekend usually look: In netball season, Saturday mornings are usually spent running around cutting up oranges, which of course then leads to sunset drinks at Salt Water in Currumbin to reward myself. Sunday is my prep day – this means groceries and doing some cooking in preparation for the madness of the week ahead. My husband is a vegan, I’ve got a vegetarian daughter, the other is dairy and gluten free and even the dogs are fussy, so basically it’s a nightmare! Sunday night calls for binging Netflix cuddled up on the couch with my husband and the three dogs.

Sticky Rice

Happy days are here southern friends and they come in the form of Tugun’s new tropical Thai eatery, Sticky Rice.

Not just any old Thai eatery though, this one is offering up authentic southern Thai eats with a modern twist and an emphasis on share plates. As it turns out, sharing meals is the way things generally go in Thailand. Who knew.

The space is upstairs on Golden Four Drive, above Café Caribou, and overlooking delightful little Tugun. It’s an actual tropical paradise with a jungle-style mural painted on the back wall, straw thatched paneling and dark wood accents.

Woven furniture and authentic Thai lightshades are offset by gold cutlery and custom-made white tiled tables and, our favourite part, a neon sign shining from the back corner stating “let’s get together and eat more rice”. A nod to your main man Bob Marley whose cruisy tunes are soothing your tired soul in the background.

Now, the food. The small plates are all of your favourite Thai dishes but likely more fresh and delicious than you’ve ever experienced. There’s Thai Fried Chicken with a rice flour crust, sticky rice and sweet pickle, Salt and Pepper Tempura Calamari and Soft Shell Crab with chilli jam, fried garlic and fresh lime and a couple of Thai soups that will knock your socks off.

The big plates are also the goods, again with all your favourites, but not as you know them. Dishes like Crying Tiger with Wagyu sirloin, BBQ Street Chicken and Green Curry with eggplant are some of the best tasting (and smelling) eats ever.

Oh and there’s Massaman Beef Cheek. Yes sir.

Thai cocktails are a fun time too. The menu is filled with the classics and all with a Thai twist. For example, the Tom Kargarita is (the love of your life) a margarita but with the tastes of the Tom Kha Gai soup thrown for an extra flavour sensation. The Tom Yum Collins is a gin-based tipple with kaffir lime, galangal, lemongrass and chilli. Oh my.

Owners Sarah and Monty opened Sticky Rice after quite the around the world jaunt. Upon their return, they decided to bring their beloved Tugun a taste of Sarah’s southern Thai heritage and that they have pals.

The food is epic and the vibes are reminiscent of the tropical Thai holiday we would all love to be on right now (beat it rain). Get in there and give your tastebuds some love.

LOCATION: Shop 7, 443 Golden Four Drive, Tugun (above Café Caribou)
HOURS: From 5pm until late Tuesday to Sunday

Words and photos by Kirra Smith.

Clean Beauty Market

In happy news for everyone with skin, a beauty emporium has opened in Nobbys Beach (land of the good vibes and beautiful people).

Not any old skincare store though, the glowy-skinned team at Clean Beauty Market are experts in non-toxic, natural and organic products that are free from animal testing. How fun.

The store, found next to Sparrow Eating House, is as pretty as you’d expect, decked out in white with blush accents and a glowing pink sign declaring “you are magic”. And magic is exactly what you’ll find once you’ve stepped inside the delightfully scented space that’s packed with countless natural makeup and skincare brands.

It’s pure heaven to be honest and it’s entirely possible you’ll spend your life savings in one visit. YOLO.

While buying all of the good-for-you skincare is always a smart idea, you can also book yourself in for some pampering. There’s makeup lessons, skin regime consultations and makeup applications for special occasions (or, you know, work on Monday).

PLUS, you and your gals can indulge in a makeover party should you so desire.

Owner Erin Norden is a Coast local and former freelance makeup artist who (sensibly, let’s be real) saw an opportunity, found the perfect space in Nobbys and made the magic happen.
Clean Beauty Market is the first (and hopefully not the last) store of its kind on the Gold Coast and it’s a solid step in the right direction for the many ladies who are choosing natural products to slather all over their skin (and the rest who should jump on that bandwagon ASAP).

Great news for the Gold Coast, the Earth and your face.

LOCATION: 1/32 Lavarack Rd, Nobbys Beach
HOURS: 9am to 5pm daily.

Words and photos by Kirra Smith.

9 reasons locals love Tugun

Craft House Restaurant & Bar (Image: © 2018 Inside Gold Coast)
Craft House Restaurant & Bar (Image: © 2018 Inside Gold Coast)

Many would have considered this unassuming suburb as just somewhere you zipped through on your way to the airport a few years ago, but oh my, how things have changed. Now, overflowing with the kind of beachside village vibes that are highly sought after these days — and a decent collection of cafes, eateries and other reasons to part with your hard-earned cash — Tugun has well and truly come into its own. And we think you deserve to be in on this action.

So, whether you live near or far, we encourage you to give this locale some devoted time. To assist you in doing this, our gathering of reasons locals love Tugun should be more than enough incentive to make your way to this quiet and much-loved corner of our Coast.

Craft House Restaurant & Bar
Beer is the star attraction at the Craft House — the reason being there are a whopping 20 on tap. You’ll find a kaleidoscope of beer variety at your fingertips, with some exciting and not so often found guest ales displaying interesting flavours and sizeable ABVs! The relaxed pub atmosphere is the perfect spot to while away an evening with live music and great share style plates.
Where: 445 Golden Four Drive, Tugun

Niche & Co
If you’re a fan of acai bowls in any shape or form, then we implore you to take a visit to this oh-so-cute hole-in-the-wall-style café. We don’t mind saying it — these guys dish up some of the best bowls on the Coast. Period. Not just this, the precious little space boasts healthy and delicious meals, cold press coffee, raw and vegan treats. Get in there for good vibes and Insta-opportunities stat.
Where: Shop 4/449 Golden Four Drive, Tugun

Niche & Co Poached Eggs (image supplied)
Niche & Co Poached Eggs (image supplied)

Good Day Coffee
It’s always a good day when you’ve got a Good Day Coffee in your hand! Starting out as the prime pit-stop-grab-coffee and go kind of spot, locals now flock habitually here to caffeinate themselves for a big day ahead. You can expect all of the lip-licking goods — particularly their toasted-to-perfection toasties and one-of-a-kind Bacon & Egg Smashes — if you know, you know.
Where: 2/476 Gold Coast Highway, Tugun

Found Furniture
If vintage furniture and funky interiors are your things (and we know they are), look no further than Found. They specialise in imported Danish and mid-century furniture as well as one-off collectables and some contemporary homewares thrown in for good measure. We say pop in if you’re in the market for a piece that’s certain to make you the envy of all your friends.
Where: Shop 2, 471 Golden Four Drive, Tugun

House of Hubert
Sustainable, seasonable and farm to fork are words that usually describe a restaurant that produces culinary gold — and House of Hubert is no exception. Chefs take only the best local produce to create nourishing, tasty eats that are an absolute must-try. When it comes to coffee, they consistently pour the goods —always served with a smile. And as for the space, it kind of feels like home (but with better food).
Where: 5 Toolona Street, Tugun

Tugun mural, Tugun Fruit Market (image supplied)
Tugun mural, Tugun Fruit Market (image supplied)

The Welcome to the Gold Coast mural
Mural art is finding itself a steadily growing home here on the Gold Coast. Iconic pieces are helping nurture an identity beyond theme parks and beaches — and we’re all here for it. Renowned creative and mural artist Kiel Tillman is behind this wonderous heaven-sent artwork on the side of Tugun Supermarket. His skills have created a bold and iconic piece: greeting tourists arriving from the airport and something the locals are proud of.
Where: Tugun Fruit Market, Gold Coast Highway, Tugun

Made Barber & Barista
Finding a great cup of joe beyond noon can sometimes be an impossible feat. Well, no more. Find yourself in Tugun and Made Barber & Barista is the place to pop into up until 3pm on weekdays for a guaranteed stellar cup of jitter juice and a chance to catch your breath. Being a barbershop set up as well, if you’re a guy out there who feels like their hair needs some love, then you’ve found the best place to receive it. Let the talented Britt do her magic on your locks — you won’t look back!
Where: 2B/417 Golden Four Drive, Tugun

Made Barber Barista (Image: © 2020 Inside Gold Coast)
Made Barber Barista (Image: © 2020 Inside Gold Coast)

Tugun Fruit & Flowers
If you’re yet to experience the sensory extravaganza that is Tugun Fruit & Flowers, you might want to rectify that quick smart my friend. The space has been making Tugun smell pretty since 1975 by offering the very best in beautiful flower arrangements along with a plethora of fresh juices, acai bowls, and other gift-style goods you will simply want to get your hands on.
Where: 4/467 Golden Four Drive, Tugun

Sticky Rice
First things first — when you decide to visit this den of divine food, we suggest you book a table. It’s so popular should you walk in and expect a table, you are likely going to be sorely disappointed. The Thai menu offers all the classics but with an ever-so-slight Australian twist, meaning all the authentic, fresh fragrant flavours are there along with local ingredients and plentiful servings. One aspect you shouldn’t overlook at this venue is their capacity to make first-rate cocktails. A Thai restaurant that makes terrific cocktails?! Yes, we know — must try!
Where: Shop 7, 443 Golden Four Drive, Tugun

Words by Alex Mitcheson.

Sticky Rice (Image: © 2018 Inside Gold Coast)
Sticky Rice (Image: © 2018 Inside Gold Coast)
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