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Sonya Driver

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.

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