Where did you grow up and what was your first job as a teen?
In the Upper Hunter Valley, babysitting for families.
What career path did you follow once you finished school?
I went to TAFE in Newcastle and completed an Advanced Certificate in Administration.
What was the last job you had before focusing full time on MaeLaine Bath Teabags?
How did you get the idea for bath tea bags and, at the time, was it a saturated market?
It was a bathing mishap that sparked an idea – I dropped my cup of tea in the tub! I started researching and found there was no other product like this on the market, so I started developing my product.
What were the steps you had to take to get your product to market?
Lots and lots of research. I had to source products, ingredients, suppliers, packaging and a local graphic designer. Slowly my brand and product started coming to life.
What ingredients go into your products and how hard was it to get the blends right?
All our products are made using natural Himalayan salts, Australian salts, essential oils, clays, flower buds and other botanicals. It was a lot of trial and error, but the final blends, in my opinion, are perfect! We also try to bring out a blend each season that reflects an ‘experience’ or memory – last summer I created ‘Lush’ which takes me back to summer days roadtripping along the North Coast of NSW.
How long does it take to make your product and how many batches do you make per day?
We make all our products to order, and we now have up to 10 blends in our collection. There are many steps involved with producing each blend: infusing the salts and letting them rest, bagging, sealing, and packaging the finished product.
Once your bath tea bag is used once, is it reusable or just thrown away?
These are single use, skin to soul experiences. Every bath teabag comes packaged in a calico bag which absolutely should be reused. Our customers use their calico bags as cosmetic totes, toiletries bags in their gym bag, for the kid’s pencils or knick knacks, the options are endless. And like regular tea bags, once the salts have dissolved in the bath, you can then compost the tea bag.
Your business was initially a hobby when you started selling at markets in 2013. At what point did things get serious enough for it to be a full time venture?
We started to get a really strong following on Instagram, and from this we were approached by many businesses to not only stock our products, but to collaborate on other projects. It’s almost two years now since we have started stocking our products in retail outlets and luxury accommodations throughout Australia and New Zealand.
What have been the biggest challenges for you as a small business?
Learning how to run a business. It’s one thing to have an idea for a product, but there is so much more that goes into turning this idea into a viable business. Managing cash flow, supplies, production timelines and everything else is always a challenge. Also, balancing my business life with my family life has meant that I’ve had to be super flexible with my hours and constantly juggling my priorities.
It’s one thing to have an idea for a product, but there is so much more that goes into turning this idea into a viable business.Kylie Wiblen
What do you enjoy most in the business?
I love that I get to use my creativity to create a small product that has the potential to change another person’s day. I think of my brand as a little reminder to take some time out for ourselves, and enjoy a lovely soak in the bath! And I love that my studio smells amazing every single day!
What plans do you have for it, moving forward, and do you hope your daughters, Mae and Laine, will take it over?
My brand name is a combination of both my daughters’ middle names Chloe Mae & Callie Laine. They are both very young, so I hope their future will hold whatever it is they are passionate about. We are working very hard behind the scenes to grow our product range, and I hope it will develop into an established, leading bath and body company.
You just won the Shark Tank event at the Newcastle Business Club awards. How much does that mean for your business?
I’m so honoured that my tiny little hobby turned business that is now achieving recognition like this. The opportunity would not be possible without the industry support for small businesses. Being able connect with super successful entrepreneurs like Naomi Simson and Dr Glen Richards was a pretty life changing opportunity, as was hearing their insights and advice.
If money wasn't an issue, what would you spend it on in your business?
I’d continue working on evolving my brand, products and designs. I’d also love to move from my studio to a production and distribution centre with a team of employees supporting me. I’d hopefully start paying myself a regular wage, and maybe even open a stand-alone retail or wellness outlet.