In this episode of The Sustainability Shift Podcast, I’m excited to bring on Nicole Gibson of Soka Australia who is also known as The Clean Queen. Nicole is one of my members in the Coco Rose Community and she has created a water saving laundry innovation because #lifeistoshorttobeinthelaundry.
She has such an incredible story to share, she is a very busy mum to 4 children, and is passionate about clean living and always sharing cleaning hacks on Instagram.
Today she walks us through how she came up with the idea to create a water saving, space saving, eco innovation. Also why she is committed to sustainability through practical innovation, water saving, detergent saving and a focus of bringing organisation and sanity back to Australian homes. If you want to learn the steps to design and innovate your own eco product to create your dream sustainable business then this is the episode for you.
Soka Australia Links
Coco Rose Eco Links
Coco Rose Eco Community – my online Membership for Eco Brands
FREE Downloadable Roadmap for Positive Impact
PETRIA: Welcome to the sustainable shift podcast by your host Petria Leggo-Field. This podcast is dedicated to helping your eco business make a bigger impact, become more visible and make more sales. In this podcast, we will cover actionable steps to gain more exposure for your sustainable and ethically focused, small business all whilst juggling motherhood. Consider this your goto community of people who just get it and leave each episode feeling educated, inspired, and most of all motivated. Grow with me as I support your mission, shift you into gear and help shift the world in an ecofriendly way with the next episode of the sustainable shift podcast. Welcome back to another episode of the sustainable shift podcast. I am your host to Petria Leggo-Field, and I am so glad that you tuned in today because I have an absolutely amazing guest on the show today.
Now she is also known as the clean queen and she is all about life being too short to be in the laundry. And so much more. I am going to let Nicole share her story with you in just a minute, but to give you a little context, Nicole designed and created an absolutely game changing product that is guaranteed to not only save you time, it’s going to save you money. It does so many amazing things for our environment. She has a really great story, and you are going to love hearing about how her business journey came about and just wait till you hear that story. I love hearing it so much, and I know you will also. Nicole and I are going to talk about what it’s like to design a product that doesn’t even exist yet. She’s going to share her really amazing advice for other ladies that are also wanting to do the same and how you do it, how you start.
If you follow her on Instagram at Soka Australia, you will love every single minute of it because Nicole daily shares her laundry tips. She shares her cleaning hacks and basically a whole lot of stuff that you just wish you had known earlier. Nicole has so much to share and you are going to want to hear her story. We are going to get into the episode, welcome to the podcast, Nicole. It is amazing to have you here with me.
NICOLE: Thanks. Lovely to be here.
PETRIA: Now Nicole is from the beautiful Soka Australia and we have known each other for quite a few years. Haven’t we?
NICOLE: We have, we met at Melbourne one year. When I think Atlas within your tummy.
PETRIA: He was in my tummy. It feels so long ago. Honestly it feels like forever. For those of you who are listening, the mumpreneur, is an amazing, well, there quite a few amazing things, but this awards was one that were both nominated for. Nicole, you took it out, didn’t you for your section?
NICOLE: I got the silver for best idea.
PETRIA: Nicole, before we jump into the episode, tell me more about you.
NICOLE: Well, I am a mum of teenagers and husbands, so basically five children. We all say that my eldest is like 40 for a nurse educator. I coach basketball, I referee basketball, I play basketball. So I’m into my sports. I am a big taxi driver as well for the children, but also, so I wear many hats, like a lot of mums and juggling life. I obviously invented the soaker tub in all of the mix of all of that
PETRIA: Because you weren’t busy enough already.
NICOLE: Well I think when you ask a busy person to do something, you always get it done correctly. You just add more to the workload.
PETRIA: Yes I completely agree. Nicole and I have quite a few things in common and the children and the juggle is definitely one of those. Now I love your startup journey. When I first heard about how you actually created this product, I was, yeah, I was just really amazed because I’ve never heard the startup story of actually creating a product. Tell me and tell our listeners what is and what it does.
NICOLE: Well I’ll tell you how it began. My husband was always complaining that he could never wash his hands in the laundry sink. We lived at acreage at the time.
My kids outside were clearly getting filthy and I was having to soak some of their clothes. So I had this backlog. Normally I’d have one item in the sink and too much water, and then he’d come along. “I can’t wash my hands,” he said, “look, you’ve got to do something about that.” So I accepted the challenge. I said “Look, I’m going to invent something.” The purpose of it, and it’s primarily designed for the laundry. I wanted something that you could put in the laundry thing, have multiple clothes going in because not all clothes are white. Some might be stained bibs or whatever. Multiple ones that you can choose your laundry detergents, but then my husband can still come along, happily wash his hands and drain the thing and, saving the marriage, in the process. At the time I think we’ve all in the past bought products that are single use or designed for one purpose. That’s why our houses are full of class or because we buy single things. I also wanted to design something that was versatile. It could solve not only the laundry problem, but it could solve many problems around the house type of storage, you know, camping, fishing, caravaning like heaps of composting. The list is just endless. We could have the largest laundry or a little laundry in a hallway cupboard. There’s only ever one sink. If we can increase the usability and functionality of that sink, you can have more living floor space when designing your home. That was the concept behind it. And obviously we lived on acreage, we had gray water systems. A lot of the time you can’t put your detergents down the sink because it affects septic tanks and gray water systems. Also you just waste too much water. I’m putting it all into one thing.
I wanted water saving space, saving detergent, saving. So it had a lot of features. I suppose also I’ve got sensitive skin and like a lot of people have skin allergies. I wanted that no-touch system as well. You could put it in the wash of shame if it needed to go through the wash, drain the fluid outside or without getting your hands wet.
PETRIA: It’s amazing. I have a soaker tub. I have used cloth nappies for all four of my children. I used to just use a nappy bucket, but I would have the exact same issue, have one nappy buckets sitting in my laundry sink. Quite often I wouldn’t even have a lid for it. That’s not exactly the most pleasant smell, but it’s amazing because in Nicole’s Soka tub, there are three different compartments. I can have different nappies soaking at different times. Some of them, you don’t even need soaking, just you can dry and you’ve got a lid on it. No one even knows that there’s nappies in there.
NICOLE: I think the beautiful thing is, children can’t drown in there and also obviously being a nurse this is where the cross contamination prevents cross contamination. If you were caravaning, you don’t want to prepare your food where you wash your clothes and vice versa. You don’t want to have the baby’s bib or a nice shirt of yours soaking in the same compartment as a baby blowout. It’s not a good combination. It’s gross.
I suppose when designing this (I actually designed it), I researched it, on what else is available on the market. I got a couple of girlfriends on board and we couldn’t find anything apart from the general nappy pail, which is not good for manual handling. It’s back breaking all of these things. I made a cardboard cut out and it actually sat in the cupboard in my home for like four years in the top of the cupboard. Even though it was a great idea, I just wasn’t and I’m a motivated person. It just, I didn’t have that go, “Hey, listen, I’m going to give this a crack.” It was until my girlfriend said to me “so many people go to the grave with such great ideas.” She said “even after four years, if there’s still a hole in the market, then that’s you, that’s drawing you in to fill that hole with your business idea.”
What, that was all that, it took that little bit of motivation to listen; what have I got to lose? So with that, I thought, yep, that’s it. I’m going to give this a crack. I am a really big advocate for supporting local business. In my community, I’ve got my IT, my business support, I found an industrial designer. That’s where you start. I had my cardboard cut out. I found a Tupperware container at my girlfriend’s house. I said “Can I actually borrow this?” It wasn’t the lead in the whole because I really loved the feel of this particular one, and this is the feel I want for my tub. I took that and I actually gave it back to her nine months later. It was a little bit long. I took that to the industrial designer in my community and said “Hey, listen, this is what I want. Can you put it into CAD?” And generally when you go to an industrial designer with an idea, they will give you about 30% extra value and ideas to your product. It may be strengthening, having a good, solid handle on the bottom of my tubs, is it stackable (so it’s actually designed to be stackable); things like that, they can really add value to your already great idea.
PETRIA: Can we, can you just clarify for the listeners, what is an industrial designer like, is this needed if you’re creating all products or is this needed for creating a specific?
NICOLE: Well, I think you look at the word industrial, so it’s any product, obviously you would go to a dress designer if you were designing clothes and things like that, but any, like a bowl, any household products who need someone to put it in, put it on the computer to design it up. What they actually do is they make sure that the brain, in my instance, how they design it is depending on how you manufacture it. So I have injection molding. Basically it is like big molds that I have like six molds. Each mold has to come off of the mold. Even the angles that you pull, the compartments all have to be really specific and to slide off, because if you imagine anyone can design, anything can make it with a 3D printer. Printer is just obviously just printing away. If you went to pull off out of a mold, you need about one to two degree sliding angle to actually get it off.
So it’s all tricky bits like that. If you start with an industrial designer, with your idea, do some prototypes, make it out of whatever you can find at home, then just take that. They will put it in too. They’re really smart people with the computers. You need to outsource where you can because I couldn’t have done that.
PETRIA: I think that’s the biggest thing too, when people are starting a business or you’re in a small business you don’t know where to outsource or you are not sure about investing in outsourcing, but it’s the chicken and the egg – who comes first. Like you need to outsource some things or you might not actually get your product. That’s something that every business owner needs to learn. I think eventually you do understand that and that’s amazing, and these are all made in Brisbane, aren’t they?
NICOLE: Yeah. As my manufacturing is right in my community as well. I suppose people who were thinking, they’ve got that idea, I wouldn’t obviously go on the mountain and shout it out. You want to maybe engage in a couple of people, get a nondisclosure agreement – they can’t spread it. As well, get a little team. You can’t do this by yourself. I think that’s a really big, key message. I always tell startups, it’s like it takes a village to raise a child. It definitely takes a village to start a business. People in your community collaborating, you work with each other and in those key people, you get them in the early days to get them to sign a nondisclosure agreement. That protects your design and all the hard work that you’re doing.
PETRIA: That’s amazing advice. I think a lot of people, when you have your little business idea to go get a nondisclosure or get a trademark, these things seem like, like saying this in inverted commas, like “a really serious business, a real business”, but it’s so important because you don’t want to be a few years down the track and someone has taken your name, taken your product and basically taken all your hard work and you can’t do anything about it.
NICOLE: A lot of people have a lot of great ideas and sometimes, you can do research, do a poll. Hey would you like this? Would this be helpful once you do that and get it out on Facebook? And it’s your idea that is already out there. So you need to be really careful. I would suggest, getting people, like myself or yourself, to have a small business, get them in touch with maybe a business mentor who can take them along the right path. I think that’s crucial and research shows all the information that you can council workshops. There’s so much advice in the community on different Facebook groups, just absorb and then you’ll be more knowledgeable to start.
PETRIA: That’s amazing. I think as a small business owner too, you never stop learning. Like even I’m trying, I’m learning so many different things and I have the different platforms. I’m listening to that many different podcasts and basically immersing myself in a totally different world than I don’t know anything about. The only way to do that is to research and to invest. Yeah, I think that’s an amazing advice for people first, starting up Nicole.
NICOLE: And you don’t have to, everyone wears a couple of hats in the best possible world, then say, “Hey, here’s a million dollars to get the funds to fund these things.” So don’t take it. There are some really good available grants that can help you on your business journey. That’s free money. So definitely look into that as well.
PETRIA: Grants are amazing. I received one when we first started our first business and that was for business coaching and didn’t even know what a business coach did, but I got a grant for it. So I was like, okay, amazing. I’m going to do this. Okay. Nicole, as small businesses, we’ve always had our amazing highs and you are always being featured on amazing publications, even the, just last week. You had some radio presentations, but tell me, has there any been any times where it’s been, I’m going to call it a failure, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s a failure. It’s more like a learning curve. What was a bit of a difficult time that you come out of and learn something?
NICOLE: I think marketing or media events are always a learning curve. I’m always learning, I suppose.
And that’s part of the reflection process. Could I have worn a different shirt? Was I in the wrong, too much shadow on my face? maybe I didn’t get the key message across. I suppose it’s always preparation and planning always get to a really good outcome. I do think, for example, my last radio, I prepared so much, but it wasn’t me that failed me. It was their IT. The second guest actually cut me off in halfway through the conversation. That was it – rather than having a 10 minute media radio interview, it came down to a couple of minutes, but no publicity is bad publicity. The 10 minutes was a really good, two minutes. You got to take away that it’s better than nothing.
PETRIA: That’s amazing. For those who are wondering, Nicole, in her business is amazing anyway, but she uses a really cool platform called Source Bottle. It’s free to sign up. Basically, there are lots of journos, lots of bloggers are the people out there that are needing content and they’re happy to help and give it to small businesses. That is one hot tip that can help so many businesses. Now this is one of my favorite questions to ask, and we are all going through our ecofriendly journey and doing that. I know a lot of us have changed some of our products, whether it be now business or before personal. I would love to know what’s one of your favorite eco swaps or eco products that you have used?
NICOLE: I do have a few, but I suppose my most recent one would be changing to stainless steel, rather than the plastic pegs. So they have been amazing. I really enjoyed not having to pick up little bits off the ground, but also I’ve also got an octopus, which we all know it’s amazing because you don’t want to put them all out on the line, but that’s really a simple swap and I won’t have to buy one.
PETRIA: That’s amazing. I use stainless steel pegs as well. I don’t think anyone ever it’s funny because if you don’t ever look at things that you’re using, you just don’t realize that they’re made from plastic. I’ve been using stainless steel pegs for maybe two years now, and we will never buy another peg ever again. Once you have your stainless steel pegs, you literally have them for life. I think I can feel like I’m going to hand mine down to my children because I have so many pegs,
NICOLE: I think with the stainless steel pegs, once again, it’s a product that yes, it’s designed for the clothes line, you’re close on the line. However I use it to hang up Easter decorations to around the house decorations. I hang up things on my clipboards. I put files together like so many different things, I even put some in my hair when I want to get my fringe out the way – like there’s no limit to stainless steel pegs.
PETRIA: My girls were using them for their cubby house. On the weekend in isolation life, there was a permanent cubby house in our house. I had all these pegs literally everywhere that multipurpose just like this. Amazing, lovely. Now before we round up, is there anything exciting coming up for Soka, Australia that you can share with us?
NICOLE: Oh, there’s always something around the corner. I’m hoping to have more media coverage in the next coming month. Maybe you can stay tuned for that one.
PETRIA: Amazing. With regards to your media now, where can our listeners go find you now? Are you on Instagram?
NICOLE: Yeah. So I suppose Instagram is quite popular. For the viewers who haven’t come onto the Soka Australia Instagram side, I share daily laundry tips, cleaning, hacks, just really general good tips and ideas. So yeah, and people love it. They will send in their ideas. ‘Hey I’m having trouble with this. Can you help me out with this?’ And I try to use eco-friendly products that you don’t have to go out and buy certain products to solve a problem around your house. There’s so many cool things that you guys have in your homes right now, like lemon toothpaste. Well this keeps the cool things that will get the job done and very effective and it’s cost effective as well. Tune into the Soka Australia daily laundry tips.
PETRIA: So Nicole is the clean queen. This is how you’re going to be looking. So it’s at Soka Australia. Your Instagram name, is it not?
PETRIA: Amazing. I will link all these in the show notes as well if you are wanting to go check out Nicole, which I highly recommend. Nicole, do you have any last parting words for our listeners today?
NICOLE: Well, as I always say, life’s too short to be in the laundry.
PETRIA: I agree. And as a mum spending my life there!
NICOLE: Sadly with COVID, we’re all isolated, everything got shut down, laundries didn’t get shut down.
PETRIA: No I was quite happy when it was a bit warm because my children were just wearing underwear. There was like for once in my life, I didn’t have like 20 loads of washing a week, maybe just 10.
Amazing lovely. Well thank you so much for joining me on the episode of the sustainable shift podcast. I cannot wait to share this episode and I am also super excited to have you as one of my founding members of the CocoRose Membership. If you are wanting to reach out to Nicole, make sure you head over and check her out at Soka Australia, and that is all today. Thank you so much for coming, Nicole.
NICOLE: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been awesome.
PETRIA: A huge thank you to Nicole for joining me on the episode of this sustaining was shift podcast. I honestly cannot wait to see where your business goes. This 2020. Oh my goodness. You are just going to absolutely grow and thrive. I am so thankful that you are one of my gorgeous founding members for the Coco Rose eco community.
Now if you loved this podcast episode, make sure you hit subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. If you are android user, that way you can download the episodes and listen to anywhere because I know you are a busy mum just like us, or, and of course, if you love the podcast, please leave us a review. It take you about 30 seconds. Let me know which episode you are loving or what you would like to see more of. I’d love to know. Thanks so much. Thank you so much for joining in today’s episode of the sustainable shift podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please make sure you hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss any future episodes. Leave me a quick review will take you about 30 seconds. I would be ever so grateful and want to be friends because we’re not really friends unless we are Instagram friends so head over to Instagram and send me a DM at Coco Rose Eco.
Anyway, lovely. I hope you have an amazing day and I cannot wait to connect with you again soon. Thanks so much, lovely. Bye.
Join us in the Coco Rose Eco Community
If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, I highly recommend checking out our Eco-Membership which is dedicated to helping your eco business make a bigger impact, become more visible and make more sales.
When you join our community of like-minded environmental enthusiasts who just understand your ethical mission, you’ll get instant access to our ever growing library of personal and business development tools.
They are designed to help gain more exposure for your sustainable and ethically focused small businesses. It includes The Eco Success Journey, Masterclasses, Coaching calls, Challenges, Workbooks and more!
You’ll have the option to learn everything on the go with easy mobile access, plus you never have to feel alone again, as you can consider this your go to community of people who just get it.
It’s time to create the success you deserve.
Join the VIP waitlist today and get access to SECRET BONUS when doors open next!
Let’s connect on Instagram @cocoroseeco
Hi there, I’m Petria and thanks for joining me here.
As a busy Mum to four young children, and with a fly-in-fly-out husband, I understand the juggle between family, home life and work … there’s precious little time to spare. I know how tricky it can be to make the right eco-friendly choices for your family – that’s why I’ve created Coco Rose Eco.
Through seeking out the most sustainable choices for my own family, I’ve carefully selected beautiful, unique and eco-friendly Australian made products which I happily use for our family and give as quality gifts. I’m excited to share my knowledge of all things eco-friendly with you and this community.