By: Athena Kung
In this week’s Q&A with one of our Beauty award finalists, Susie Ma (founder and CEO) and her Tropic team share their inspiration behind the brand, and the challenges they’ve encountered within the sustainability world. Read on to find out how this ethical and sustainable skincare brand is showing beauty with a conscience is indeed possible.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about Tropic - why did you start the brand, and what is your aim/vision for the brand?
A: I fell in love with natural, tropical ingredients when I lived in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland in Australia, but it wasn’t until I came to the UK as a teenager that I decided to put my love and knowledge of these ingredients to use by creating a body scrub in my kitchen at home, which I then sold at Greenwich Market in London. Back then, my motivation was simply to help my mum pay the bills, and I loved being able to do that by selling a product which I really believed in.
Nowadays, my aim and vision is much greater. I want Tropic to set a new standard for beauty, and lead the way for companies to be more ethical, responsible, sustainable, and continue to progress and improve in every way. I want to show that beauty brands can tick every single box when it comes to responsible business. At Tropic, we are really leading the way by constantly evolving our formulations, and improving everything we do. Rather than just launching new products, we are always developing our existing range.
Q: What are some challenges you encountered in the sustainability world? What are some mistakes (if any) you wish you could have avoided?
A: I have found the main issue being resistance from suppliers. There are some suppliers who are just not interested in helping brands i.e. considering PCR plastics and other sustainable materials. These suppliers like insisting they have to do testing that will take months, and discouraging brands from pursuing more sustainable alternatives, and the challenge is therefore on brands to push through this resistance.
We are currently working on a sustainable project where we are trying to make our core line refillable, and there is just so much resistance from every angle. The biggest challenge is having to push through, ask all the necessary questions, and ensure that suppliers know if they help your brand, then those suppliers will be getting your orders.
A mistake we have made is trusting suppliers. When suppliers recommend a certain plastic and tell you it’s completely biodegradable, that’s not always the case. In the beginning we fell into this trap by just saying yes to any promise of biodegradability, but when we looked further into things, it would turn out to be oxo-biodegradable, meaning it just biodegrades into smaller pieces of plastic, which is even worse for the environment because it breaks down into microplastics.
So something I would encourage other brands to do is to do thorough research, ask the right questions, and make the right choices.
Q: How are you coping/adapting in light of COVID-19? Do you have anything to tease about upcoming projects?
A: In the coming months we will be working towards our Cosmos certification, and we’ll be pushing the boundaries of our formulations. We are also updating all of our core formulations to make them even better - more sustainable and efficacious, using new ingredients that are coming to the market. Our products are about to get even more effective!
Q: Do you have any routines that help you start or end the day positively and mindfully?
A: I’ve never really been a person with a typical morning routine. I’d love to have a set routine where I do mindfulness activities, but truthfully I do this quite sporadically. I don’t think you should beat yourself up if you don’t have a proper routine in place. I just try to be healthy in the way that I eat, get good sleep, exercise when I can, that sort of thing.
One thing I do, though not consciously, is tell my friends and family the positive things that have happened to me on that day. I don’t like to complain about negative things, and I’ve trained my brain to focus on the positive and make sure that what I’m telling my friends and family is always positive. I also reflect on the things I’m grateful for.
So for me, it’s not so much a ‘routine’, but as often as possible, I try to think about the things that make me grateful, as and when they happen. It’s more like a habit than a conscious practice. I believe training your brain into positivity keeps you humble and makes you a happier person, which helps you achieve more in life. A positive mindset is the basis of everything - your health, body, accomplishments, success - everything comes from that positive mindset, and that in itself comes from being grateful for what you have, and constantly getting your brain to recognise the good in your life.