Nestled between storefronts along a bustling strip in North Bondi, you’ll find a colourfully tiled exterior of a curiously small shopfront. From the outside, Sage Beauty looks like a small space but inside you’ll find an extensive collection of organic skin care, supplements, herbal remedies, and an incredibly welcoming team.
Nearing her fifteenth anniversary with Sage Beauty, Junia is passionate about choosing products that nurture from the inside. If it’s not organic, you won’t find it stocked in Sage. I had a chat with Junia to find out more about her reluctant entry into the beauty world, her relationship with her community and what nourishing women means to her.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get started in the beauty industry?
With great resistance. I’ve always been passionate about overall health and wellbeing, and I wanted to give women options that were about empowering them to feel good and vibrant in their own skin. I did not appreciate that the beauty industry did not seem to uplift women’s self-esteem, rather quite the opposite making them feel they needed to look younger, better, different and thus breeding insecurity and rejection, rather than pride and confidence.
When I discovered organic and biodynamic skin care options which had healing herbs and plant medicine as their ingredients, I was inspired to embrace the beauty industry as a Natural Therapist along with these more ethical and beneficial products that would nourish women’s health as well as their skin. Over the years my business has stayed true to the multi-disciplinary team we have, as well as becoming part of a more global community by giving back around the world with our suppliers’ ethos.
What lead to you starting your own business?
My partner at the time encouraged me. He said ‘what do you have to lose? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, you can do something else.’ And he was right. I started really small in 1993, and grew slowly. I rented a little room at the back of a hairdressing salon, which I then bought from the owner and renovated into a lovely organic space. I owned this for 7 years and then in 2006 I opened Sage Beauty as I wanted a holistic business more in line with my skillset. I love being part of a team as I learn a lot from everyone. I like to create a warm culture for good therapists to thrive in.
When I began my business I had worked in a variety of professional roles as well as for other small businesses, but I had never thought to do a business plan, I just went ahead – full steam ! Years ago, I was part of a government study about small businesses, and they discovered that people who started with no business plan were actually more successful and had more longevity than people who had ticked all the boxes! Hilarious!
How do you choose the brands you represent in your spa?
I have aligned myself with products and brands that give back. People know that when they buy something from Sage, they are contributing on a much larger scale.
Eminence is a really good example of this. They provide very effective state of the art skin care products, while also supporting ethical farming practises which enrich the earth they are grown in and also support the farmers and their communities.
In addition, for every product purchased, one tree is planted. Eminence also has a very smart and unique approach to how they formulate their products. They identify key actives in conventional skincare and then provide plant-based alternatives which deliver the same, if not better results.
I stock organic skin and body care, make up and even cleaning products, and I don’t choose products that are known to be greenwashed. I’m incredibly fussy about what I stock in my salon – it has to be authentic, and it has to provide tangible results for our clients. I think people often come to Sage because they know our products are of a high quality and we are genuine in our wish to help people with their skin and wellbeing.
Your business is centred around uplifting women. Can you tell me a bit more about what this means to you?
Women are busy. They are often working hard in their career, as well as raising a family. So when they have the opportunity to come in and relax, I want to make sure they feel cared for and nourished. There is a lot of pressure on women, particularly with ageing. I like to think that I inspire women to feel confident in their own skin. I am now 60 and everything on my face is all me! I believe that the best things we can do are take care of our bodies with healthy nourishing food, exercise we love, and of course, great skin care!
We are definitely very people focused at Sage, we really love our clients. I’ve been on that tiny block in North Bondi for so long, I’ve seen people have kids and grandkids. You learn so much about people when you’re their therapist, you share many moments of all kinds together and you become a bit of a therapist in other ways.
What inspires you to keep growing your business?
The great team I have, first of all, and the love from my community keeps me and all of us going. I am a great believer in stability as a business, and I wouldn’t think of leaving as the relationships we have built are really important to us, we are a small community and very close to one another.
Our clients have also been amazing over the past twelve months to me and my team. It’s been pretty overwhelming. People have been supportive in ways I could never have imagined, they have come in and bought our products and made sure they have given us even more of their business when things were tough last year. I think when you’re inside your business, it’s all consuming, and to take a step back and look in at your business is quite an art. You’re always looking out, focusing on your customer service, how you’re going to grow the business and your staff, so to actually stand outside and look in to see what people are receiving is a really different perspective as you are just busy doing it all. You also don’t realise how much you’re loved really until the chips are down, and it has been amazing to have the support and love of our locals.
What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own business?
You have to be super resilient and you have to be determined. Often when things go wrong, they are actually going right. You can’t give up. It’s just putting you in a slightly different direction. You have to remember that even if you can’t see what’s coming your way or you can’t see what’s going to happen, you have to trust that you will know what to do and how to handle it. At times I have just had to quietly breathe and know it will be okay. Often something will happen that will make me realise that it was so meant to happen and now I’ve found I am in a much better place. It’s a process and you have to be patient with yourself as you will learn many lessons in running a small business. It is not for the faint hearted, but worth it all the way.