Ochre Sun is Transforming the Sun Care Industry with First Nations’ Wisdom

Alana Kennedy

Bringing ancient botanical knowledge to skincare has benefits for consumers and First Nation communities, says Alana Kennedy, a Kalkadoon, Eastern Arrernte and Waanyi woman.

Fact file

Founder and CEO: Alana Kennedy, 41
Investors: Fresh Start Australia (lead investor), BDB Ventures
First customer: Townsville City Council in 2018
Headquarters: Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Staff: Seven

What’s your elevator pitch?

“Ochre Sun is sunscreen enriched with ethically sourced native botanicals. We are pioneering bush medicine into a global skincare company, working with Indigenous Elders from across Australia to study what they’ve traditionally harvested. We want to revolutionise the skincare industry by bridging the gap between ancient wisdom and contemporary innovation and empowering tribes through collaborative partnerships.”

What’s the problem you aim to solve?

“There’s a lack of information in the market about how to use these raw materials and the beautiful stewardship by tribal Elders and Traditional Owner groups who care for Country. Globally, Indigenous wisdom about the potential of plants in skincare has been neglected so conventional products miss out on ancient secrets and valuable knowledge. We want to shine a light on the brilliance and expertise of people on Country and create an economic and social benefit for them.”

How does it work?

“It’s joining two worlds to create amazing formulations, making the oldest living supply chain in the world accessible. We combine traditional knowledge about plant use with Western knowledge about other botanicals and ingredients to deliver a powerful remedy. Ochre Sun SPF 50+ is our launch range.”

Where did the idea come from?

“As a little girl running around in Mount Isa, I was always playing with plants. I went on to work in sales and marketing in the beauty industry but when I wanted my family to try some of the skincare I was using, they only wanted their traditional formulations. I saw an opportunity to partner with Indigenous people if they were willing to put the plants they were using into a formulation I created. The global beauty market is expected to reach $580 billion by 2027. People from the communities get to be part of our supply chain – as we grow, they grow.”

How did you get it off the ground?

“I sought permission from communities with this model in mind. I chose sunscreen for the first formulation based on knowledge verifying that, yes, we use plants for that purpose. Townsville City Council purchased the launch volume of Ochre Sun and since then our customers have included BHP, building company Hutchies and government contracts. Our sunscreen is made by a TGA-registered contract manufacturer. We’re also stocked in Harris Farm and select IGA stores in south-east Queensland. Later this year, we’re doing a big packaging refresh and our next step is to get into pharmacies.”

How did you convince investors?

“I won the Ready to Grow category at the Minderoo Foundation’s Dream Venture Masterclass in 2022. Fresh Start Australia heard my pitch and I met with them. They are salt-of-the-earth people with Indigenous leadership and experience in manufacturing. A couple of months later they decided to invest.”

What’s next?

“We’re doing a capital raise and putting together designs for a botanicals extraction facility on the Sunshine Coast to help us scale. We’ll partner with the tribes so they can take control of that part of the supply chain. I have the honour to be the Australian ambassador to the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organisation (IITIO), which builds on ancient trading lines. This month, I’m attending the IITIO trade mission and conference in Oklahoma and expect to be taking export orders from that.”

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