At 50sowhat we love supporting local companies, and finding out more about the story behind the brand.
It takes a lot of guts, passion and time to start your own company, and we are in awe of the many brave Aussies who take the leap of faith.
Nicole Gilliver, the creator of Australia’s first luxury sheep milk skincare brand, Ewe Care, is one such member of that inspiring club.
We caught up with the Tasmania-based founder-director to find out more.
Tell us what inspired you to launch Ewe Care and formulate with sheep milk?
Our mission at Ewenique Enterprises, and Ewe Care by extension, is to create socially and environmentally conscious solutions to value-added sheep milk products, thus, when it became clear that lower solids start of season milk was marginally profitable for cheese making we started to look peripherally for solutions. Given that it is inbuilt in us to innovate in accordance with our values and our mission statement we set about trying to understand where there was a gap for sheep milk products in the market and landed on skin care pretty quickly.
The journey of Ewe Care came about almost three years ago now when we took on sheep milk from a young farmer who was keen to enter a unique farming space but lacked the experience needed to deliver the quality of milk required for cheese making. Instead of discouraging the young farmer we decided instead to take his milk and use it for a new cheese range whilst he was sorting out the finer details of delivering cheese making quality milk (not all milk is suited to cheese making. In fact, most is not and is best used for bottling or other value-added milk commodities, but certainly not cheese. But that’s a whole other story!).
The cheeses we had to make from this milk were frustratingly low yielding and created other quality issues within our existing range of well-regarded cheeses. There were many robust conversations had around this issue between my brother, my mother and myself and it was decided that we could no longer take the young farmer’s milk……
As people who pride ourselves on solving problems and creating mutually beneficial relationships, this didn’t sit right with us. Furthermore, to turn down the young farmer’s milk would not only put him out of business, but it would deeply impact on one of the founding goals of the business which is to create a viable value-added sheep milk operation through innovation in all elements, to demonstrate to anyone wishing to do so that sheep dairying is a viable and sustainable domestic pursuit.
One night as I was washing my face in preparation for bed I grabbed for my night cream, applied it but noticed that despite applying a decent amount, my face was still dry. I turned the jar around in my hands to read the ingredients list and, despite years of scientific training, I could hardly understand a thing. This irritated me and prompted further inspection and dissection of the 60ml single use plastic tube, its contents, its promises and how it made me feel. I thought about what I had paid (this cream retailed for about $90) and how loyal I had been to this brand, but not only did it no longer hydrate my face, but it also no longer represented my values and therefore no longer made me feel good when applying it.
The next morning another robust family conversation was had, and it was decided that we would investigate the merits of solving this milk problem by creating sheep milk skin care and thus the journey of what was to become Ewe Care had begun.
According to the research, sheep milk differs greatly from other milk sources. Can you explain how?
Sheep milk offers the highest level of skin nourishment and protection than any other animal or plant derived milk source on the planet.
It’s a superfood for your skin! Rich in vitamins A, B, C, D & E, including a host of proteins, fats and acids, sheep milk offers unparalleled skin nourishment and protection, and is the only milk source on the planet to contain naturally occurring levels of vitamin C.
What are some of the topical benefits of sheep milk, particularly for mature skin types?
Traditionally used in local villages of the upper Himalayan region for wound healing and scar management, topical applications of sheep milk has been found to reverse moisture loss, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, smooth skin, brighten the complexion and combat acne-causing bacteria and UV induced hyperpigmentation.
Containing high levels of lactic acid, a naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial A2 proteins, sheep milk gently exfoliates the skin while reducing redness and improving the penetration of other active and supporting ingredients.
Improving collagen production, skin cell renewal and protection from free radical damage, sheep milk is an effective all-rounder for ageing, acne-prone, sensitive and compromised skin, including conditions relating to eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis and making it perfect for most skin types including mature skin.
Ewe Care has a day and night cream offering. How do they differ and appeal to different age groups and skin types?
Ewe Care Day Cream is a gentle, topical sheep milk moisturiser that hydrates and nourishes skin for a soft, radiant and healthy-looking glow. Enriched with locally-sourced Tasmanian botanicals, this multitasking Day Cream soothes irritated skin, protects from environmental aggressors, and combats acne-causing bacteria for a clear and balanced complexion. An ideal base for makeup, the cream is lightly scented with coastal tea tree oil.
Ewe Care Night Cream is a rich, topical sheep milk moisturiser for overnight use. Containing a nourishing blend of moisturising butters and essentials oils, this hardworking Night Cream replenishes skin with phytonutrients and repairs damage from day-to-day environmental factors. Boosting collagen production and restoring optimal skin barrier function, the cream can be used independently or layered with other active skincare ingredients.
Whilst Ewe Care Day and Night creams can be purchased individually they work best in tandem and the combination is particularly good for mature skin types. The lightness of the day cream performs exceptionally well under make up or a light SPF. It’s hydrating and firming and wont make your skin feel heavy for the rigours of daily activities. The night cream is quite the opposite. It’s dense and enriching and is the perfect post cleanse topical hydration for a luxurious overnight
What role does sensory engagement and ritual play in a morning and evening skincare regimen?
If there’s anything Covid has taught me is that sensory engagement and ritual is everything especially in the daily elements of how we roll.
We believe that beauty is ultimately a sensory experience, deserving consideration of the senses from product through to packaging. It should not only feel exceptional on your face but should also deliver a sensory experience in your hands. You should be able to display our Raku ceramics in your bathroom as a proud piece of art and not something that will soon be disposed of. Packaging should deliver as much sensory engagement and pleasure as the ritual and feel of the product itself. This is not commonly considered in beauty packaging outside of conventional looking branded plastics and glass. The pottery, aside from being hand made here in Tassie and thus adding to the sense of place, is deliberately non branded. We hope instead that the uniqueness of each Raku Ceramic and the unique burnt markings of our sheep wool on the outside is sufficient for people to understand that branding is more personal than a label.
Slow down. Immerse yourself in the ritual of self-care. Buy it once. Refill it. Place it in your bathroom knowing that it’s totally unique; just like you.
Sustainability is at the forefront of Ewe Care’s philosophy. How are you as a company pioneering this space?
It’s our belief in business and life that sustainability isn’t optional. It has been the cornerstone of what we believe to be responsible land and business stewardship for the last 20 years. Whilst we understand that conversations in this capacity are only really starting to gain momentum, we have rolled out of bed every day to have these sometimes difficult and costly conversations with our customers in every element of our day to day.
Our business has always had a very strong foothold in sustainability, even before it was a marketing term. As a means of expressing this we started a distillery business some six years ago that set about solving the problem of turning our biggest waste product, whey, into some of the country’s finest Vodka (winner of World’s Best Vodka in London 2018) and Gin. Anyway, I digress.
The reason Ewe Care came about is both similar and very different. Similar in that it solves a problem, or a few actually. And different because this is our first foray into skincare, far away from our comfort zone of agricultural food and beverages.
During our R and D phase it became alarmingly clear to us that whilst animal welfare was of primary importance to the industry, and we too believe this is important, what was being conveniently swept under the carpet was the sheer volume of petro chemical plastics being used to package products. It was truly alarming and still is. How can an industry with animal welfare at its forefront ignore the impact of plastics not only on the environment but also on the ethics that it holds aloft, animal welfare? It seems totally at odds to us and thus it sparked us towards what we believe to be a far more sustainable and responsible approach to packaging.
Whilst the packaging in beauty is for the most part made from either recyclable or recycled plastics, this fails to address two major issues. 1. Many beauty plastics are designed to lock out air and thus they are impossible to clean which, for the most part, even if they find their way into recycling bins renders them as contaminants. 2. Humans are fundamentally lazy. We have been programmed towards convenience over effort since supermarkets came about and thus, irrespective of what we know of recycling most plastics still find their way into landfill. This is a scientifically quantifiable fact and, given we know this, it seemed to us that in order to stick rigidly to our values we had to offer a non-plastic, high value (if packaging isn’t high value in both costs and aesthetics then we throw things out) compostable solution. Thus, we looked to creating packaging that represented not only our values but would add value to the user as an extension of the ritual of beauty in its aesthetics and feel, a unique piece of art that would take pride of place as a permanent solution to beauty packaging. We are fortunate enough in Tasmania to be surrounded by many wonderful artisans and we didn’t have to look far to find our artisan packaging partner in Ian Clare who makes our wonderful Ewe Care Raku ceramics each with its unique pattern of our waste belly wool burned on the outside.
The ceramic vessels which house the creams are aesthetically pleasing as much as they are functional. What makes these vessels such an important part of the Ewe Care experience?
Handcrafted from Tasmanian clay by local ceramicist, Ian Clare, Ewe Care’s Raku ceramic vessels are the result of a unique, 35-step creation process designed to provide the user with a ritualistic and sensory skincare experience.
Providing a functional and aesthetic purpose, each pot is available in a light or dark colourway and etched with our burnt sheep wool to minimise organic waste and provide textural and creative embellishment.
Reusable and environmentally-friendly, each ceramic pot is designed to accommodate 60ml of product and protect active ingredients from light and oxygen degradation.
Supporting local craftsmanship, the ceramic vessel is made from naturally occurring raw materials and is a physical representation of Ewe Care’s commitment to a healthier, greener, and more sustainable future.
Ewe Care is a family operated business that sits alongside Grandvewe and Hartshorn. Tell us more about these other business ventures and what makes them so unique?
Our entire now 20-year-old business was born out of an obsession with waste in all its forms. The original farm was built on a model of closed system polyculture that uses waste as nutrient in many different forms to benefit soil and animal health.
Grandvewe, the cheese factory, was the first licensed dry floor factory in Australia. Food manufacture is a very heavy consumer of water and, given the only water we have is whatever falls from the sky (the entire business is run on tank water) it was imperative that we push for a dry floor factory with a closed loop water reticulation set up despite push back from authorities. Still to this day Grandvewe is the only factory of its kind in the country.
As further commitment to waste minimisation and evidence of how we see waste as an opportunity and not a cost, in 2014 we set up Hartshorn Distillery. Hartshorn set about solving the problem of what to do with our ever-increasing volumes of whey. As the cheese business grew, so too did our biggest waste product, whey. Whey contains many things other than whey protein. It also contains sugar, and sugar either wants to be acid or alcohol. So we took our biggest waste product and cost to the business and fermented it, then distilled it into Hartshorn Sheep Whey Vodka and Gin. In 2018 Hartshorn won the illustrious title of ‘World’s Best Vodka’ beating out the giants of the industry such as Ciroc, Belvedere and Grey Goose. It is still to this day the only Vodka produced in the Southern Hemisphere to have ever won the title of World’s Best at The World Vodka Awards in London.
Grandvewe Farm is the home of three unique sheep milk inspired brands; Ewe Care, Hartshorn Distillery and Grandvewe Cheeses. Aside from making our tasty and nutritious award-winning sheep milk cheese here, we also make our tasty award-winning spirits here too!
We have operated our tasting house here on Grandvewe Farm for visitors to try our wares and experience our quirkiness since 2002.
Aside from tastings we offer tours by prearrangement and fabulous experiences like our Old World Butter Making experience and our Gin Alchemist Experience. All experiences at Grandvewe are highly educational and VERY left of centre! We aim to take customers on a journey that somehow embodies some of the oddities that are in part the inner workings of our minds (we are a family of three). It can sometimes be a little out of the ordinary, but it’s always ewenique!
What does a typical day on the farm entail for you and how do you balance work-and-family?
There’s not really a typical work day per se. That’s the beauty of it really (pardon the pun). I wake up (then hopefully get to the gym). Do whatever is immediate (usually kids). Do whatever is immediate work wise (usually my other kids, AKA staff). Hopefully move on to whatever is not immediate but otherwise is requiring of being done, soon. Have something to eat at some stage (forgot that by now I’ve consumed LOTS of caffeine). Have a meeting or two, some phone calls (hopefully not too many. I don’t like them much. Not fond of ZOOM either). At some stage I go home and do the usual home stuff then bookend my day by tying up the tie able loose ends and emails. I then fall into bed (after teeth brushing AND face care!) and dream of hopefully not working on the weekend and mentally chastise myself for not getting to the gym.
I like wine, and cider…….usually unwinding is exercise. Tasmania is blessed with space and clean air and it’s my absolute critical unwinding strategy. Spending times with and without friends and family in the pristine Tasmanian fresh air outdoors (add food and wine and life is exponentially better!) I am fortunate enough to live on the 40-acre property which has panoramic views from all aspects. If I can’t physically leave to unwind then walking the paddocks is my magic antidote.
What does the year have in store for Ewe Care?
2022 for me is all about telling the Ewe Care story and continuing the conversation of the values of Ewe Care in the beauty space. It’s my goal that by the end of 2022 Ewe Care will be a brand that finds its way beyond the shores of Australia and into the bathrooms of people beyond our shores. Here’s hoping there’s also a little bit of travel associated with it too, finally!
Bonus question! What cheese should we eat first when we come to Tasmania to visit and tour the farm?
Definitely The Gin Herbalist, closely followed by our Sapphire Blue (if there’s any left).
The Gin Herbalist is one of the most unique cheese experiences on offer. We use they whey from this cheese to produce our vodka which then goes back into our stills to create our gin. Once the gin has come off the stills a waste product remains in the form of the spent gin botanicals which we then use to flavour the outside of the Gin Herbalist. Very unique!!
Our Sapphire Blue is our most awarded cheese. Made in super limited quantities only with the finest rich autumn milk. It can only be sampled at our tasting house.