Auckland woman Toni Spencer talks conjuring up deodorants in her garage-come-manufacturing facility and plans to create a global personal hygiene brand.

What does your business do?

Little Salties manufactures natural deodorants and we source and use nine local ingredients. We have just managed to secure seven New World's in Wellington. We're looking to go nationwide. Our deodorants are aluminum-free and we use magnesium and salt which are really good at helping to stop you sweat and keep you smelling nice and clean. There are quite a few deodorants out there that claim to be natural but actually use toxic chemicals so I want to create a solution.

We make the deodorants in my garage but I'm looking into getting them made with a local manufacturing company in a few months because the business is accelerating so fast.


What was the motivation for starting it?

With my previous business I did kids soft toys and I started to make up little gift boxes and I was dabbling in natural skincare so I was making natural soaps and baby oils and balms, and a friend of mine who is a real natural-freak she couldn't find a natural deodorant so I said I'd whip one up for her. I was using mainstream deodorants with aluminium at the time as well so I had a look at a few different formula options and created a deodorant that we really liked and then I put it on a GrabOne deal because I was doing quite a lot of that for my other business and I sold 300 in four days. I thought 'Wow, this is something good' and then I sold the other business and decided to focus on Little Salties.

I only thought I'd sell 50 to 100 so I only had 100 in stock and at the time I'd actually gone up North on holiday with the family, I'd taken them with me and I thought I'd just courier them out and they just kept selling and selling and I had to race back to Auckland to make up a massive batch. It was pretty frantic but I got my friends and family on board all helping. It was a nice surprise to sell so many.

How big is your team?

It's me and I have two women who work for me help me; one that works in the manufacturing and another who is my marketing manager. At the moment I'm the sole merchandiser but again it's all getting a bit out of control so I'll be looking to employ a couple of merchandisers. I also have a lot of friends and family that help out for free and my seven year-old daughter always wants to help.

What's your home set up and how many deodorants do you make in a day?

We've spent about $15,000 on equipment all up. I imported all of the equipment from China and I've put a lot of investment into the manufacturing of the product. Initially, I was intending to set up my own manufacturing warehouse, and I have set a small one up, at the end of my garden, but just with the volumes we're looking at doing in the future, it would end up being two businesses with manufacturing being a business on its own and the marketing and selling a secondary business so I have decided outsourcing that will be smarter so I can focus purely on sales.

A Little Salties employee fills tubes with product. Photo / Supplied
A Little Salties employee fills tubes with product. Photo / Supplied

How much deodorants are you selling weekly?

We're doing around one thousand units per week but we've just got some supermarkets in Wellington on board so I'm expecting that to increase heavily. We're pretty efficient and can make around 200 units in two hours and on average do manufacture 300 each day.

What's your biggest challenge running the business at the moment?

As I don't have a business background I'm kind of just running on instinct so because I don't have the background I can often fall behind in administration or figuring various things out like how to work with supermarkets.

Inside Little Salties manufacturing studio. Photo / Supplied
Inside Little Salties manufacturing studio. Photo / Supplied

I do have a business mentor, Angela Buglass formerly of Trilogy International, and she has been amazing and can see where my business is going and what I need to be prepared for. Angela is an activator for SheEO and I actually applied for that and through that process she discovered my brand and got in touch. In January I felt quite isolated from the business community and needed a mentor and Angela came along. I email her all the time asking her opinion or if I need some advice.

What is your long term plan?

I want to take the business as far as I possibly can. First of all I want to take the brand to a national level and then perhaps looking at moving offshore. I'd love to see it as a massive global brand one day; that would be the ultimate goal.

What advice do you give others wanting to start their own business?

I recommend that women in business get connected with other women in business and look for support that is specifically tailored to your needs.