Soaking up the Solas in Western Australia
Wild Geese: Daphne Levis, Solas Essentials
Daphne Levis: “I’m now a mum of two young children and the business gives me a great opportunity to continue to be creative.”
“I had travelled all around Australia for a year in 2001 but I think what brought me back to Perth was the fact that my parents had lived there for 10 years,” explains Levis. Having qualified in sports science in the UK, Levis was teaching PE and geography in Dublin before deciding to make the move to Perth.
“I did have a sense that if I didn’t try it then I’d probably never go”, she says. “I left Ireland in the middle of the recession but I had the option of taking a career break so I had a safety net if things didn’t work out in Australia.
“I remember the day I had to make the decision to give up my job for good in Ireland. It was daunting! But, I loved the lifestyle in Australia and I had always really wanted to work in a job that I was passionate about and that gave me scope to be creative,” explains Levis.
Before leaving Ireland, Levis qualified as a pilates teacher and she had begun to build up a small practice.
“I started teaching pilates to some of the girls on the hockey team I was playing for and there had been some opportunities to grow the classes,” Levis says. So, when she moved to Perth Levis taught pilates and later also qualified as a yoga teacher and began giving classes in both.
“I met my husband out here and we decided to move to Dunsborough. It’s a small town in Western Australia, and I built up a yoga and pilates practice. It was really by accident that I stumbled upon developing a line of natural skincare products.”
Levis had started to make different types of sprays using essential oils for her yoga and pilates client. After a while, people started asking her if they could buy them.
“That started to give me confidence in the products and, when I was pregnant and then had my first baby, I couldn’t teach as many classes so I started to develop my product range further. I approached a number of shops in the local area to see if they would stock the range and they did.
“I’m now a mum of two young children and the business gives me a great opportunity to continue to be creative,” she says. “I am always developing products in my head! It’s a great outlet to have while raising young children. Being pregnant and having children also helped me develop the baby range and the range for mum and baby.”
Keen to keep an Irish connection, Levis decided on the name Solas Essentials.
“Solas means light in Irish and I think it reflects the products and the ethos of the business really well,” she explains.
Levis’ Solas Essential product range now includes four sprays – one to relieve anxiety, one to aid sleep, one to promote calm and one for refreshing a space. Her skincare products include a range of moisturisers, lip balms, body butters and hand creams.
Levis has also developed a range of perfumes and massage oils.
“All of the products are free from parabens, formaldehyde and toxins and they are also free of synthetic fragrances,” Levis says. “They are 80 per cent organic.”
Levis self-funded the business initially, putting anything she made back into developing more product lines. However, she quickly found that expanding too quickly was a mistake.
“I was trying to do too much. I thought I needed to develop a lot of products in a short space of time but that wasn’t working,” she recalls. “I learned I needed to build up the reputation of the products with a small line first and then move into developing more ranges later.”
Solas Essentials are now stocked in a range of shops throughout Western Australia and Levis was recently approached by the Western Australia tourist office to stock her products in their shops throughout the region.
“Solas Essentials will now be stocked in tourist offices in Busselton, Augusta, Dunsborough and Margret River,” explains Levis.
“The business is still in its infancy,” she says. “My aim for it was to become well known in the region and then to develop throughout Australia and then internationally.
“I thought I could take my time with it but it is taking off much quicker than I expected, it’s great! Who knows what the future will bring but I would also love to develop a retreat centre out here.”