AN ACCIDENTAL by maclaren1



                                                                                                                                                                      It’s a family affair. Victoria

             A N A C C I D E N TA L
                                                                                                                                                                      Porter (left) takes care of
                                                                                                                                                                      the marketing side of Annie’s
                                                                                                                                                                      business in between caring
                                                                                                                                                                      for her own daughters, Luca
                                                                                                                                                                      (pictured) and Clover. The

                                                                                                                                                                      product labels celebrate the
                                                                                                                                                                      legacy of Nellie Tier: they are
                                                                                                                                                                      imprinted with the names of
                                                                                                                                                                      all her female descendents.

                                                                                       WHEN ANNIE PORTER GREW tired of paying                      New Zealand body and beauty products have
                                                                                       for layers of fancy packaging encasing cosmetics        become a growth industry in the last few years
                                                                                       she felt did nothing for her skin, she thought of her   with local brands such as Trilogy, evolu and Living
                                                                                       grandmother, Nellie Tier. Although the two had          Nature selling hot off the shelves both here and
                                                                                       never met, Annie’s mother had told her countless        overseas. Annie agreed that the time was ripe to
                                                                                       stories of the soaps, creams and oatmeal scrubs         share her products with the rest of the country so
                                                                                       that the resourceful Nelson woman used to make          she formed Nellie Tier together with long-time
                                                                                       for her family. “She was a great believer in natural    business partner Sara. They were not discouraged
                                                                                       things,” says Annie. “There was never a piece of        by the thought of competition because they felt
                                                                                       lemon peel that went past without her rubbing it        that their products were unique. “We wanted
                                                                                       on her elbows or using it to brighten her skin in       something that smelt good and felt very luxurious
                                                                                       some way.”                                              but was still as natural as we could make it. These
                                                                                           This inspired Annie, the co-owner of Auckland’s     products weren’t designed on a budget. We source
                                                                                       Masterworks Gallery, to try her own hand at             pure essential oils and botanical extracts.”
                                                                                       creating a basic moisturizing cream. Sensing that           The decision to launch the range at Isabel Harris
                                                                                       her grandmother’s modest blend of petroleum jelly       meant a race against time. The two women were
                                                                                       and talcum powder was somewhat outdated, Annie          faced with transforming their home-made goodies
                                                                                       started from scratch. “It took me a tremendously        into marketable products in just two months.
                                                                                       long time to learn how to do it,” she says. “I read     Annie and Sara’s 20 years of business experience
                                                                                       hundreds of books and spent hours researching on        ensured a relatively smooth transition but there
                                                                                       the Internet. It became a consuming passion.”           were still lessons to be learnt. “The labels were
                                                                                           Before long, Annie had transformed the              the most hideously expensive part and initially we
                                                                                       basement of her Ponsonby villa into an amateur          didn’t get them right,” Annie recalls. “The paper
                                                                                       beauty laboratory. Scents of geranium, rose and         we used marked terribly and we had to replace
                                                                                       sandalwood wafted down the street, arousing the         the whole lot. It cost a fortune.” Fortunately, other
                                                                                       interest of neighbours. Her enthusiasm inspired         mistakes have been much easier to laugh about.           the Christian names of every female descendent
                                                                                       Masterworks co-owner Sara Sadd to create a              Victoria recalls the anti-stretch-mark cream that        of both her and Sara’s grandmothers – names
                                                                                       liquid soap which today forms part of the Nellie        her mother created for her: “It was like a chemical      that range from the Nellie, Constance and Maud
                                                                                       Tier range. Annie encouraged friends and family         reaction, it was hilarious. It bubbled and exploded      from times gone by to the Clover, Jet and Kushla
                                                                                       to trial and grade the products and their feedback      in my bathroom!”                                         of today. Every time a baby girl joins the family
                                                                                       was overwhelmingly positive. She began producing            Victoria directed the move into the marketplace      the labels are reprinted, which has proved to be a
                                                                                       twice as many batches in order to satisfy their         which has been aimed at forming strong                   costly exercise. “My daughter-in-law is giving birth
              SEVERAL GENERATIONS OF INGENIOUS                                         demands for more.                                       relationships with a small number of boutiques.          later this year,” says Annie. And, jokingly, “Not to
              WOMEN HAVE TURNED THEIR HOME-MADE                                            The big break came in September 2004 with the       Store staff receive training in the technical and        a girl, I hope. We don’t want to have to re-do the
                                                                                       opening of body and bath boutique Isabel Harris         scientific aspects of the products and are also          labels again!”
              BEAUTY PREPARATIONS INTO FRONT RUNNERS                                   in central-city Queen’s Arcade. Word of Annie’s         told the Nellie Tier story behind them. “They                Annie, Sara and Victoria now supply Nellie Tier
              IN THE INCREASINGLY GLAMOROUS BUSINESS                                   concoctions had reached the owner, who promptly         love the story, it really helps them to identify with    products to 11 stores with plans for another four.
              OF NATURAL SKINCARE                                                      asked her to create a range for the new store.          the product,” says Victoria. “We notice that sales       But we won’t be seeing Nellie Tier on supermarket
                                                                                       Annie’s daughter Victoria, who had worked in            increase dramatically a week after training.”            shelves. Annie stresses that she wants to keep
              WO R D S A M Y K E L L E Y   P H OTO G R A P H S A A R O N M C L E A N   marketing and promotion before the birth of her             The company’s philosophy is deeply rooted in         things as small-scale and exclusive as possible,
                                                                                       two children, convinced Annie that her growing          the memory of Annie’s resourceful grandmother            for now at least. “I didn’t ever set out to go into a
                                                                                       collection of hand creams, body creams and              and celebrates the generations of females who have       market situation. It was a hobby, an interest. I just
                                                                                       lotions, bath salts, liquid soaps and body scrubs       followed. “It’s about women,” says Annie. “We are        wanted to make it better and better and get more
                                                                                       had real potential.                                     very powerful.” Nellie Tier labels are printed with      creative with it. It’s an accidental business.”

108 NZ Life & Leisure                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           N Z L i fe & L e i s u re 109

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