Mother, sister, entrepreneur, philanthropist and soon-to-be author … to say CEO and Founder of international beauty brand Eco Tan Sonya Driver is an inspiring woman would be an understatement.
Sonya’s path to becoming a business owner was rough and inadvertent, set in motion by the most unpredictable of circumstances. Once an air hostess, Sonya married a pilot, with whom she had two beautiful babies. Three months into receiving a redundancy, urging her into becoming a stay at home mother, Sonya’s husband left her, running off with another hostess.
Sonya was shattered, and being left with two children, no income and a rundown house took its toll. “I thought I was in hell. I was struggling, I’d gone from 68 kilos to 48 kilos in a matter of weeks.” Unable to eat or sleep, Sonya’s doctor recommended a volunteer trip to East Timor. It was the extreme poverty she witnessed there that put her life into perspective, shaking her out of the rut in which she had found herself. “It was only for two weeks but it was absolutely life changing.” Coming home, she was on track to start a new life, but it still took time to find her feet. “When somebody discards you, and tells you you’re not worthy and you’re not good enough, your self-esteem takes a huge battering.”
Then came Eco Tan. It was unintentional. At age 30, Sonya’s sister had a melanoma removed from her arm leaving a horrible scar. Hunting for a way to reduce the visibility of the scar, Sonya researched spray tans, looking for natural ingredients that would not cause her sister further harm. Unhappy with what she found, Sonya set out to make her own product which she could guarantee was 100 per cent organic.
Setting up shop in a tiny tin shed in her backyard, Sonya began ordering ingredients and mixing samples of her own spray tan. Through word of mouth she began supplying local salons with her homemade product. “It just started organically growing from there.” Eight years on, Eco Tan is an international phenomenon. The brand made Australian history in 2011 as the country’s first certified organic tanning manufacturer. In 2017, the business reached an all new high, named Best Organic Beauty Brand of 2017 by LUX Magazine’s Global Excellence Awards.
But Eco Tan is more than a beauty brand. It is a manifestation of Sonya in every detail, executing the philanthropy she promised herself after that first trip to East Timor. “Eco Tan is about lifting people up that have been absolutely abused by society. I’m going to touch every single country across the world one day. That’s my goal.”
Now Sonya is writing a book to inspire and empower women, “a manual for any woman out there who’s an entrepreneur, or wants to be, but doesn’t know how to go about it”.
Ultimately, it was Sonya’s passion which drew her out of the lowest point in her life. “This little broke single mum started this global company from nothing. If I can do it, anybody can, but unless you have determination and persistence you’re not going to.”
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