Celebrating Women: Katey Mandy Founder of RAAIE Skincare

Celebrating Women: Katey Mandy Founder of RAAIE Skincare

Can you share with us the story behind the creation of RAAIE? What inspired you to embark on this journey?Raaie was inspired by Aotearoa’s unique botanicals. I had been working for years and years in London and New York, building beauty brands for other people. I came back home when my mum got sick, and when she eventually passed away, I found myself not wanting to return to my old life. I was up at the family farm - a farm that I’d helped to rewild as a child - and I was surrounded by all these amazing native plants. That’s when the idea came to me of making a beauty brand that combined everything I’d learned abroad with all the richness that we have down here. A brand that used our unique botanicals - plants that thrive despite extremely high UV levels and produce extremely high levels of antioxidants as a result - with the latest in cosmeceutical science.

What sets RAAIE apart from other skincare brands on the market? First and foremost, efficacy. Through my research, I found that a lot of active ingredients were either unproven or in such small quantities that they didn’t make any difference to your skin. I wanted to make products with proven efficacy, so I leaned on ingredients with years of data behind them. Another thing that sets us apart is that we have a minimal approach to skincare, as reflected in our packaging and our simple AM and PM treatments. The beauty industry as a whole encourages conspicuous consumption with overstuffed "shelfies" and multi-step skincare regimes. But we believe in conscious consumption. That means less packaging, less waste, and less time and effort. The potency of our botanicals and our highly active formulations allow us to combine multiple treatments into two products based on exactly what your skin needs at different times of the day. We also collect and refill our bottles, and we offer a 20% incentive on the next order for those that return bottles.

How do you perceive the role of self-care in one's overall well-being? What are some practical ways individuals can incorporate self-care into their daily lives? Self-care is essential for me to avoid burnout. I think the important thing is finding out what self-care means to you. It might be exercise or meditation, but it might also mean pouring yourself a glass of red wine and drinking it in front of the fire. At the end of the day, it's whatever fills your cup (or glass).

For me, skincare is a big part of self-care. The act of cleansing the day away, the benefits of touch and mindfulness, the routine of applying the vitamins and minerals that nourish my skin. As a mother of two young children, I don’t get much time to myself anymore, but my skincare routine is a moment in my day that doesn’t belong to anyone else.

We love that sustainability is an integral part of RAAIE. Could you share with us some of your sustainability practises and initiatives? We really love this planet; it’s the only one we’ve got, so we are 100% committed to not messing it up for our children. We want to make decisions now that will reduce the impact on their planet.

RAAIE uses a refillable glass packaging system. Our bottles are glass, and we have a refillable system whereby we will collect bottles and refill them in the lab.

Sustainable ingredient sourcing is also super important to us. Given that we use NZ botanicals in our formulas, it is critical that they are sustainably harvested, have a low impact on the land, and are easily regenerated. For example, in marine algae harvesting, our suppliers follow Tikanga Māori - a strict, traditional harvesting practice of the indigenous people of New Zealand. This respectful approach means we can offer high potency natural bioactives while respecting the land and water that the ingredients came from.

How do you balance the demands of being a mother and a busy entrepreneur? The short answer is that I don’t, or at least I never feel like I get the balance right. Like a lot of women, I feel that if I am excelling at work, then my kids are missing out. And if I’m spending all my time with the kids, my business is suffering. But I hope that is just the dreaded mum guilt talking. In reality, balancing family and work life is a daily logistical challenge: if I’m at a press launch, then I can’t be at the school gates picking up the kids. But having said that, I’m always around in the mornings to get Phoenix and Obie ready for the day, and I make a point of getting home for bath and bedtime, even if it means working for a few more hours once the kids are down.

You have achieved several significant milestones in your career. What has been your proudest moment? Setting up an advertising agency, Spring Studios, in New York was a thrill. But in truth, nothing compares to the successes (and failures) I’ve had with Raaie because they are all so much more personal and therefore more meaningful. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower.

Winning global beauty awards after just six months was amazing. But the biggest high is when I’m sitting in my office, staring at my stupidly long to do list, and I receive a great online review from a customer. I’ve even had people who have struggled with their skin for years reach out to say that Raaie has completely revolutionised how they look and feel. And that is the best feeling. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.

When you were younger, what did you aspire to become?
Like most kids, I wanted to be a meteorologist, a dolphin trainer, and an international spy, possibly all at the same time. Although I don’t know exactly what kind of mission would require all three of those areas of expertise. I’m definitely very happy to settle for skincare brand founder. (But that is what an international spy turned dolphin trainer turned meteorologist would say.)

Who are the influential women that you admire the most?
Without a doubt, the most influential woman in my life was my mum. I was an only child, and mum always felt like a friend or partner in crime to me; she always treated me as an equal, encouraged my ideas, and accepted me without judgement. She moved us to a new life, started her own business, and became really successful - all whilst juggling a young child. I always saw my mum as someone that I wanted to be. In the way that she treats other people and in the way that she worked hard. I was always inspired by that. People adored her. I lost her 2 years ago and I can only hope to be half the mother she was.

Beyond that, I admire women who have been trailblazers, smashed glass ceilings, or fought for change. Women who have fought that little voice in their heads (because, let’s face it, many of us create our own glass ceilings).

Jacinda Arden who taught us that we don’t need to behave like men to be good leaders. She embraced her natural leadership style and led with compassion, and empathy.

Activist Greta Thunberg taught us to be brave enough to question and challenge world leaders.

And then I look to people like Caitlin Moran, Celeste Barber and Jameela Jamil who use humour and wit to encourage greater discussion around body image and the impact of social media on confidence and expectations.

What advice would you give to women who are looking to pursue their passions? Find the woman who is 10 or 20 years ahead of you. Reach out and ask them out for coffee. You’d be surprised who will give you 20 minutes of their day if you have focused questions you’re asking for help with, even if that’s just mapping out the steps that got them to where they are.

I also love listening to the Second Life podcast – it is packed with inspiring stories about women who have taken a leap into career unknowns.


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