From competitive skier to completely sustainable, we catch up with Thomas Richard from ASUVI to talk innovation, perspiration and sustainability.
From the age of 18, Thomas Richard was either on the slopes or out on the waves. Competitively skiing for seven winters and heading out for a surf in the summer, Thomas always felt at home in the outdoors. It comes as no surprise then, that studying property economics and working in evaluation didn’t appeal to him. Thinking, “I really need to get out of here”, Thomas decided to leave the corporate world and begin the journey to creating ASUVI, the world’s first refillable natural deodorant.
Name: Thomas Richard || AKA: Tom || Often found: In the surf || Listening to: House music and Lo-Fi || Whilst sipping: Coffee, specifically an oat cappuccino || Passionately discussing: Economics, politics, and environmental sustainability || And working on: The latest products for Asuvi.
Where did you get the idea of a refillable natural deodorant?
It all started back in 2015. I had a bit of a reaction to an aluminium-based deodorant, and I began to look for an alternative in the health food stores around Sydney. I just couldn’t find anything that smelled very good, and I couldn’t find anything that was very effective. What’s more, all the deodorants I saw were packaged in plastic - even the natural ones.
It was just a bit of an idea at that point, but it slowly started progressing as time went on and, eventually, I came up with the idea of a green product that was natural and eco-friendly, and packaging to reflect that. And then, finally, at the beginning of 2018, it all came together, and we did a test launch for ASUVI.
The name ASUVI, by the way, is a bit of an acronym - A SUstainable VIsion. While sustainability is at the forefront of the business, I want people to think it’s a great product first. And then, as time goes on, I think it’s kind of fun for people to discover that the sustainability ethos has been in front of them the whole time.
Have you always been passionate about sustainability?
I wouldn’t say always passionate about it - it’s something that came with age. My mum was always very into natural deodorants and pushing it on me, but when I was younger, it just wasn’t as prominent. I was curious about it, but I didn’t fully take it on board.
But, being someone who loves the outdoors and surfing and skiing, as I got older, I realised that the relationship between what I loved and being out in nature was such a big thing to me. I felt a huge need to protect that. All of those elements came together, and that’s what got me into sustainability.
What has the journey been like since launching?
It’s been really interesting. We’ve always been interested in being direct-to-consumer, so everything we’ve done has been about building that relationship with the customer.
We started doing farmer’s markets back in 2018, and that was a great way for us to meet customer, get their feedback and iterate on the product. From then, we were doing markets on the weekends and, then during the week, working on our website and other retailers.
We had this transition plan from doing the markets to being entirely online, but then COVID hit and changed everything. It fast-tracked the whole plan.
It was pretty scary at the beginning because a large amount of the business wasn’t there, but we’ve since transitioned to completely online, and the business has grown massively. It’s pretty crazy just to see how a transition I was planning on doing later has come sooner and been a blessing.
What sets ASUVI apart from other natural deodorants?
We’re the world’s first biodegradable re-fill deodorant. There are a lot of natural deodorants out there that are packaged in plastic or metal like aluminium - materials with a much higher carbon footprint that don’t compost. Our difference is being the world’s first system where you buy a refillable container that’s made from 100% recycled plastic. You can then purchase your refills thereafter for many years, and even these are biodegradable so you can put them in your compost and they’ll be gone within a month.
Every single one of our materials must also meet an intense and rigorous internal and external standard. We look at every ingredient individually because natural doesn’t always mean sustainable. Then there’s the question of balance in terms of an ingredient’s biodegradability versus the carbon emissions from shipping costs and so on.
It’s a challenging process, getting this balance right, and I do most of the research myself, but I believe it’s worth it.
What we try to do at ASUVI is take that complex problem and assure our customers that what we’re providing is the most sustainable solution, so they don’t have to think about that complexity. We make it simple - presenting simple, beautiful products to customers that they know and can trust are truly sustainable.
You’ve got some amazing scents in your range - where do you get your inspiration?
I got really into fragrances while I was over in Europe. They’ve got a massive perfumery scene, so my brother and I went down to Grasse, which is the perfume capital of the world.
One of the things I noticed when I was looking at natural deodorants was that they smelled very lavender-y and too one dimensional. So I took a lot of inspiration from the more traditional perfume houses and also looked at some up-and-coming natural perfumery brands. I wanted to go through and look at the different notes (the heart note, the top note, the base note) and create some really lovely multidimensional fragrances that people can be proud of wearing.
When it comes to our own deodorants, I don’t think I could pick a favourite. It changes a lot! Elouera is probably my go-to at the moment - it’s got a really nice fresh citrus scent. But only a few weeks ago, I would have said Aqua and Earth.
We’ve actually just released two new fragrances - Wandearah and Angophora - that I’m absolutely in love with. They smell so good! One of these is definitely going to be my new favourite, and I think a lot of people are going to love it as well.
In addition to your new deodorants, what are your plans for the future?
We’ve got some really exciting products coming (none of which I can talk about, unfortunately) in 6-12 months. We’d like to be selling more internationally and to grow and strength the sustainability side of our business, possibly even becoming a BCorp.
We’re constantly changing, taking an ongoing approach to our product to arrive at something that customers love and is really effective, and I love that. It just feels great to be working towards something that will have at least a small positive impact on the world.
Explore the ASUVI Range