Tania Wedin could be introduced as an entrepreneur, but to do so would be somewhat misleading. Her ambition isn’t the usual acquisition of fortune or power, but her business acumen, vision and drive are no less impressive for this.
Her present career started when, as a new mother in 1999, she helped launch a near-miracle natural cure for breathing difficulties (YamoaTM) before going on to establish a company dedicated to offering a rigorously selected range of efficacious natural health products, Not the Norm Ltd. She has recently become a trustee for her father’s charity, the HOCl Trust for Hygiene and Safer Water (hocltrust.org) who are running a campaign to fill the gap in PPE for frontline key workers by providing free antiviral sanitiser to those in need, and on top of all of this, she is the inventor of Shade – a toxin-free, organic, sustainable sun screen balm which has steadily, by word of mouth, gathered devoted users, a host of awards and widespread acclaim since its launch in 2014.
How did you come up with the formulation for Shade?
I researched which were considered the safest, most effective broad-spectrum sunscreen ingredients, decided what seemed to be unnecessary in terms of function (e.g. fragrance, preservatives, etc.) and thought about what might be used to make the blend more solid so it could go in a tin. I had to consider which percentages would be best for achieving a certain SPF and then chose the very best quality of ingredients I could find. I literally played around over a bain-marie until I was happy with the consistency and efficacy. I came up with the name (and couldn’t believe nobody else had it!), trademarked it and – when I had enough money – sent it off for testing. It came back not as the SPF30 I had hoped for, but a very acceptable SPF25, and the rest is history.
With just four ingredients, what does each bring to the party?
I’ve chosen Soil Association-certified organic unrefined Shea Butter for our formula; anti-inflammatory, prevents premature ageing and highly moisturising. Coconut oil is widely known to be healthful and versatile, but it also has a natural, although low, SPF. I’ve chosen a pure, sustainably-sourced unrefined beeswax, which is completely non-toxic. It locks in moisture, has excellent water-repellent properties and, as it has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic and a germicidal antioxidant, it’s a perfect sunscreen ingredient.
As a vegan, as much as I would like to offer a beeswax-free version of Shade, I have to be convinced that the product will be as good in function, as well as ethically and sustainably sourced. The beeswax we use is sourced from several sustainably managed small beekeeping outfits from the UK, Europe and New Zealand. We can’t get away from it – because we have decimated bees’ natural habitats through urbanisation and agriculture, beekeeping is here to stay. I have been reassured by our beekeepers that what is taken from the hives in the form of wax is the excess which the colonies do not need to survive. We have been testing other formulas which would be vegan and two are particularly promising, so watch this space…
Finally, and most importantly, our active ingredient: a pharmaceutical grade Zinc oxide, which additionally has a cooling, slightly astringent, antiseptic, antibacterial and protective action on the skin, also making Shade a perfect after-sun treatment.
Why was it so important to you to take the natural route?
Reddening from sun exposure is our skin’s early warning system to alert us that we need to move out of the sun and cover up. This is often a reaction that simply does not occur with chemical sunscreens due to the way in which the sunscreen ingredients work within the skin, and therefore you will not know when you skin has had enough exposure.
Have you thought of extending the range into skincare or cosmetics?
Yes, and I have realised I don’t need to. There are many companies making excellent natural skincare products of all types out there. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, with Shade I came up with a sunscreen that filled a gap in the market for a basic sunscreen that does what it says on the tin without causing allergic reactions. There is no such gap in the general cosmetics market that isn’t filled by someone else, so I don’t see a need to formulate more products in the range.
You run a successful business without compromise, which is incredibly commendable. Have you had to turn down many opportunities which would have compromised your ethics?
Yes, I’ve turned down big high street chains who have wanted to launch my products into the mainstream. But I prefer to build my business in an organic and manageable way. I’m also not a ‘breadhead’, so the desire to ‘grow’ the business as such doesn’t necessarily appeal. I’m happy with enough income to put food on plates and pay the mortgage each month. The occasional holiday is nice but I’m happy at home, lucky enough to be living next to beautiful Port Meadow with a canoe. It hasn’t always been an easy ride by any means, but I love what I do and how my products make people feel, and that’s reward enough for me.
Where have you found the most unexpected support?
I have to admit I hadn’t anticipated the development and furious growth of the anti-plastic movement. I put my sunscreen in a tin because I personally have always hated plastics, avoiding them as much as possible. I never expected Shade to take off so well because of its packaging – I always thought it would be down to the ingredients (or lack thereof) alone. However, the refill and packaging-free shops that are cropping up everywhere have been massive supporters.
What has been your proudest moment?
Actually, there have been many! Getting the first thank-you letter from a customer; knowing I have personally been a catalyst for changing someone’s life is quite a buzz. This has been repeated hundreds and hundreds of times throughout the years and the warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t diminish. The most recent two were Ethical Consumer Magazine naming Shade as one of the Top 5 Ethical Sunscreens in the UK, and a couple of weeks ago the Macmillan skin cancer clinic in University Hospital of North Durham contacted me to say they will be supplying Shade to their skin cancer patients, to help them choose a safer sunscreen. Having a father who has had skin cancer, this was a very special moment for me. The biggest surprise was when Janey Lee Grace (founder of the Janey Loves Awards, for natural and sustainable products) gave Shade its first award back in 2015 – I had no idea it had even been nominated, so that was lovely.
For more information on Not the Norm Ltd, online stockist of Yamoa, Shade and other natural remedies and ethical products, visit not-the-norm.com