WOMEN WITH GRITT: MICHELLE WANG ON STARTING A WELLNESS BRAND AS A SIDE HUSTLE WHILE WORKING IN FINANCE
“It’s definitely a lot harder to break into the beauty industry given I’m not a beauty editor or celebrity with an existing following or someone with a big marketing budget. Therefore, the products must stand out and I think they do.”
The idea for wellness brand Arithmos came to Michelle Wang after an honest chat with her husband. “My husband once asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’. I stayed silent because I didn’t have an answer. Working in corporate was all I knew, but there was an expiry date,” she recalls. Wang started thinking about what makes a meaningful life. “Since that conversation with my husband, I started to pay more attention to things around me,” she says. “The light bulb moment happened when I was trying to find a solution for my daughter’s skin problem.”
Wang, who grew up in Hong Kong, went to high school in Dallas, and attended university in Sydney, was in a trial and error phase of trying anything and everything to relieve her daughter’s skin condition when she decided to make something in her own kitchen. “I created a body oil product that not only relieved her skin condition but also saw her skin return to a healthy and supple state. The next step I took was to become a cosmetic chemist.”
Oh yes—Wang doesn’t do things by halves. She went back to her studies, balancing this with her day job in corporate accounting, and eventually, Arithmos was born. Here, she breaks down how she made it happen.
Hi, Michelle! Let’s start with your inspiration: who inspired you most growing up?
My parents inspired me in many ways, even though we didn’t spend much time together when I was growing up. My dad travelled a lot for his business as he had multiple jobs. He saved every bit of money he could to send my brother and I to study overseas. My mother was very nurturing and caring, when I was in primary school, others from my class would have sandwiches or a meal order for lunch. My mum would cook me hot meals and she would wait at the school gates to deliver the food to me at lunch time. My mother also introduced me to bird’s nest [soups], bone broths, ginseng and caterpillar fungus, which ignited my interest in learning more about Chinese health and rejuvenation methods.
What was your first ever job?
“My first ever job was a sales assistant in a clothing shop over the summer holidays just before I started university in Sydney. I remember my legs were very tired after standing up all day. I didn’t get much money working in that shop, that’s when I realised, I needed to do well in university and land myself a better job.
I still remember my dad once said to me when I was younger: “On a good day, you need an accountant, on a bad day, you need an accountant.” I think that really stuck, and I went on to study accounting in university, then pursued accounting/finance as my profession.
You started Arithmos while working full time. Where did the idea to start a beauty brand come from and how did you break into the industry?
My daughter developed a skin condition where she was constantly itchy. I applied many different products on her, but nothing seemed to help. The amount of different ingredients and products I put on her was worrying as a parent and I found the ingredient labels very complicated. That’s when I began attending skincare workshops, learning how to make skincare products, and doing extensive botanical oil research to find therapeutic benefits. I then created a body oil product that not only relieved her skin condition but also saw her skin return to a healthy and supple state. The next step I took was to become a cosmetic chemist, so I dived back into my studies.
I felt like body care products were an afterthought, there was a lack of high-quality body care products in the market. I wanted to create the best body oil products that deliver long-lasting results with nutrient-rich ingredients that hydrate, moisture and revitalise the skin with mood-enhancing aromatherapy benefits that come from essential oils.
It’s definitely a lot harder to break into the beauty industry given I’m not a beauty editor or celebrity with an existing following or someone with a big marketing budget. Therefore, the products must stand out and I think they do. Arithmos Body oils are sensorial products formulated with ingredients that are pure, clean botanicals brimming with antioxidants, omegas, and fatty acids to give skin everything it needs. They also provide aromatherapy benefits which balance your mind and spirit, whether it is to lift your mood, instill a sense of much-needed calm, or to promote relaxation and sleep.
What was the first thing you did to get things up and running?
I was fortunate enough to have found One Daydream PR to help me with the launch of my brand. They have done a phenomenal job in telling my story and introducing my products to the market. Product awareness was very important, given Arithmos is a new brand, but I also wanted to get feedback from beauty editors and writers on what they thought about the products. I have spent over a year testing and tweaking the formulation before launching. I knew the products were amazing but getting glowing feedback from the media gave me a huge confidence boost to keep going.
In terms of funding, how did you get your business off the ground?
I set aside funds for 2 years leading up to the launch while I was working in corporate. I finished my corporate role in March [of 2021], [now] putting 100% focus on Arithmos. I am a hands-on person, I do pretty much everything from managing my social media, manufacturing the products in my studio to running my own digital marketing campaign. (I think I have watched every single YouTube tutorial for running social ads!).
You also have two children. Are there specific habits you’ve put in place to ensure you’re not working around the clock?
I dedicate my mornings before school starts and after dinner before their bedtime to my kids. They are growing up so quickly and I want to know everything that’s happening in their lives.
I’m someone who can’t sit still and I’ve always found myself working around the clock. I would start the day with a to-do list, and I wouldn’t go to bed until I complete all the tasks. I’m also studying clinical aromatherapy to further develop my understanding and skill on the healing power of aromatherapy. I think this is when you know you are truly passionate about something, because you are fuelled with energy and drive. When I go on holiday I make up for lost time, I make sure to spend time with my family, and get an equal amount of shut-eye!
Tell us about your own beauty routine: what are your top five favourite body care products?
My beauty routine is very simple. I really do think people over complicate their beauty routine. I pretty much make all my skincare products (that’s the beauty of being a cosmetic chemist where you know how to formulate pretty much any skincare product). I would use a clay mask twice a week, clean my face with a gentle cleanser morning and night, followed by rose hydrosol, face cream, and face oil. Lastly, I lather on my Arithmos Superfine Body Oil after I shower to keep my skin healthy and silky soft.
What’s next for Arithmos?
I have an exciting collaboration coming up… I’m experimenting with a new product using some rare and exotic ingredients from Australia. It will be something amazing, stay tuned.
Article as written in Gritty Pretty by Danielle Gay