The newly launched range of artisanal skincare products developed by Kasia O’Reilly on her family dairy farm in Cavan uses only natural, raw ingredients from the earth
Kasia O’Reilly has always felt at one with nature, so it’s only fitting that her range of artisanal skincare products are derived from the earth of farms.
Growing up in Poland, Kasia’s mother told her she was destined to marry a farmer, given to her love of animals and agriculture.
So, when she met her now husband, David, a dairy farmer from Cavan, she had no qualms about leaving the city life behind for the country life in Ballyjamesduff.
The 100-acre dairy farm has been in the O’Reilly family for nine generations.
“There are six siblings in my husband’s family, who all help out on the farm when they can. David and his brother work full-time on the farm with their parents, who are still quite active.
"We built our home there, on the farm too,” says Kasia.
Kasia worked as a product manager in Allianz Insurance for a decade before moving to the Cavan countryside, and it was a stark change of lifestyle.
“I loved it, though,” she says. “I love everything about living and working on the farm.
“We run a herd of Holstein Friesians and focus a lot on Economic Index Breeding (EBI). We breed the better half of the dairy herd to high EBI Holstein Friesian AI sires.
"We breed the remainder to either Aberdeen Angus or Hereford and keep the beef calves until 18 months.
“So, things were busy even before I started my skincare business from the farm.”
Kasia’s tie to nature and interest in natural raw materials led her to experiment with natural ingredients, for skincare purposes.
“Growing up, I used raw rose petals and leaves on my skin, not really knowing the benefits. Then as I moved to the city life, I began using more chemical-based creams and products,” she says.
“This ruined my skin though and I suffered a lot from breakouts.”
So she reverted to basics and began experimenting with clay, flowers and natural oils found in the earth.
“I had qualified in Poland as a nutritional coach and I also studied natural remedies, aromatherapy and skin care. This confirmed my belief that anything good for us comes from the earth and from nature,” she says.
Kasia began combining raw ingredients to test on her skin and she loved the results.
After doing further research, she realised that some of the ingredients she desired were not available in Ireland, so she began sourcing different varieties of oils and clay from farm-based suppliers in the UK.
“You’d be amazed at the positive effects even regular clay has on your skin. It purifies and calms and has so many benefits,” she says.
After spending time crafting what is now branded her ‘heavenly balm’, she gave samples to her family and friends to try.
“They loved it and couldn’t believe I had made it using only raw, natural ingredients. Even the scent was beautiful,” she says.
This feedback gave Kasia the confidence to take her passion to the next level.
“I decided to have a go at making products for the wider community, so I continued to make my balm and experimented with natural vitamin C serum as an under-eye treatment and face moisturiser,” she says.
“I also made my own natural teeth whitener and face wash, all from natural, pure ingredients.”
She sourced a small amount of packaging from the UK, as she couldn’t locate suitable containers in Ireland.
“I got enough to start selling at local farmers’ markets and country fairs. I was amazed at the response I got and how popular my creations were,” she says.
After success at the markets and fairs, Kasia decided to launch her small business. There were a lot of hoops to jump through before she could start selling commercially, though.
“My products, just like all skincare products here, have to comply with European regulations, which means they have to be tested and analysed before having safety reports drawn up and being signed off,” she says.
“In addition to this I need a Product Information File for each product. This industry is very heavily regulated in Europe, it takes time.”
When she had all the paperwork and logistics organised, Kasia soft-launched her business, Sana Naturals, at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers in Kells, Co Meath, in 2017.
“I had been attending Sheridan’s market every Saturday for some time and found it great, so it seemed like the perfect place to launch. I wanted to stay true to my roots and where my products came to life,” she says.
Although Sana Naturals products are made from the simplest ingredients, the production process is lengthy.
“I get all my materials as raw as possible — they come cold-pressed and they all come from the earth,” says Kasia. “My products take several days to make. Each of them involves melting the stable oils and waxes and adding correct ratios of each.
“They then must be cooled in a cooler and each added to their packaging. Every product is different.
“I spent years getting consistency, texture and scent right. I didn’t launch until I was fully happy.”
Although the Sana Naturals takes up a large amount of time, Kasia enjoys juggling farm, business and family life.
“I am happy that I can base my business here, at home on the farm, while also raising my children, Leon (5) and Elena (three months) and taking care of things on the farm with David,” she says.
“We milk the cows twice a day, every day but then, on Christmas Eve, they get a break which lasts until the springtime. It gives them a chance to dry off before calving season commences and things get very busy, for both us and them.”
This month, Kasia is running a ‘Green Friday’ campaign to support the Irish Cancer Society. Instead of offering customers a discount for Black Friday, 10pc from online sales between November 27-30 November will be donated to the Irish Cancer Society.
What level of start-up costs did you incur in setting up the business?
It has cost me no more than €10,000.
How long did it take to get your farm business off the ground?
It was a very gradual and natural process. I had everything ready to launch in 2015 but when my little boy came along, I decided to hold off until he was a bit bigger.
It took a couple of years as I spent a long time perfecting the consistency, texture and scent of each product as well as it’s effectiveness.
Once I was totally satisfied, I launched.
Was financing readily available from the banks for this type of business?
I used my savings to finance the business but I am aware that there are types of start-up business loans available. I just didn’t avail of them.
What grant aid or other assistance was available?
I got a Business Priming grant from my local Enterprise Office which was great. Their support has been absolutely amazing.
What supports bodies/agencies were available to help?
I did New Frontiers, which is a national programme supporting early entrepreneurship. It’s funded by Enterprise Ireland and I found it brilliant. It taught me about running a business successfully.
I also just finished the ACORNS programme which supports early-stage female entrepreneurs and it’s specific to those living in rural Ireland.
I found it fantastic too as I got to meet so many other women who were just starting out, and the mentorship was great.
Was planning permission required and if so, was it difficult to get?
No, as I didn’t build a new building to house my business. I do everything from home.
Was insurance required?
Yes, I had to get public liability insurance and product insurance. We also have our farm insured separately.
What does the name, Sana Naturals, mean?
‘Sana’ means healing, healthy and to shine and glow in different languages. Since the products are focused on restoring the skin’s optimal health, I called the brand Sana (healing/healthy) Naturals.