Neat business idea leads to a rosy life for Abby

Abby Packer gave up her high-stress corporate job and now makes a highly successful range of natural products from her New Plymouth home. Taranaki Community News caught up with her to find out all about her 40 different perfumes.

Can you please tell us about yourself and Neat?
I’m a classic 80s kid who has an insane appreciation for a simpler time of life where milk bottles were delivered to the door using tokens… while also buzzing out daily about the opportunities that surround us in this time through technology that removes all boundaries, and opens up our entire world.

It’s an interesting perspective as I love so many aspects of the past and wish we could go back in some ways, but I’m also excited about future developments too. I’m trying to navigate and embrace ways-of-old in the modern world.

I’m a real mix of everything really, hence our formal company name is Motley Creative Limited. Some might call me a generalist, others would say jack of all trades, master of none… but really I’m just someone super creative, who also loves mental stimulation and learning.

I have qualifications in both business and in art, and I always felt that any role that allowed me to use both daily would be the perfect role for me. And funnily enough I’ve created just that. I’ve worked in some odd-ball roles and industries – telemarketing, real estate, management, HR and marketing roles, and every opportunity to learn a new skill I will always take, as long as it is something I feel drawn to understanding.

Coming from Eltham I think I still live by the old primary school motto of “learn by doing, knowledge is power.” They can stamp that on my grave as I am a total sponge and nerd for all things that might increase my capacity to understand this world and all us weirdos that are in it. I aim to learn at least one new thing every day, about myself or the world and how it works. 

I’m a deep thinker and a manic doer, a lover of both the creative and the intellectual, equally. Audio books, Podcasts and YouTube have become my modern-day talk-back radio and TV with information at my fingertips anytime day or night.

I guess this is why I still enjoy doing every single thing in my business, I have designed and created 99 per cent of everything you see at Neat, from the product concepts to the packaging, I even designed our logo, and built our website from scratch and wrote all the copy! And to this day I am responsible for it all – from the marketing and accounts, to the products and packaging, and answering emails.. it’s just ME!

We started with two small fragrances less than three years ago, and I now have more than 190 different products available for sale on our website, with more than 50 of those products being our own brand Neat! So the expansion has been huge in terms of our product lines. But we are still a very small business, and I invest our revenue back into development and growth initiatives and improving and upgrading systems we started with and have already outgrown.

What do you do outside of work?
My other interests include working out, which I do every day – from 5am at the gym, to a fast bike ride down the foreshore to clear my head in the afternoon. This keeps me active for the weekly fitness class I teach as well – Strong30!

I also love gardening and growing things, and love my animals and nature and sunshine and the beach. I love macrame and crafts and sewing and making and watercolour painting and photography and music. There truly is not enough time in the day to fit all of my loves in because I actually love my work too, so that can take up a big chunk!

What’s the ethos behind Neat?
Neat is a business that reflects my personal values, as I don’t believe I can do business without having my personal integrity at the forefront of everything I do, and that shapes every decision I make.

It’s a very easy way to run a business… do I believe in it personally? If not, then it’s a NO for my business. For example, I won’t hold a sale just to make money out of people for Halloween when I do not believe in Halloween…its just not how I will ever do business.

I aim to create simple and functional products that aren’t over-complicated and have the minimum amount of ingredients in them to be incredibly effective, and do what they say they do. I want to keep our products as affordable and accessible as I can while balancing all those important aspects such as good quality ingredients, and sustainable packaging, and of course an incredible overall customer experience.

I aim to always deliver more than the customer expected, and our developing brand and customer loyalty hopefully is a great reflection of that!

We are business that never started off aiming to be a conscious-beauty-business… but quickly realised that was a conversation we were going to be a part of whether we liked it or not – simply due to the fact we wanted to be natural. That is why I don’t advocate for perfection and instead encourage progress in a real meaningful way, especially around sustainable manufacturing practises and eco-friendly packaging.

It truly is a journey, and we don’t know what we don’t know – we make our best attempt from the information we have at the time and then continual improvement comes from that yearning to constantly learn and develop and see what we don’t know that we could learn.

What led to you starting Neat?
At the beginning of 2016 I left a high-stress corporate role that had bought me to total burn-out. I decided enough was enough and I needed to be my own commander for a change, so I invested in a laser cutter and thought I’d do some small business marketing for folks to pass the time.

As I was waiting for the laser cutter to arrive from the States my mother was having some health issues which were attributed to a bunch of chemicals accumulating in her body, which she would need to detox from. After some digging it was revealed it was her spraying her neck every morning with a really toxic perfume that was causing her main issues.

When Mum couldn’t find any natural perfume she liked locally, nor was she able to purchase any samples online and she would have to risk buying a perfume that may not be her cuppa-tea… I piped up and said I’d make her one, because if I didn’t know how I’d just learn! I had spare time after all. 

That there was the unknown diversion that would see me freak out, question every single thing in life, cry a fair bit, freak out some more, and eventually never laser cut one thing!!

Just under 12 months ago, over two years into this journey was the first time I actually FULLY had faith in myself and committed to my business as more than a hobby on the side while I was waiting for my real job to turn up… and in June 2018 I got a refund on my laser cutter and decided that was not going to be my future. (Man there were some tears!!!)

Neat is now a true passion and is something I can really make fly and I love seeing it do just that! Since then, it’s been going great and I wouldn’t change a thing! The journey is the destination. I don’t care where I end up, as long as I’m learning all the way!

You get a tonne of really positive reviews for your whole range of products. What’s the one must-have product from Neat, if someone could only buy one?
Just one?!?! Perfume lol… there are over 40 types though so just one isn’t an option! I struggle to pick just one, because I truly use so many of them daily. They are functional, clean and really do what I say they do. But, I wouldn’t be able to get by without the Mg+Plus Magnesium and Arnica Sports Recovery Spray.

I workout most days, and I teach a community fitness class once a week, so recovery is really important and speeding up the time my muscles recover and my aches and pains disappear – even neck tension from being at my desk working. MgPlus is just my go to before anything else. I use it every day (along with Cacay, and our perfumes, and an exciting new nutritional supplement we are launching in just a few weeks!)

But if you are not into fitness or don’t get the aches and pains then you HAVE TO get a natural perfume or cologne. So many people just don’t even understand how these things are affecting them. Just because you don’t have a major physical representation of the affect, doesn’t mean it isn’t causing you harm or slowing your system down or compromising your immunity in some way. 

One incredible change people can make for their overall health is to stop using unnatural products on their body – our skin is the largest organ and takes in so much. Help your body out by giving it less toxins to process on the daily.

What are some of your absolute favourite smells in the world?
Wood shavings remind me of my Grandad, any wood smells are comforting to me really. For a few months after my he died I just kept a bowl of wood sawdust on the shelf as a reminder.

I love the smell of coffee brewing, and bacon cooking… because duuuh coffee and bacon! I love the smell of tomato plants, and freshly cut lawn, they just smell like good times and nature and summer days. Fresh baked bread… nom nom nom.

Smells truly are one of the most evocative when it comes to sparking a memory, or giving us a feeling, like that smell of fresh laundry on a cold day when you’re tucked up inside -it’s just total comfort! A smell can transport us back 20 years in an instant – that can sometimes be a good thing and a bad thing.

If you could pick anyone from throughout history to create a perfume for, who would it be and what would it smell like?
Oooooh so many people I could choose. So today, I would choose Frida Kahlo. I studied her during my art degree and found we were curious about similar things, and liked to both use art to question why society does as society does.

I feel it would be a bold and strong scent that would have beautiful feminine overtones, representing a strong female, sure of self, and confident to push the boundaries society has set before her.

Neat is part of a Soul Sister event coming up this week. Can you tell us what that is about?
Through my own journey in the past three years I have realised that we cannot look at one area of our lives in isolation when it comes to health and wellness.

We cannot simply eat clean but fill our minds with garbage and consider ourselves healthy, and similarly we cannot fill our body with junk while maybe using all clean products, and expect t be a picture of health – it’s a little counter-productive. It’s all linked.

So while it may seem strange for a company making beauty products to be having a conversation about nutrition, it’s really just bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together in forming a picture of what is a healthy and balanced life.

Our last event was on mindset and our ability to choose EVERYTHING in our lives (yes, every single thing!)  This event however is a bit less ‘woo-woo’, and more educational. A lot of people just don’t know how to give themselves a good feed, from a nutritional perspective, to fuel their body and mind adequately.. I am still learning myself, but I used to underfeed myself and then binge.. and when I see people unwell and inquire what they have eaten or had to drink, the result is usually not surprising as to why they feel like garbage… because they have fed themselves garbage. 

So during this event we will gain insight into the more technical and biological ways that nutrition and mental health are linked from the expertise and personal experience of local nutritionist Francesca Eldridge, while Health and Life Coach Michelle Matangi will share her journey from seeking out weight loss, to going on a journey of unpacking her entire mind, body and soul, and finding out who she really was so that could all unfold – resulting in a new career!

It’s an action packed morning, and participants can stay and have a potluck with us and chat a bit after if they wish.

You can follow Neat on Instagram, Facebook, on you can visit the website.