You'd never know it to look at her glowing skin and healthy smile, but Nicky Jagger has spent most of her life suffering from the extreme pain of endometriosis.
"When I was 10 and started having periods, I was in so much pain, I would faint," says Nicky, who founded natural beauty company Raw Nature in 2017 as a way to address her health problems.
Much of Nicky's adolescence was plagued by pain that remained undiagnosed until she was in her mid-twenties.
"Back then, people thought that level of pain was just something women went through. I was told to suck it up."
But Nicky refused, seeking out possible remedies such as iridology, homoeopathy and Chinese medicine.
"Basically, the quirkier it was, the better! I was so desperate to find relief from the pain that I was willing to try anything."
While working as a property valuer in Wellington, Nicky met a colleague who complained of similar symptoms. "She told me I probably had endometriosis and gave me her surgeon's name. Two days later, I had laparoscopic surgery."
Nicky and her husband Chris, a venture capitalist, were told the endometriosis meant they might not be able to have children. But while living in London, Nicky fell pregnant with their daughter Paris, 22. A second daughter, Madison, followed four years later.
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause severe pelvic pain and is estimated to affect 10% of the population globally or around 190 million women.
Since the condition is hereditary, Nicky worried that her daughters would suffer the way she did.
"They've both had surgery, but after discovering that some ingredients in beauty products increase the body's toxic load and can actually make endometriosis worse, I started researching how to make my own natural, safe beauty products that worked."
She was also keen to find a solution to the nasty eczema flare-ups that both she and her daughters suffered from.
Having been a DIY queen from about the age of seven when she borrowed her father's ties to make a skirt, Nicky has also run a jewellery-making business in London and a cake-pop company in Melbourne.
"I'm not scared of being an entrepreneur and giving something a go," she muses. "I knew I could make beauty products that were 100% natural and toxin-free but were also sustainable and not tested on animals."
Nicky's first attempt, a deodorant, won approval from her daughter's school friends, who asked what perfume she was wearing. "She told them it wasn't perfume but a natural deodorant and they all asked for one."
That grew to supplying family and friends, and in 2017, the Raw Nature skincare brand was born.
"I asked Madison, who was then 11, to help me create a website and we were away! Most of our products came about because of personal need. One of my daughters would say she wanted a deodorant that smelled like toothpaste and I'd set about developing a mint-style deodorant. Or someone would say, 'I need a dry shampoo that isn't an aerosol,' and I'd start researching."
Nicky's perfume line ironically came from her own dislike of wearing scent.
"I never wore perfume because it gave me a headache. But making a perfume with natural essential oils doesn't affect me at all."
A year after starting the business, Nicky could barely keep up with demand. What began with a few selected stores around New Zealand has now expanded to more than 200 outlets, including Farmers and HealthPost. Nicky's natural deodorants, lip balms, perfume, moisturisers and dry shampoo are also stocked by 250 outlets across Australia, as well as in Hong Kong, Thailand, the UK and the Netherlands.
Nicky outsources the production of her 28 product lines to an Auckland facility that uses essential oils sourced from around the globe. She's proud hers is one of the few companies to use New Zealand mānuka oil.
Her reward for all the late nights has been more than 50 international awards.
"But the biggest reward is how these products have improved our own lives. Both the girls and I no longer suffer from eczema, and we feel so much healthier, having reduced the amount of toxins we're absorbing into our body."
Nicky also admits using natural products has boosted her appearance.
"The other day, a woman stopped me in a shop and said, 'Your skin looks amazing – you're glowing!'"
For go-getter Nicky, this is just the beginning.
She enthuses, "More and more people are embracing natural products, and removing plastic, pesticides, preservatives and colourants from their lives. Next for us is expanding the range, and then breaking into the Europe and US markets. If I can help anyone to avoid going through the pain I did, then I've won!"
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