October 16th, 2022Mwerre products on sale at Opera House
IT WAS probably a bit of a “pinch me” moment. Liz Liddle had been running a soap making/bath products business for about five years when she saw a callout for Uncovered at the Sydney Opera House.
In its third year, Uncovered is a platform for Australian artists, makers, creatives and artisans to showcase their artistic excellence at the Opera House’s on-site and online retail shop. The Creswick businessperson, who runs Mwerre, saw the opportunity, applied and was accepted – as were just two other creatives.
Only three businesses are selected each year. “I saw it on Facebook, as you do, and thought it was a really good opportunity to get into a major cultural institution. Having this accessible program really gives people a bit of a foothold and builds awareness of your brand, it’s a fast track.” But Liz, who has a small factory at Eganstown, realises that success also comes down to customers – and they are loving what she does.
“It is still pretty early days, we only recently launched, but the feedback I am receiving is that of the giftboxes and the bar soaps I produce, it is the giftboxes which are selling really well and to international tourists.
“I think that is because they are well packaged so people can travel with them where the bar soaps are fairly naked in their packaging. After the pandemic, I really didn’t think international visitors would be the ones that would be buying most of my products.”
Liz is also busy thinking about production, with the lead-up to Christmas for her wholesalers, and increased demand from Sydney. Like all small business owners who start because of a passion, she is now working out how to continue to make her handmade products in a sustainable way.
She is also working on product design. “I am looking at how I can be fairly sustainable but also meet the needs of the product. For example I originally started with a cloth ribbon on my packages but now I have moved to paper because it is recyclable. It is little things like that where you discover new and better ways of doing things.”
Liz said she believes Mwerre was chosen over other businesses for Uncovered because it uses high quality, indigenous ingredients to produce soap and skin products, honouring the traditions of the Arrernte people – a First Nations language group from Central Australia – to protect, adorn and heal skin. Mwerre is a 100 per cent certified Aboriginal-owned business. There were also no competing products for sale, another factor in Mwerre being chosen, Liz says.
As for how she got started in her business, that is “a long story”. “About 20 years ago I was working in the spa industry in Daylesford and I had this idea for clay products. But at that time I was much younger, didn’t have any money and just didn’t have the skills or resources to think about how to make my own brand and get into manufacturing. All that stuff.
“So, fast forward 20 years and the landscape has changed quite a bit with social media and support for small business. It is much easier to get into developing a brand and the idea came up again. But, on the other side of things I wanted to be a baker. I love baking. I started thinking about that as well and was making all this stuff and testing potential things I could sell – and we just ended up eating it all. Which wasn’t good for the waistline.
“I then discovered that soap making was the same as baking. The same process, same technical things, mixing ingredients, cooking it and pouring it into a mould. I thought, that is a really good idea, I can fulfill my need for baking and I don’t eat it.”
Until the Sydney opportunity came long, Mwerre was mostly sold in Melbourne with a few outlets in Bendigo and Creswick. It’s also online at www.mwerre.com.au and as Liz says, it’s now “onwards and upwards” along with a trip next year to check out her new “store”.
Sydney Opera House Tours, Retail and Projects general manager Nicky Brandon said those chosen for Uncovered had to have similar values to the Opera House including creativity, excellence, collaboration, accountability and safety.
“Uncovered was basically created as a way for us to showcase up and coming Australian creatives from across the country. We took the opportunity to create a program that could support smaller businesses and artists just starting out or more established, and showcase what they have on offer within our doors.”
Nicky said Liz’s application was inspiring with its links to health using indigenous clay and minerals from the land. “That is something we are passionate about here, how we connect back to country. Her products really engaged with us, they are beautiful and smell absolutely divine and now our entire store smells amazing. We were so excited to connect with Liz.”
Nicky said she came up with the idea of Uncovered in 2017 and it had been fantastic to see the first cohort come through in 2020. “We really want to embed what we do with another round every year and build up an alumni. We choose three artists each year and all nine are still in the store. And it is fantastic to be promoting them not just locally but also internationally, seeing people take Australian products, like Liz’s, home with them.”
Links: www.mwerre.com.au | www.sydneyoperahouseshop.com
Words: Donna Kelly | Images: Contributed