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IN CONVERSATION: SIAN MURRAY OF PLEASANT STATE

Founded during the 2020 lockdown by Sian Murray + Amy Bateman,  Pleasant State is a new brand that aims to revolutionise home cleaning by offering a solution to wasteful excess packaging + environmentally un-sound ingredients.
We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Pleasant State + some other lovely brands on an exciting Earth Day giveaway (incl. Fluff, Sienna, Joco Cups + Aurai Swim). We asked Sian about the journey as a start-up, creating change in a world that needs it, innovating in lockdown, + Pleasant State's values.

SB: Sian and Ami, you started this journey in 2020, during a global pandemic... How did Pleasant State come to be?
 

SM: Ami actually came across the concept of just-add-water cleaning products late in 2019 when she was having an environmental debate with a friend. The concept seemed like a no brainer but when she looked for similar products in Australia and New Zealand she couldn’t find any locally made, non-toxic offerings. 

Ami spent the first few months of 2020 researching the viability of the concept before looking for a Co-Founder that could help bring the products to life through branding and marketing. We were introduced by one of our now shareholders at a cafe and never looked back. 

Things had been trucking along nicely, but once COVID hit we had to make a decision. Pull back while we try to understand this new reality, or push on and take the opportunity to completely commit ourselves to the business. Clearly we chose the latter of the two, a decision we’re very happy with in retrospect.

 

Image of a woman in a white shirt + jeans. She is smiling + using the Pleasant State cleaning products.

SB: Where did the name come from?

SM: I’m surprised we don’t get asked this more often. I thought coming up with a name would be easy… I was very wrong. We went back and forth for weeks with a number of different options and actually settled on something completely different to what we have now. We weren’t in love with it though, and at that time we’d been doing a lot of work with our branding agency (the incredible) Pop & Pac. Their creativity and unique perspective blew us away, so we decided to let them have a go at coming up with something better, which they did. 

Pleasant State is meant to sound/ allude to the word present state. In a world developing so quickly, the only time to be sure of is now. 

The word ‘Present State’ refers to the business operating in the present day; moving forward with the times, trying to right the wrongs. It defines us as an entity that never rests on its laurels and is impassioned by the present day with an eye also firmly on improving the future. Pleasant state is the desire for just that, to be living in a state that is pleasant, whether it's a clean and nice smelling house or an environment not totally ruined by pollution and detrimental environmental impact of our current  inactions.  

 

 Image of a hand holding the Pleasant State glass spray bottle, in front of its recyclable packaging..


SB: Where is Pleasant State based, and where are your products made?
SM: We’re based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Ami and I are both Melbournians that coincidentally made the move around 2 years ago. I live in Noosa and Ami is in Maroochydore. At the moment Ami’s garage is our warehouse but we’re outgrowing it quite quickly which means we’re on the hunt for a warehouse/office space to call our own - exciting! 

 

We’ve worked really hard to find local suppliers across all aspects of our business. Our Chemist and bar manufacturers are all within an hours drive. Even the compostable laminate for our bars and packaging is Australian made. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts there’s nobody in Australia manufacturing custom glass bottles that are even close to the minimum order quantities we need. To manufacture glass in Australia your order needs to be up near the millions, we ordered 20,000 so we’re a fair way off meeting those kinds of numbers. Who knows though, maybe one day! We really hope that as a result of the pandemic we’ll see more manufacturing moving back to Australia. 


SB: Your product idea generated some amazing support from the community, tell us about the experience.

SM: It sure did, we’ve been blown away by how supportive and engaged our community has been! Ami and I really want to keep Pleasant State employee owned, so we looked to raise the funds required to get the business off the ground with a crowdfunding campaign. The campaign launched on indiegogo in August of 2020 and we raised $87,315! It was really hard work, neither of us had been involved in a crowdfunding campaign before so I think we underestimated the effort it would take to get there. But we did it and the results meant we could fund the order of our 20,000 bottles and left us with this incredibly engaged and supportive community. 

From day one we knew that Pleasant State was going to be a brand that did things differently. Branding is huge for us, it’s what makes us different from any other businesses in this space. It was decided very early on that Ami and I would be front-facing to our customers, I think that element of relatability has helped. We’re just two women from the Sunny Coast, that are doing their best to make the world a better place. We also conducted a lot of market research before launching so we could ensure we were making a product that actually met ALL of our customers needs. 


SB: What are the values of Pleasant State?

SM: Ooh good question.Our core goal as a business is to provide just add water cleaning products that help forward thinking Australians reduce their use of single-use plastics and toxic chemicals in their homes by creating effective plant-based refillable cleaning products. Beyond the product side of things we as business strive to be genuine, transparent, inspiring and optimistic as we workto create JOY in cleaning while improving our (and the planet’s) future by reducing pollution - plastics, chemicals, emissions, etc


SB: Tell us a little about your team. Who are the people behind the brand?
SM: We love our little team, and it’s starting to grow which is really exciting. Ami and I are the Co-Founders but we also have two other shareholders that are an integral part of our team. Ranil Illesinghe is our customer insights guy and Sasha Manzie-Howitt is our queen of e-commerce. We also work with Amy Lewis, an incredible freelance Graphic Designer and we’ve just hired the amazing Ruby McCulloch to help us in the warehouse with packing so we can stay on top of the ever increasing orders! It’s a small team, and we work all over Australia but thanks to modern technology and the power of Zoom it’s the perfect balance and our skill sets blend so well together. We’ve also been lucky enough to partner with some amazing local partners who we consider to be part of the Pleasant State family as well.

 

SB: What did your day/s look like before you started this business, vs now? 

SM: Well I had a lot more free time that’s for sure! I was working as a freelance Digital Marketer so I spent my time working for a number of different clients and ducking out for a surf every day. But I was definitely ready for something more, something with a bigger purpose that I could really throw myself into. I think Ami was in a similar headspace. These days we both work full time on Pleasant State and it’s become a huge part of our lives. When it’s your baby it can be hard to shut off and separate work and life. Luckily we’re both on the same page though and we see this as an important time for the business if we want it to succeed. So it’s the hustle life for us at the moment!

 

SB: What are some of the issues with conventional cleaning products on the market? 
SM: This is something we could rant about all day but to cover it quickly I think the issue with conventionally cleaning products can be broken down into two key areas. The ingredients, and the excessive waste. 

The majority of us have no idea what we’re spraying all over our homes, even food surfaces! These days we've educated ourselves about healthy eating and personal care products, but when it comes to healthy cleaning ingredients it's just something that we haven't thought about. It’s not the customers fault either, when it comes to ingredient disclosures the cleaning industry is VERY relaxed. In fact, if you went and had a look at the products under your sink, it's likely you’ll struggle to find a full list of ingredients. If you're lucky they'll list the active ingredients.

According to inhabitat.com, there are over 17,000 petrochemicals available for use in home cleaning products, only 30 percent of which have been tested for their effects on human health and the environment. 

The other issue is that most spray and wipe cleaners consist of 95-98% water! We're basically buying water and transporting that all around the country, only to throw out the plastic bottle at the end and repeat the process, over and over again.

The remaining two-to-five per cent of the ingredients are the actives which provide all the cleaning power. This is why we’ve taken that two-five percent ingredients and concentrated it into a bar form that’s made using plant based ingredients that are still just as effective as major supermarket brands.

 Still life image of 3x Pleasant State glass spray bottles in blue, mustard yellow + aqua cyan colours.

SB: What are some of the misconceptions are out there about a low waste lifestyle? How do you address those with Pleasant State?

SM: I think the key misconception with Pleasant State is that eco cleaning products don’t work. Our market research identified this as a common consumer perception. This is because to date, most eco cleaning products just haven’t been able to get the job done. During our research it was fascinating to see that most people had a few eco cleaning products, but they still had the nasty toxic products for those tough jobs. That’s when we recognised that if we’re going to make a cleaning product that actually makes a difference, it needs to work. Because if it doesn’t, consumers won’t make the switch and they’ll just keep buying the plastic supermarket baddies. 

  

SB: What are some of the steps people can take to eliminate the need for single use plastics in their homes?
SM: I think it’s all about being prepared and buying well made products that can make switching to a single-use plastic free lifestyle much easier. I think it’s important to start with the small, easy switches before working your way to the more complex stuff. To this day I still haven’t been able to find a plastic free alternative for frozen berries, suggestions are welcome! At the same time though I think it’s important to not be too hard on yourself and just do what you can. Any step in the right direction is a good step. I’d recommend starting with some good tupperware, switching to shampoo bars, buying yourself a Pleasant State Starter Kit (see what I did there) and shopping at a wholefoods store that lets you bring and fill your own containers.  

 

SB: What’s coming up next for Pleasant State?

SM: World domination...I kid. This year is all about setting ourselves up and working really hard to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves. By the end of the year we want to have stopped 100,000 plastic cleaning bottles from going to landfill, converted 15,000 customers to zero-waste cleaning with Pleasant State and donated $10,000 to the amazing humans over at Take 3 for the Sea. Who knows, we might even look to launch a shiny new product!

Thank you Sian for taking the time to chat with us + congratulations on the launch. 

xo, Studio Sans Beast.

Images courtesy of Pleasant State.

IN CONVERSATION: SIAN MURRAY OF PLEASANT STATE