Cherie Thompson

Co-Founder and CEO of Native Secrets Australia AGSM MBA Executive 2022

It's just had such a positive impact on me, you know, for my self-belief, my confidence, but also creating lifelong friends to go with on this journey.

Rejuvenating culture, country and conversations

Cherie is a Wailwan woman from Central Western New South Wales. She and her husband Phi, a Bidjara/Kara Kara man from central Queensland, founded Native Secrets – a 100% Aboriginal owned and managed natural skin care brand.

Phil helps manage the biodiversity offsets area for a local mining company and developed the concept of turning native plants and trees, like white cypress and buddha wood, that can become invasive if not managed properly, into essential oils, skin and hair care products, and candles.

Cherie says the business came about as a way of creating conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Conversations around culture, medicinal native plants and natural healing based on ancient knowledge.

White Cypress Pine essential oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Cherie and her husband Phil saw an opportunity to make use of the over-abundance of native White Cypress Pine trees on a property owned by a mining group.

It’s a way we’ve found for people to connect and share stories.

Passing ancient knowledge to new hands

We have a responsibility to look after the land and get it back to the way it once was.

Native Secrets gives Indigenous people of all ages the opportunity to come out and work on country. It’s an opportunity to visit a culturally safe space in which elders can share their knowledge.

There are also environmental benefits to sustainably harvesting and value-adding to native plants. 

Thinning out the cypress lets the sunlight penetrate to the ground. Doing so restarts the ecosystem – especially native grasses, beetles, bugs and lizards – including the endangered pink tailed worm lizard.

Cherie’s AGSM MBA path to professional and personal growth

With the business growing rapidly, Cherie chose the part-time AGSM MBA Executive to address gaps in her business knowledge, especially in marketing, finance and international business.

I’ve always wanted to know more about exporting. But as small business owners, we're so closely involved in the day-to-day that it can be hard to see things from a different perspective. Or we lack the tools, frameworks and strategies to implement change.

Cherie credits the growth and innovation subject from her MBA with helping her identify and stay focused on the bigger picture.

My biggest challenge prior to choosing AGSM was my confidence and self-belief and I guess, really believing I even belonged there.

Cherie says the biggest shift for her in doing an MBA is putting herself out there and networking. Gaining a deeper understanding of her business and framing it around her personal story has given her the confidence to walk into a room and talk about Native Secrets.  

Cherie Thompson AGSM @ UNSW Business School

Connecting for growth

 Cherie says AGSM MBA alumni network has proven invaluable – directly helping her business grow.

She gives the example of meeting a business strategist from one of Australia's leading beauty retailers and being invited to send samples – an incredible opportunity for Native Secrets that looks likely to see their products on many more shelves soon.

The connections I’ve made have given Native Secrets the opportunity to work with one of Australia's largest retail brands.  

Cherie’s already applied practical skills she learned in her MBA marketing and international business modules to creating an export strategy. Native Secrets is now in the process of expanding to South Korea – having already shipped samples to potential partners.  

Exporting to South Korea is an incredible opportunity for Native Secrets to grow. I think they are the world leaders in skincare, and I think if we make it there, we can truly say we've made it!

Learning to be a better leader

Cherie says being a responsible leader means leading from the front when you need to – but also stepping back and letting others lead and have their time to shine. 

Native Secrets is also creating opportunities for other members of Cherie and Phil’s community.

To make a real impact, we take a holistic approach, which I like to call “soil to skin”. Yes, we create products people love to touch and feel. But it's in the environment and in the local job creation where we have the real impact – with a steady flow of other Indigenous people coming to work on country recreating ecosystems.

Building confidence and persistence

It's just had such a positive impact on me, you know, for my self-belief, my confidence, but also creating lifelong friends to go with on this journey.

Sharing 60,000 years of knowledge with the world

Cherie says Native Secrets is just scratching the surface in terms of the medicinal knowledge they’re learning and sharing with the world.

My AGSM MBA? You know, it's been the best thing that I've ever done!

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