In honour of International Women’s Day, we sat down with OPTY.NC Co-founders Cate Lilja and Karissa Mather to learn about their inspiration to start the brand and champion a new standard in ingestible beauty and the nutricosmetics industry.
The story of OPTY.NC began when Cate and Karissa met three years ago, bonding immediately over their shared passion for gut health, wellness and the occasional glass of wine.
Having spent decades working for some of the largest health and beauty companies, Cate and Karissa dreamt of developing their own natural, food-based ingestible beauty supplement. Products that genuinely reflected their sustainable values and desire to empower people with scientifically backed results and their own wellness journeys.
"We are the perfect partners. We have such a complementary skill set, are almost always on the same page and can tell with just a glance what the other is thinking" I feel we’re in such alignment; there’s just so much respect and complete trust in one another,” says Karissa.
MEET KARISSA MATHER
Karissa’s interest in wellness is a lifelong passion. A family history of bowel cancer made gut health a priority from an early age. With 20+ years of global brand marketing and sales experience within the cosmetics category and wellness/health food sectors, Karissa is the driving force behind OPTY’s marketing, sales, and sustainability efforts.
“It’s okay to use external skincare and cosmetics, but it’s important to realise whatever we’re trying to mask is an indication of our overall health. That’s why ingestible beauty is really changing the way we think about skincare. Skin health is a longterm goal and it starts in your gut,” says Karissa.
MEET CATE LILJA
Cate, who is OPTY’s Head of Product, Research and Development, Supply Chain and Logistics, has an Applied Science degree in Naturopathic Studies and 15 years experience in product innovation and development within the nutraceutical, cosmeceutical and health food sectors.
“Naturopathy has given me a solid grounding in understanding the importance of gut health and the power of nutrition and herbal medicines to affect real, meaningful change within the gut and body, but more than anything my focus has been on helping people feel well. Your skin is like a mirror to your internal health. I hope people start to recognize that what’s going on inside is reflected outside,” says Cate.
1. How did you get into your current field or position?
CATE: I turned to natural therapies in my 20’s to recover from adrenal burn out and a depressed immune system. It worked (!), by addressing the root cause rather than addressing the symptoms as allopathic medicine had been, and it was then that I decided to study naturopathy. I was so drawn to the research and product development side of the industry I pursued it as a career and 15 years on, having formulated some best-selling products in Australia and globally, here I am developing products for OPTY.
KARISSA: I completed a Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing and advertising with a minor in business law. Went straight out of this job into the L’Oréal Presidential Program. I loved it. Got to travel to Paris and NY with work and got some great experience and worked with some incredible leaders. After completing 7 years with L’Oréal I decided to go exploring the world. I rocked up (literally) to Estee Lauders doorstep (in London) after a year of traveling and asked to meet the HR manager – at the time, Sue Rout. Sue changed my life. She hired me which launched my global career with Estee Lauder. This job took me around the world, from London to Dubai to New York City. After moving back to Australia 12 years ago I made the decision to move into the health and wellness space, and this is where I met Cate. Here we are now with OPTY.NC.
2. What did you dream of doing when you were young?
CATE: I used to tell people I wanted to be a brain surgeon, but that was really because when I was a kid, I thought only really smart people could be brain surgeons. I must have thought I was pretty clever – haha!
KARISSA: Travelling! I grew up with a world map in my bedroom. I used to study it. I was fascinated by it. It used to blow my mind that there was an entire world out there, I’d never seen and places I’d never heard of. When I was growing up, there was no internet, you had to use your imagination. My great aunt and her husband used to live in Spain and they were avid travelers. I LOVED receiving postcards from them from all around the world (id collect the stamps – I still have them). I also used to get money every birthday in a card. We used to call it “funny” money. Part of the fun was then having to go to the bank and cash it in for Australian dollars so I could go spend it. It’s no wonder I’m a traveller.
3. What is the most important advice you have been given?
CATE: Measure twice, cut once.
KARISSA: The most important relationship you’re ever going to have is the one you have with yourself. Invest in developing this – its beneficial for you and those around you.
4. If you could have dinner with 2 inspirational people, who would they be and why?
CATE: I think Grace Tame is an absolute legend (no explanation necessary!) and Julia Gillard is a pioneering and inspirational Australian woman, having been the first Australian female Prime Minister. So I would be delighted to sit down to dinner with them.
KARISSA: I lost the chance with this one as she has now passed…Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I have so much respect and admiration for this incredible woman and she has really left behind a true legacy. She really did make genuine and undisputed progress around gender discrimination and was a true pioneer in bring forward in a meaningful way, women’s rights. I’m obsessed with her!
Speaking of obsessions, I love fashion. Whilst I’m not 100% into Vivienne Westwood’s style all the time, I think she is total rock star! I’d love to have dinner with this quirky, outspoken, environmentalist. I love how she lives her live on her terms and does not let age define her in any way.
5. Who and/or what keeps you sane when the going gets tough?
CATE: My ‘first aid’ is Mog the Dog and taking her on trips to the beach!
The older I get the more I cherish the time spent with those closest to me – it’s about being present in that moment and escaping the ‘tough’ momentarily.
KARISSA: I feel very grateful as I have a strong support network around me. My friends and family are all so incredible. Outside of my incredible network, I’m big into mental, physical and spiritual health. I meditate most days, love to train hard (weights training) and see my energy healer at least once a month. I’m a Libra, I crave balance.
6. What has been your proudest achievement?
CATE: Graduating Uni – I‘d moved to Sydney, worked 3 jobs to support myself to pay my way through and graduated with high distinction. Of course, I had support from family and friends, but it really proved to me what I was capable of.
KARISSA: I think being personally recognized by Mr. Leonard Lauder himself for the contribution I made when working with him and the team at Estee Lauder Companies. Mr. Lauder went to the trouble of tracking me down back in Australia after I had left the business to write me a note of thanks for my services, detailing specifically some of the achievements I’d made when working with the company. My partner had this framed for me, I was so proud and honored to receive such a letter from Mr. Lauder himself.
7. What are you currently listening to (podcasts, music)?
CATE: Currently playing a lot of The Beatles (having watched Peter Jacksons ‘Get Back’ twice now – I am obsessed), otherwise music to cook to is Nils Frahm, music to ‘spreadsheet to’ is currently Mastodon and Queens of the Stone Age.
I’m loving Jon Richardson and the Futurenauts and The Adam Buxton Podcast, I usually go for comedy – Beef and Dairy Network, The Important Broadcast and Three Bean Salad rate among my favorites.
KARISSA: Podcasts – I’ve just started listening to a guy here in Australia – Mikey Ellis – A Satisfied Mind. Liking his honest, vulnerable work. I get a giggle out of Ask Ronna – a friend in the UK sometimes sends me her favs and I listen to them – very funny and a great way to take time out and just laugh!
Music – I have very diverse taste and what I’d call an eclectic selection. I go through stages where I’m all about chill dance tracks like The Wanderings of the Avener (an all-time fav) or Empire of the Sun through to times when I’m listening to pretty bizarre bands such as Die Antwoord. I also love opera, usually more if I’ve seen a show. An old favorite is the soundtrack from the movie, Fifth Element. I love a good movie soundtrack – St Elmo’s Fire, The Breakfast Club (def showing my age). I love Def Leppard and I’ve got a total crush on Chris Martin, Cold Play – I mean, who hasn’t!
8. What is your favorite wellness product, besides OPTY?
CATE: I’m pretty old school – flax meal, spirulina and a fermented protein powder plus Spatone Iron and BioClinic Methyl B12 (I have been vegetarian for nearly 20 years so topping up on those nutrients is essential!). If I’m feeling stressed and run down, I add Whole Earth and Sea’s 7 Mushroom Super Blend.
KARISSA: The products I’m consistent about would include a Vit B complex as I eat a lot of vegetarian meals. I usually add spirulina to my smoothies. Super grateful for the taste of the complete skin food elixir, it helps make the spirulina more palatable. J I take magnesium consistently also as I work out 3-4 times a week. If I’m having trouble sleeping, ill add in a reishi mushroom blend before bed.
9. What goals are you working towards achieving?
CATE: My short term goal – cycling the 50km round trip to the beach from my house.
Launching the full OPTY product pipeline to offer complete personalised solutions for our customers (and frankly I can’t wait to start using some of these products myself!).
Renovating my house so it’s a destination my friends and family want to come and stay as often as possible.
KARISSA: Outside of growing OPTY and expanding further overseas this year, on a more personal level, this year I really want to focus on my health. I’m 49 this year and it’s a goal for me to be the fittest I’ve ever been heading into my fifties. I train for many reasons, the most important to me is mental health, longevity and mobility. I love feeling strong.
I’m also about to start an introductory course to Buddhism. I’m keen to learn more about Buddhism as a meditative practice and to learn some techniques around being more Zen. Ive got a lot of energy, I think learning some Zen would be ideal for me and those around me, Ha-ha.
10. Are you a coffee or tea person? Wine or Beer?
CATE: All of it! Morning coffee. Afternoon herbal tea. Beach side beers on a Saturday afternoon. Red wine over dinner with friends.
KARISSA: Nearly all the above. I drink coffee (2 a day, both before noon), herbal tea and wine. I hate beer – yuk! I do fancy a gin though – my summer go to.
OPTY.NC's innovative formulas, natural ingredients and clean beauty standards help to set the brand apart from its competitors. But it's the expertise and leadership of the co-founders that is propelling skin-gut awareness into focus and empowering individuals to look and feel their best from the inside out.
Try OPTY's award winning Ultimate 1.0 - Complete Skin Food Elixir today.