Meet the GRACE Collective: Julia Hughes
Sometimes, you interview a woman and think, "She is my type of person." For me, this is Julia Hughes.

Case in point: she has a background as a marketer and journalist (me too), has a busy family life (same here), runs an artisan gelato van (I wish I did), and has recently launched a gin bar (which I'd happily reside in, given the choice). So interviewing Julia to find out more about her incredible story was a no-brainer.

Here's what GRACE Collective member Julia Hughes had to tell us about her life, family and business. Get ready for a delicious, wild ride.

Visit Mr Goaty Gelato | Visit Bar Botanica | Find out more about GRACE Collective.

Family photos are by Kendall Marjanovic and Gelato/Bar Botanica images are by Jacs Powell.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?

Husband Dan, daughter Dylan, 5 and baby boy Spike, 18-months, makes four of us. I find having two kids pretty full on. But thank my lucky stars we are all healthy, we get plenty of sunshine and water, and have lots of laughs thanks to Dan's terrible singing and refusal to take most things seriously.

Now you need to share all the details on your amazing businesses …

Our first business baby is Mr Goaty Gelato – artisan all natural gelato and sorbet made from scratch by my very talented chef partner. We started out making all goat's milk gelato (hence the name) but most of our product now is traditional dairy gelato and vegan sorbet with a few signature goat's milk flavours. We have a couple of fun gelato bikes and a vintage ice cream truck that we hire out for weddings, parties and corporate events.

When we moved to the Coast a few years ago we also moved gelato production to a kitchen in a local gin distillery. It was one of those fateful moves, we found ourselves making gelato in a beautiful mud brick building surrounded by botanical gardens. We use as much as we can from the garden in our gelato – oranges, lemons, lavender, geranium, even fresh turmeric. Customers were always asking us where they could buy the gelato aside from at markets and events, and the space at Distillery Botanica is so magic it seemed a shame not to be making full use of it. So earlier this year we opened Bar Botanica. We sell our gelato, coffee, plus light meals and cakes, and soon we'll be adding local wines and gin cocktails. It's garden-to-plate dining. Dan makes incredible food based on what is growing locally and seasonally and our lovely customers can enjoy it all while sitting on our leafy terrace or on a picnic rug in the garden. It is a dream.

What did your career entail prior to Mr Goaty Gelato and Bar Botanica?

Before my gelato career (still feels funny saying that's my job) I worked in PR and marketing. I studied media, worked briefly as a journalist and moved into finance and investment marketing in Sydney and London. It was a stable and very well-paid gig, but ultimately not for me. My last full-time corporate job was Australian head of marketing for a foreign bank. My daughter was only two and I requested to work from home one day a week. This request was denied. Shocked and upset, I resigned on the spot. In hindsight it was a push I'm grateful for, but like many women who've experienced similar it was extremely disheartening. At that point we decided to go for it with Mr Goaty, so I freelanced as a Marketing Consultant for a year or so to keep money coming in while working on our business.

Work-wise I'm busier than ever now but hugely fulfilled and motivated. It's bloody tough managing all aspects of a business – admin, marketing, staff etc. but working on my own terms, with flexibility and agency counts for so much.

What inspired the launch of Mr Goaty Gelato?

Believe it or not, Dan has always loved goats! And I've always loved ice cream. We tried goat's milk ice cream in the UK and that planted a seed. When we moved back to sunny Sydney and Dylan was born he was ready to try something new and get out of restaurant kitchens. His feeling for flavours and cheffing brilliance, combined with the inspiration we felt living in Australia where produce and food is so amazing is really what inspired the gelato.

What prompted your move from Sydney to the Central Coast?

Have you tried buying a house in Bronte?! There were a few prompts but money was definitely a factor. The only way we could reconcile starting a business (ie. zero income) and buying a house for our little family was to leave Sydney. I grew up in the East and Dan had caught the surfing bug so our new home had to be beachside and close enough to the city. As well as affordable real estate we wanted a slower pace, more space and access to decent food and coffee! The Central Coast ticks all these boxes and many more.

How are you finding life on the Central Coast?

We love it here. The natural beauty of the Coast blows me away. You've got stunning beaches and Bouddi National Park, with everything else in the way of shops, services and transport that makes life easy. It feels like the food scene up here has really started to take off in the past few years and it's so exciting and satisfying to be a part of that.

What are some of your favourite pairings with gin?

I tend to stick to classics done well. Faves are an icy G&T, a dry Martini or a Negroni. Moore's Dry Gin with Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of lime is sundowner perfection.

How do you make time for yourself? What does that look like?

Right now it looks like a lunchtime yoga class, a quick lap session at the pool once a week if I'm lucky, and a cup of tea with my kindle on a Sunday afternoon while Spike sleeps. Time for myself is scarce, but I'm counting on that changing soon when Dylan starts school and Spike is in full-time daycare.

How is it working with your husband?

Pretty good actually. We both work very hard and respect each others input and value. Sometimes there are blowups but for the most part we're in it together. It's a very honest working relationship! Our skills are so different. I'm in complete awe of his cooking and he thinks I'm a "really good emailer."

How did you manage to create a network in a new area?

It's been surprisingly easy to find a local network and friends on the Coast. Lots of families move here from Sydney so there's common ground, kids the same age, and a general openess to meeting new people. I think we have more time up here. Most people I know work part-time or freelance, cost of living is lower so you can afford to. I was among the first of my mates to have a baby in Sydney and that felt very lonely. Thankfully I've met enough beautiful, supportive and soulful women on the Coast that it feels like home.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in setting up and running your own businesses?

The first couple of years are such a steep learning curve and it's brutal working so hard for minimal and inconsistent financial return. We reached that magic 2-3 year mark when you actually start making money, but other growing pains start. Now the biggest challenge is finding good staff and keeping them. On a personal level there is sacrifice. Running a business means a lot of stress and strain on your mental health and relationships come under pressure. Start up investment and cost of running a business is huge. I don't buy many clothes, I drive a smelly old car (not the ice cream van) and our holidays and time-off are very limited.

What tips do you have for women who might be looking to make a shift into running their own businesses?

No half measures. Perhaps some women manage a side hustle but my advice is to give it everything – your time, money, and your best pitch always. Building a network of professional women you admire and genuinely like helps immensely when your need short-cuts, advice and sounding boards.

What are the 10 things you’re loving at the moment?

  • Aldi chocolate, Aldi wine, Aldi corn chips…basically Aldi!
  • My local library
  • Swell drink bottles
  • Go-to Tinted Zincredible
  • The Ordinary serums
  • Mr Goaty Passionfruit Cheesecake Gelato with Hazelnut Crumb.



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"I ended up tandem feeding my two children until my daughter turned 4.5 years old," says British mother of two and model Jess Bowen.

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Smoosh Founder Mim Gascoigne
Do you cleanse your face properly?

For so many of us, the answer is probably no (and it doesn't help when you have a small child at your feet trying to get your attention). Which is why we like to keep our skincare regime simple and effective, and also why we opt for oil-based skincare.

Enter Smoosh, a fuss-free, natural skincare range based on the hydrating power of oils, created by Sydney mum of three and teacher Mim Gascoigne.

"Cleansing is such an important step in your routine. If the cleansing step is too harsh and dries out the skin, you are a few steps back and you've only just stepped onto the starting block," she says, referring to that feeling of dryness that can come after cleansing if you've stripped all the hydration out of your skin. She set about solving that skincare dilemma. Smoosh's Silky Cleansing Oil, contains six organic and natural plant oils, including camellia, peach, jojoba, watermelon and passionfruit and leaves your skin feeling soft, supple and hydrated (the opposite to the aforementioned dry, tight state).

Next in the Smoosh skincare regime is a serum, and there are three in the range, so there's something for all skin types. "Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs," she says. "I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way." As for what serum actually does (i.e. how it'll help us glow), she explains that a serum is that extra step after you cleanse and before you moisturise, that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. If your skin still feels dry after you apply serum, Mim advises you to keep your skin damp when you apply: "our oil serums absorb quickest when skin is damp. after cleansing or misting is a great time to smoosh. Three to four drops massaged into damp skin should leave skin supple, bouncy and moisturised never greasy."

Her passion for plant-based skincare products came from her mother, who is a GP and studied naturopathy. "She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications," says Mim. And as for the name Smoosh, it was inspired by the feeling you get when you see chubby baby thighs. "You really want to 'smoosh' them," says Mim. "Whatever age you are, healthy skin has that beautiful glow and softness that brings about the desire to touch and smoosh it."

Here we talk to Mim about how she got her business off the ground (and the ups and downs of that journey), the key ingredients in her products and why your skin will love them, practical time management tips for the working mother, and most importantly, how to Smoosh.

Go to

Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

Smoosh skincare

Smoosh skincare

Smoosh Nourish oil serumSmooth Soothing Balance oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Smoosh's range of serums

There are so many cleansers in the market, why did you decide to launch an oil cleanser and what are the benefits of oil cleansers?

So many cleansers, yet I still felt like I hadn't found my perfect one. Personally, having such sensitive skin I really wanted to create an oil cleansing blend that was free from essential oils and fragrance, yet was also light and silky enough for all skin types. A cleanser that is gentle yet thorough is crucial. This is where an oil cleanser shines, it has the ability to cleanse away the most stubborn makeup and sunscreen yet leave your skin soft, hydrated and your skin barrier healthy and intact. I also had customers asking for me to create one.

What skin types would this product suit? For example, should oilier skins steer clear?

All skin types can benefit from our Silky Cleansing Oil, each plant oil in the blend has been thoughtfully chosen to provide just the right amount of slip for a beautifully smooth massage and cleansing ritual, without overloading the skin. Once massaged in and gently removed with lukewarm water and a soft cloth, your skin will be perfectly cleansed, super smooth, nourished and glowing. No greasy oil slick in sight.

Smoosh has three different serums. Firstly, what role does serum play in our skincare?

A serum is that little step that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. Our oil serums can be used alone or added to your moisturiser. Luxurious, potent and brimming with goodness each of the three oil serums is loaded with omega fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants to help nurture and bring about healthy and glowing skin.

What is the difference between the three serums you offer - and how did you settle on three?

I settled on three, as I feel within the trilogy, all skin types can find a a blend to support them. Whatever skin season they are having. Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs. I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way.

Radiance oil serum is a nectar-like oil serum, deeply moisturising so wonderful for very dry and/or mature skin. It turns around lack lustre skin really quickly and it's also wonderful in cold windy weather. Soothing Balance oil serum is for all skin types, especially those prone to breakouts, it's silky and light yet still provides beautiful moisture. It's calming on inflammation and brings clarity to confused skin. Nourish oil serum is a satiny, berry packed oil serum, it gives dewy hydration, nourishment and is really rejuvenating for normal to dry skin types. It's a bit like a super berry smoothie in a face oil!

Natural skincare has always been part of your life - tell me how your mother influenced your skincare decisions and how you approach your skincare regime?

My mum is a GP and also studied naturopathy so I was surrounded by tinctures and natural skincare products from a very young age. She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications. She was also instrumental in teaching me about the benefits of nutritious healthy food, the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle and how both can impact skin health for the better. She was into bone broth long before it was trendy!

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Nourish oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serumSmoosh Soothing Balance oil serum

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Skincare has changed a lot over the years, what are some ingredients or products which have stood the test of time?

I think face oils have been around for a long time but have definitely become more mainstream which is great as I think they are really transformative. Oil and balm cleansers have been used by actors and stage performers for decades to remove heaving makeup so their credentials are pretty good too. Weleda Skin food is a great classic as is Dr Haushka Rose Cream. Lanolin is another ingredient that has stood the test of time, Lanolips 101 ointment, is such a great formula. Glycerin is a bit of an underrated ingredient, it's been around for ages and is so healing for dry skin. It seems to be having a bit of a resurgence though!

The term "clean beauty" is very trendy - how would you define clean beauty?

As there is no official definition for the term, I feel the term can sometimes be confusing. One brand's clean list can vary from another. I would say Smoosh Skin is a clean beauty brand insofar as it is organic and natural, plant-based, free from added fragrance, vegan and cruelty free.

What are the hero ingredients in your products?

This is a hard one; we source 26 of the highest quality organic and natural plant oils and create all our formulas in small batches so they are fresh and vibrant. They all play an important role, but special mention to the luminous coral red of the organic Rosehip fruit oil, and the dark vivid green of our virgin Hemp seed oil, however, they are all such a delight to blend and work with.

Where do so many of us go wrong when it comes to skincare?

I think trying too many new products, all at once can often send skin into a spin. I speak from experience in this area! Adding one new product to your skincare routine at a time and using it for a few days before adding the next, is the best way to see if a product is working for you. Also, when using actives like retinol and acid toners it makes you even more susceptible to sunburn so it's so important to practice good sun safety.

Smoosh founder Mim Gascoigne

What lead you to launch your own business - was there a defining moment where you made the decision?

I'd thought about it for many years, however, once I started having babies it took a back seat. Once I had my third child, I somehow felt ready to start a new chapter and had the confidence to jump in. I've always been naturally driven by creative projects and have a genuine passion for skincare so it helps to have a real love for what I'm doing.

The beginning is often a stumbling block for so many women when it comes to launching their own business. Where did you start and how quickly did you launch?

Much of the product line is a culmination of decades of my own research and experience so developing the products has taken years. However, once I decided to go for it, building the brand and business itself, took about six months to solidify. I drew on a bit of knowledge I had from some marketing subjects I did at university. My husband works in marketing so he offered to give me a framework to build the business from i.e. key steps to follow in launching the business, which was very helpful.

What has been the most challenging part of starting a business?

The most challenging parts have been sourcing packaging, labelling and suppliers. Some of our oils have been very hard to source. Covid-19 social distancing and restrictions hit just as I was launching, which brought new challenges as many of our oils were suddenly out of stock. Lastly, being from outside the skincare business, it is a challenge to build brand awareness as a small start-up as it is a crowded market, so that is our biggest challenge right now.

What about the most rewarding?

Customer feedback. Seeing our customers' skin transformations from our products. Having sensitive skin myself and dealing with eczema and more recently rosacea, I know how hard it can be to find a product that works and supports your skin. I genuinely love that we can help our customers get relief for their skin condition and attain healthy, happy skin.

Now, how do you manage your time between your children and your business?

It is a constant juggle, especially as many of the aspects of starting a new business are completely new to me, so I feel like it takes me more time than the next person, I have to do more research and this comes with more frustration! I have three kids, 9, 7 and 2, so working with them around makes any task infinitely longer! When possible, I plan ahead and carve out pockets of time to work when they are otherwise engaged. I have moved into a casual teaching role which gives me more flexibility to work on the business too.

How do you look after your skin daily? What products do you personally use?

I cleanse every night with our Silky Cleansing Oil and a soft cloth. I then use one of our three oil serums depending on how my skin is feeling.

In winter I mostly reach for Radiance oil serum in the evenings, it's so deeply moisturising and wonderful for dry winter skin. I then often choose the lighter, Soothing Balance oil serum in the morning. In the summer it's more often Soothing Balance in the day and Nourish oil serum at night.

I don't cleanse in the morning unless I've used a mask overnight. Skipping the morning cleanse has been really helpful in calming rosacea flare ups.

Every 7-10 days I use the Allies of Skin retinal and peptides overnight mask. I also use a pure white french clay mask mixed with one of the Smoosh oil serums if I need a soothing mask.

Other loves…….
Mother SPF
Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturiser and RMS Un-Cover Up
Baby Cheeks Blush Stick by Westman Atelier
Tubing mascara as I have hooded eyes and no mascara stays put!
Lanolips 101 Ointment

The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.

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