When Max Kater’s son was diagnosed with allergies, asthma and eczema, she encountered an unexpected problem: housekeeping products that made them worse. So the former fashion editor took matters into her own hands and founded Murchison-Hume. The company creates plant-based cleaning products that are better for our health — and the planet’s — and strives to create more authenticity and transparency in an industry known for greenwashing.
As a business founder and mother, she shares insights into how to balance personal wellness (bedtime is important!) with running a company, staying kind and being present for those most important to us.
Beth Doane: What was the catalyst for you to co-create such an exceptional brand? Explain how your journey unfolded.
Max Kater: I didn’t intend on starting a business. I was a stay-at-home mom and needed something effective to clean the house that wouldn’t exacerbate my son’s allergies. I worked with a natural lab to perfect a plant-based formula that smelled more like a sophisticated home fragrance than a traditional cleaning product. I wanted them to look cool, so I decanted them into amber bottles and started printing my own labels. A chic little store in Sydney picked us up, and we sort of took off from there.
Doane: You started your business to create products that would be healthy for your son. How do you continue to balance personal life and work, and how has practicing wellness benefited that?
Kater: Well, first of all, I think that founders especially have zero work/life balance. We work seven days a week! The difference is that we are usually passionate about our work, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. But I do try to take wellness seriously. For me, that means family meals and eating well, regular exercise and early nights. I’m in bed most nights between 8 and 9PM!
Doane: What has been the biggest challenge in working in an industry that is known for greenwashing?
Kater: Getting lumped in with the rest of the pack is definitely a challenge for us. We take a lot of pride in our ingredients and cosmetic-grade fragrances, but it’s really hard to communicate the difference between a cheap industrial ingredient from a more expensive one.
Doane: What is your favorite place in the world right now for wellness travel? Why?
Kater: I always associate Australia with clean living and wellness, but I also love the Caribbean. My family used to go to the Caribbean every year, and I have a lot of happy memories. I’m super excited about the emerging research on mushrooms and other plant-based adaptogens that are changing the landscape of medicine and holistic wellness. I’d love to try a retreat there.
Doane: What are three travel and/or wellness tips you can share with our readers that you swear by?
Kater: One, you are still the same person wherever you go, so plan accordingly! Don’t pack all your makeup if you usually don’t wear much. Two, do your research. Read up on the best places to eat, sleep, shop and do while traveling. Make a plan and then be prepared to be flexible, because plans invariably change. Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff. I have to remind myself of this one all the time. Stressing out over flight delays, lost luggage or bad weather is bad for you (and everyone else around you). Take the extra time to explore the airport, have a neck massage or just read your book. Attitude is everything in travel and in life!
Doane: Can you speak more to the importance of attitude in living a healthier life?
Kater: Try to be kind to yourself and others. Everybody has a struggle that you may not see. So you didn’t get your pilot’s license or learn to play piano yet. So what?! Think of all the amazing things you do every day. Give yourself a break and stop comparing yourself to other people’s “show reels” on social media. It’s all nonsense anyway!
Doane: What is your favorite quote?
Kater: “Life’s too short for ugly tiles!” My friend, designer Shannon Fricke.