Rosalie Stephanie Robalino

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Rosie, sometimes known as Stephanie (it’s a South American middle name thing) is a young Ecuadorian entrepreneur from the Inner West of Sydney. Rosie has a type of style and grace that is beyond her years. She got her start in the world of hairdressing at the tender age of 14. Now at the age of 25, she has moved onto not only creating and producing her own hair care range [Antidote] with her sister-in-law Ruth but has also begun another business in distribution [The Grand Collective]. She is an inspiration to all young women wanting to get their start in the world of business and we can’t wait to try Antidote’s products!

A: Where were you born?
I was born in Sydney, Australia.

A: Where are your parents from?
My parents are from Quito, Ecuador. My dad is one of ten kids and his older brother came to live here [Australia] first, he was here on his own and invited my dad out. So, my dad came here and then my family followed. I’m one of 8 children. My mum brought 6 children on her own to Australia.

A: What year did your family arrive in Australia?
It was 1991, my mum was pregnant with me. They came early in the year and I was born in October the same year. My dad was already in Australia for around 2 and a bit years before the rest of my family arrived. He was a surgeon in Ecuador and he had to study in Australia to become a certified GP.

A: Was English or Spanish your first language?
English was my first language but I learnt Spanish at the exact same time. I was quite fluent [in Spanish] when I was young and I can understand everything now.

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C: Do you speak Spanish with your family?
I speak Spanglish with my mum. I’ll speak in English to my mum and she’ll respond in Spanish. I do want to start picking it up again because it’s so sad that I’ve lost it. My nephews and nieces don’t speak Spanish at all and it’s sad.

A: Have you been to Ecuador before?
I went once after I finished High School in 2009 for 2 months. It was crazy!

C: What did you find that was crazy about it?
First, I felt the culture shock. I also felt this weird sensation, I felt like I was kind of robbed of a life. I kind of saw what my life would have been like if we stayed in Ecuador. Not that I’m not happy here. I know the opportunities here are so different but it was very emotional coming back [to Australia], I felt like I was missing something. I could have been someone different in Ecuador. I just absolutely loved it there, I wanted to extend my stay. I have so much family there, my dad is one of ten and all my cousins regularly meet. They live very close to each other in the city. I missed out on a lot and I love it but I haven’t gone back because it’s so far and so expensive.

C: What was is like meeting your cousins for the first time?
I felt like I belonged, we all looked the same and we instantly hit it off. One of my cousins had come to Sydney before for 3 months, so I was very close with her and stayed with her when I was in Ecuador. She was like a sister to me, we still keep in contact, Facebook messenger has made that easier for us. I feel bad that I haven’t made the time to go back.

A: What did you like about Ecuador?
Everyone is so friendly and loving and the food is amazing. People there are amazing! It’s just so different there. You walk down the street and people say hello to you. The love within our culture is felt. You’d wake up in the morning and you could hear music down the street playing, it’s just got a special essence about it, all I can describe it as is culture. I miss out on it here.

C: Was there anything that you didn’t like about Ecuador?
It can be a bit scary. It’s a third world country, the streets aren’t safe. People are constantly saying to you ‘don’t go out at night’. People are cautious because they have to be. I also struggled a little with communication over there, like everyone was so surprised to see that my accent was clear even though I struggled with words. So I could get a couple of sentences in and then they’d be like ‘oh eres gringa’ and I was like ‘what? No, I mean, yeah, kind of’. With the help of a few drinks, I was way better speaking but what I found difficult was not being able to fully communicate but also feeling so part of the culture. I just wanted to get in there and meet new people. I couldn’t really make new friends outside of my family and their friends.

A: How did you adjust to Australian life when you came back from Ecuador?
Coming back, I struggled. I felt like I was depressed. I was thrown into uni and I hated it, I went for one semester and then I stopped. My mum got sick while I was finishing my HSC, she has myeloma which is a form of leukaemia but she’s okay now. She was really sick when I got back from Ecuador, so after I left uni I just worked to help support her. I had been working with my sister in-law at her hair salon since I was 14, so I just started working full-time.

A: Oh wow, that’s a massive weight for a young woman to have on her shoulders.,,
It was but you just got to do, what you got to do and I didn’t want to not help. My dad is not in the picture at all so my mum is a single mum. She is such a strong woman, a fighter and a survivor. I get all of my work ethic from her. It was a difficult period in all of our lives, so everyone did what they could to help. We’re all so close and it’s so nice.

A: When you speak with your siblings about your experience with going to Ecuador, do they relate or is their experience completely different because they grew up there?
The majority of them haven’t gone back.

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C: Do they feel like they want to go back?
Hmm, they just haven’t had the chance to. They kind of got here and hit the ground running. It was hard for them, some of them were only 14, 15 when they got here. I think they just started their lives here, got married, had kids and they just haven’t had the chance to go back. I had one sister go back with my mum a couple of years ago and she found it hard, she found it overwhelming.

A: Adjusting to Australian life would have been so hard for them all…
One of my brothers used to play Andean music, my other brother was in a salsa band but when they came to Australia our culture wasn’t prevalent here. They were part of bringing the culture alive here in Australia, through music, which is really nice. One of my brothers still plays in a band, he’s very in tune with his roots. But I’ve seen some of my brothers dismiss their connection to the culture. I feel like they see it as a hindrance because they did have that struggle when they arrived here. They tried to integrate and learn English but it was very difficult. I’ve heard stories of their struggles, they were bashed because they were different and a lot of them feel as though they were singled out because they were ethnic.

C: Not a lot of other Australian’s know that people who migrated from South America faced a lot of bullying. It’s not something that’s brought to light…
Definitely!

C: How have you tried to keep in touch with your culture?
I mean I feel like I have lost it because I haven’t really made much of an effort. I come from such a big family and we’re always together. The culture was there, with my family. I’m obsessed with music and I get that from my siblings. Growing up there were always people at my house, in my garage playing Latino music because my brother Luis was in a band, they even played at the Sydney Olympics’ closing ceremony.

C: You’ve been with your partner for 9 years and he’s from an Indian background, how do you feel about eventually having children that are mixed race? Do you ever think about how you’re going to get them to connect to your Ecuadorian roots?
I honestly think about this all the time. It’s actually one of the many reasons I’m with him. I love how Indian culture has such strong ties to family and keeps traditions alive. I know that my partner’s family will be able to provide that Indian culture that is prevalent here to them. My family is South American but at the same time, we’re very Australian. Like I said before, I really want to get back in touch with my own roots and start speaking Spanish again for the future. I want my children to speak Spanish from the get-go. I’m going to make a conscious effort so that they have that South American side too, it’s important to me. I’m excited to bring Indian, Ecuadorian and Australian cultures together.

A: You’ve just started your own business Antidote; can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes, my sister-in-law and I have always wanted to venture out from hairdressing. It’s coming up to 11 years that we’ve been working together. We work so well together and we saw a gap in the market. A lot of our clients from the salon would say things like ‘my hair is falling out’ or ‘my hair isn’t growing’ and we didn’t have an actual solution that was internal, we only had topical solutions. We started taking note of it and were like ‘why don’t we bring something in?’. We ended up getting a brand from a naturopath, we didn’t really make any money off it and it was just to give to our clients that wanted it. We got this product in and it flew off our shelves. There was one core ingredient, silica and so we started researching into other stuff that’s beneficial for your hair. The pharmaceutical side of things is not our area of expertise so we teamed up with a pharmaceutical company to ensure we could produce the best products formulated, tested and manufactured right here in Australia. After about 2 years of development, our salon exclusive vitamins will launch this September. We’ve learnt a lot along the way. Through doing this we recently got the rights to distribute a hair care brand from the U.S.A called Number 4. It’s a brand that is 100% vegan, sulphate free, paraben free and doesn’t test on animals; all of which are values our own company Antidote embodies.

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A: Oh wow! So now you’ve expanded from not only creating your own product but to distributing for another brand?
Yes, Number 4 asked us if we wanted to distribute to Australia and New Zealand and we said yes. They sent us a sample, we tested it in the salon and the product speaks for itself.  So, in the past month, we’ve set up a distributorship and had to get importing licences. Our distributing business is called The Grand Collective. We’ve already sold Number 4 and Antidote to 12 salons. It’s great because Number 4 is an external product and Antidote is internal, so together they compliment each other very well.

A: How many products are in the works for Antidote?
We’ve got one coming out first that is like a multivitamin for enhanced hair, then we’re doing one specifically tailored for scalp complications and also a product specifically for men.

C: How does it feel to be a young entrepreneur?
I can’t sit still and I want to be doing things all the time, so I love it!

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A: What motivates you?
My mum being sick was a big thing for me and it made me change the way I see health. We had to help her change her lifestyle and getting to know what vitamins help her has allowed us to incorporated core ingredients into our own product that helps reduce the signs of things like arthritis. I’m so happy to be doing this. I feel as though it’s a product that’s going to help a lot of people. Also, having the perfect partner, and role model is key. My sister-in-law Ruth has helped me push boundaries in all aspects of my life and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without her.

Antidote Australia Instagram ; @antidoteaustralia
Antidote Australia Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/pg/antidoteaustralia/
Antidote Australia Website; https://www.antidoteaustralia.com/
Number 4 Hair Care Australia & NZ Instagram; @number4haircare_australianz
Ruth Robalino Hair Instagram; @ruthrobalinohair

 

Interview by Carolina De La Piedra and Aimee Flores
Words by Aimee Flores
Photos by Aimee Flores