How to build a beauty brand

I met Jenni Retourné, founder of Willowberry natural skincare, last year at a Southwood Social Hub dinner in Cheltenham but I’d already been using her Nutrient Boost Cleansing Balm for a while. I’d been looking for product that would cleanse my skin without drying it out and used natural ingredients, plus it meant I was supporting a small business. I asked Jenni to share her business story – it’s sure to inspire anyone thinking of starting up on their own.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’ve worked in the beauty industry for nearly 15 years – I started off in journalism at trade magazine Pure Beauty, first as Editorial Assistant then quickly moved up the ranks to Assistant Editor then Editor. I eventually left and set up my own marketing company, specialising in blog PR campaigns and copywriting for beauty brands. This was a success from the beginning and I ran this for about seven years.

But having worked with so many beauty business owners over the years, I would always think ‘I want to do what you’re doing’. So eventually I decided to just go for it and create my own natural skincare brand, Willowberry. I’ve always been about living your best life, rather than a safe life! I spent 3.5 years developing it while I ran my marketing consultancy, then in July 2017 it was finally ready to launch and I closed the marketing business. Since then, it has been a whirlwind as I work hard to grow the brand. I’ve been blown away by the customer, expert and press reviews we’ve received – it really makes it all worthwhile.

How did the idea for Willowberry come about?

It was a natural process that happened over a long time – I don’t remember one defining lightbulb moment. I wish I could! It’s like my brand’s tagline ‘Your Skin’s Wellbeing’. That really defined what the brand was all about; helping to nurture the wellbeing of your skin, for a healthy, radiant complexion. How do I not remember that moment happening?! But it really was a gradual effect as the process took shape – my interests, research and product development all naturally evolving into the concept of your skin’s wellbeing, rather than a lightbulb moment for a marketing concept. Actually, I like it better that way. It’s a more honest approach.

Willowberry Natural Skincare

My interest in natural skincare grew over time as I trialled hundreds of beauty products throughout my career – I began to notice that it was the natural products that made a real difference to my (then) irritated, dry skin. Plus, it was the natural products that would help improve the condition of my skin long-term, rather than just providing a short-term effect after the product was first applied to the skin. It was when I used a pure rosehip oil that I really realised that natural was for me – that’s why rosehip is a star ingredient in the Willowberry Nutrient Boost skincare range. It is such an incredible, powerful ingredient for the skin.

As I entered my 30s (I’m 36 now), I began to care much more about my health and wellbeing, and so this naturally had an impact on what Willowberry stood for. Good skin comes from taking consistent care of your body from the outside in and the inside out, so skincare, health and wellbeing are naturally intertwined. So I wanted to load my skincare with nutrients to nurture the skin from the outside in, just as you would feed your body with nutrients to nurture it from the inside out. Even though I am getting older, my skin is in better health than ever.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

I have learnt so much in the seven short months since launch. I naively thought that because I had already run my own business and because I already work in the beauty industry that I had it all sussed. But creating and building a brand is such a different process to providing a marketing service like I offered before, so it has been a huge learning curve. Creating and building a brand is a big old beast that you have to nurture and handle with great care!

Having said that, I am so pleased that my entire career history has led to this, because it has helped to create a strong foundation for the brand. I feel like this is exactly where I am meant to be. I really enjoy the journey of the brand that I am creating, rather than just thinking – ‘I’ll be happy once I’ve achieved X’. Even the hairy scary moments – it’s what make the good times feel great and you look back on the tough moments and feel proud that you kept on fighting.

What lessons have you learnt?

  • It is so important to create a solid foundation for the brand rather than chasing the easy wins that could be detrimental to the brand later on.
  • Always work with integrity and follow your gut – this is something I have always done and it really does pay off.
  • Know exactly what is happening with the finances in your business (if numbers aren’t your thing, you need to make it your thing!) – just because you have cash in the bank doesn’t mean you are making profit, so you need to know your numbers inside out.
  • Cash flow is king to be able to move your business forward.
  • Always put your customer first.
  • Make sure you are working ‘on’ your business not ‘in’ your business, so that you are leading the business down the path you want to take it, rather than it leading you. It is so easy to spend a couple of years working hard on tasks that keep you busy in your business but isn’t necessarily driving it forward, only to look back and realise once it’s too late.
  • I have a gorgeous three year old little girl so time is always of the essence, so I have learnt to prioritise tasks and have a laser focus to get stuff done.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people. I am a member of Southwood Social Hub and it is an incredible community of amazing women running their own businesses. Everyone is at different stages in their business and we all support each other and lift each other up. When you’re single-handedly running your own business these are the people that become your team, your tribe.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business woman?

Hone your idea, make a plan, then get started. It might seem like you have a mountain to climb, but you’ll never reach the top if you don’t start walking. Baby steps, and suddenly one day you will find yourself there. And it’s a darned good feeling. I’d rather try and fail than to never have tried at all.


willowberry.co.uk
instagram.com/willowberryskin
facebook.com/willowberryskin

Niki Groom: Work Matters

Niki Groom, AKA Miss Magpie Fashion Spy, is an award winning fashion, beauty, food and lifestyle illustrator based in Bristol. Her passion for colour, print, trends and a background in fashion design informs her artwork and blog. I love the way Niki showcases a diverse range of female body imagery within her illustrations. She positively celebrates ‘real’ body shapes, sizes, disabilities and skin colours in a truly inclusive way.

Why does work matter to you?

There are times in the past when I’ve been in jobs I didn’t like and I craved a different direction, and if I’m honest on those occasions work was just about money and about climbing the ladder without really thinking why. But I’ve now managed to make my passion my job, and as a result it’s become part of my life. The things I like to do in my private life (such as travel, museums, cinema) all feed in to my work – it’s all intertwined. I can’t imagine not working, I certainly don’t think I’ll ever retire.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Freedom, creativity, money.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

I’d love to do range of clothing for a brand with my illustrations printed on to fabric. I was a fashion designer for years so it would combine all of my skills. I used to have a list of dream clients and I got to work with all of them and that taught me a lot. For me now it’s not about the brand, it’s about the people who work for the brand and how they are to work with. I don’t hold any brands high on a pedestal anymore (apart from Dries Van Noten!).

More than anything I would like to continue my work with Clinique, they are such a brilliant team to collaborate with and I hope that my opportunities with them will continue to develop.

I’m also always up for a challenge, so something totally new and a risk would appeal. I hosted Instagram Live on the Boden feed once whilst illustrating at the same time, it was great fun and I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

niki_groom_photo
Photo: Remco Merbis: merbis.com

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first job after graduating with a Fashion Design Degree was as a receptionist for a company called RMC (Ready Made Concrete). It might sound like an edgy street brand, but sadly they just sold concrete.

What did that experience teach you?

I don’t have a passion for concrete, but sometimes you have to leave your ego at home and focus on paying the bills.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

My window display for Accessorize went worldwide, it’s still the biggest project of my career and it was so exciting to see photos coming in from all over the world.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

I wouldn’t change anything to be honest, I’m not one for looking back.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

Oh I have many! Gill Button, who is @buttonfruit on Instagram is one. She was a commercial illustrator for years she is now an artist, and her work is incredible. Then Helen Downie @unskilledworker who started painting aged 50 and has just done a range with Gucci. The thing that marks these two out for me is that they are also nice people. Both will chat with me on Instagram even though we have never met. I find them both very inspiring women and I feel excited by their success. I don’t quite know what path I’m on at the moment, but they inspire me to just be myself and do what feels right.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women?

Always be professional and diplomatic in the way that you communicate, even if it takes a whole day to write a response to an email. On, and don’t work for free.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I’m currently considering doing voice overs! I get so many comments about my voice on Instagram Stories and so I’m thinking it might be something to investigate to earn some cash.


missmagpiefashionspy.com
instagram.com/miss_magpie_spy