Clean Beauty Co is a modern luxury beauty brand focused on high performance natural ingredients.
Interviewed in London, July, 2017
Dominika: ‘I’m originally from Australia and Elsie is from London. We met as colleagues in advertising sales about four or five years ago and bonded over our interest in food; following bloggers like Deliciously Ella, Madeleine Shaw and experimenting with healthy recipes. We became savvy at identifying ingredients, avoiding sugar, salt, over-processed food and focusing on nutrients. Then we examined our beauty routines to try and apply the same principles. Finding that most of our cosmetics contained long lists of ingredients and were far from simple or “natural” we decided to try and formulate our own; creating products with just a few ingredients each. It was a passion project and we weren’t thinking about making it a job, we just enjoyed it.’
BOOK + WORKSHOPS
Elsie: ‘We’d been Instagramming our experiments, then started our blog in 2015 to go into more depth and post recipes. Instagram is crucially important; it’s the focal point for our community, other than our website – and the platform most people discover us on. The tip to success is to commit and be consistent. Post regularly and be part of the community. It takes time and effort, it doesn’t come from nothing. You have to interact with your followers and similar accounts to grow your base.
We both qualified with diplomas in Organic Skincare Formulation from Formula Botanica at the end 2015.’
Dominika: ‘Meanwhile a literary agent had noticed our Instagram feed. We developed our book idea then signed a deal with Penguin Random House in 2016. The book contains 100 recipes – everything can be made easily at home and used fresh.
Although we always planned to sell our skincare, the key to Clean Beauty Co is empowering people to take control of, and know exactly what they are putting on their skin and hair. For that reason we don’t see it as counter-intuitive to encourage people to make their own products – we truly believe certain things like masks or scrubs are better made on the day and used fresh, and that way you can experiment and personalise products to your needs. We’re not formulations chemists, we make things with easily accessible ingredients. We understand what our readers want; our customers don’t have Bunsen burners and lots of equipment. We made it fun, interesting and different but easy.’
Dominika: ‘We started our workshops as people wanted to buy products but we didn’t have any back then. We host groups for an afternoon for £50 per person for which you get four products, Prosecco and nibbles. The emphasis is non-patronising and fun. We also offer corporate events, hen-dos and baby showers. We marketed them through our own network and social media, we also promote them on Y plan and Obby which specialises in listing classes and workshops.’
Dominika: ‘We’d created a content brand and now we were ready to create a range of products to market and sell conventionally. In terms of research we read as much as possible by other bloggers and looked on forums, Facebook groups and found a lot of home formulator communities online who are more sophisticated than D.I.Y beauty people and were into cosmetic chemistry.
We found there were misconceptions around natural beauty products, in particular, that serious beauty junkies don’t trust [purely natural products] as they want something formulated in a lab. To overcome that, we created the label BYBI which stands for “By Beauty Insiders”, to appeal to a mainstream beauty buyer which just happens to be great for the environment and your skin. Our products are Babe Balm, a highlighter, moisturiser, cleanser in one – Prime Time, a creamy, priming facial polish, and Detox Dust, a charcoal powder deep cleanse and are launching several more this month.
‘Going from making one of something to formulating at scale was quite a challenge but we also work with a great chemist who helps us scale our ideas. We discovered your manufacturer is your best friend and your most important relationship; you have to make the effort to make them excited about your brand and vet them constantly for good practise.’
Dominika: ‘Many of our beauty products are oil-based which eliminates the need for preservatives as bacteria doesn’t grow in oil.’
Elsie: ‘We’ve worked hard to use natural preservatives in our few water-based products. High Street products contain a lot of water, because it’s cheap – which needs a lot of preservative. Preservatives can kill active ingredients and so a cream that has been kept for 2 years isn’t going to have the same benefits for your skin as freshly opened.’
Dominika: ‘That’s why natural products have a shorter shelf life as plants deteriorate – BYBI products last for six months. We need a bit of a re-education around beauty products, expecting them to last several years – what if bread lasted a year? You’d think it was weird.’
Elsie: ‘We’re not about bashing other brands – we focus on the alternative. Our message is empowerment and what is in our product rather than what isn’t. Our products are all fresh and all the ingredients are active. Consumers are moving towards greater transparency.’
Dominika: ‘Beauty is a really crowded space and as a start-up we don’t have big budgets so we have to be quite nimble. There were only two of us – it goes without saying that we work very hard – but you also have to be able to constantly pivot and react to where the market is going. Launching BYBI is one good example; we had brought out some products initially as Clean Beauty Co but realised they weren’t going to realise the hopes we had for them so we decided to re-think and re-brand. We quickly re-launched with fewer products, having decided not to market them primarily as ‘natural’, placing more emphasis on their effectiveness as skincare.’
Dominika: ‘We left our full-time jobs in October 2016. There was so much demand for Clean Beauty Co, we were busy and the business was gaining momentum so we couldn’t do both jobs properly. We got a Virgin Loan to help launch BYBI. Our latest big task is finding the right investor to finance us in return for equity. The pitching process takes much longer than we anticipated and is hard work. A good tip for anyone embarking on this process would be to look within your own network first, as it’s difficult to get a response by cold emailing.
Now we have an office and three staff supporting us; one summer placement intern and two more long term interns although the aim is for them to be full time. We recruited them through our own network – and start-up specific platforms like work in start-ups.
In terms of starting our own business – we’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak. Leaving our full-time jobs was scary but exciting and our confidence grew as the brand started to gain real traction. Being a duo is hugely beneficial and actually it’s very difficult to get investment as a solo founder.
Our motto is to empower people to take control of what they put on their skin, with workshops, our book and products. We still think people should demand more from their beauty routines!’