In this month's issue of Woman & Home, Rebecca and Clare share the learning curves they experienced in the early days of Balance Me, as well as their top tips for other budding entrepreneurs thinking about starting their own business. Read an excerpt below or grab a copy of the magazine for the full interview!
Clare: "My background is in business and management, and Rebecca’s is in PR. We both worked for corporate companies for years. The money was great but after a while, we both felt that our work/life balance was out of kilter. Rebecca had her ﬁrst child and really wanted to be around more at home; I was pretty burnt-out and took time away to travel the world. When I returned, we started a small wellbeing events company organising retreats for stressed executives. As teenagers, Rebecca and I had always experimented with essential oils, making relaxing aromatherapy salt oil scrubs and body butters. We had great fun making our own products as complimentary gifts for customers.
"One of our clients, Topshop, loved the products and asked if they could put our foot polish into 250 goodie bags for an event we were running for them. A light bulb went on in our heads and we realised honest and authentic natural beauty products could be our next business venture. We realised we couldn’t continue doing it from our little kitchen. We had to ﬁnd a factory that would make the products to our speciﬁcation, and using our natural ingredients.
"Topshop loved the products and gave us a pop-up concession at their ﬂagship store in London in 2005. A buyer from John Lewis spotted us and offered us the opportunity to take our capsule collection of natural aromatherapy inspired products nationwide the following autumn. This was really what we wanted to do, so we were beyond excited. Rebecca gave birth to her second daughter as we launched and trained John Lewis consultants in 28 stores throughout the country!"
Rebecca: "It was great to be in John Lewis from the beginning. It led to an opportunity with their partner grocer brand, Waitrose, to launch our skincare line in 2011 in over 200 stores. This really put Balance Me on the map. We realised we wanted to be in grocers to give customers easy access. They can pick up the products while doing the weekly food shop instead of having to go to a dedicated beauty store. Convenience shopping at its best!"
Clare: "Finding and keeping the right staff is tricky for every business, especially smaller ones, but it’s so important. I think we made errors right at the beginning, perhaps by employing people who were too similar to Rebecca and myself, instead of looking for different and complementary skill sets that would have beneﬁtted the business more."
Clare: "It took us quite a bit of time to ﬁnd exactly the right factory in the UK, with a chemist we could work with, plus a graphic designer and packaging experts to get the product looking exactly how we wanted it. We were lucky to have savings and backing from our parents so we could be self-ﬁnancing. We all put in about £20,000 each to get it o the ground before approaching banks for business overdrafts and facilities."
Rebecca: "We’re currently in around 900 stores across the country, including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Whole Foods and beauty websites. We’ve won over 50 beauty awards and have a loyal band of 12 full-time members of staff and a number of freelance consultants working with us. We especially love employing women who are returning to work after having children or have been taking a career break."
Rebecca: "Don’t be afraid of going to banks for help. They went out of fashion for small businesses, but are trying to reverse that. Many offerr free advice and support. And if you get turned down by one, don’t give up – shop around for one that ﬁts your needs."
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