This new blog series will tell the personal stories of individuals who have left steady jobs to successfully start something new. Village People are passionate risk takers and optimists making a living in the pursuit of happiness.
First up, Sarah Hancock, Founder of Skin & Tonic London who is currently rocking the natural beauty industry around the world one pot of organic goodness at a time.
Look out for the fantastic promotion for West Village readers below.
What inspired you to launch Skin & Tonic London?
I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis in 2010. It was a difficult time for me and I struggled both emotionally and physically. Eventually, I decided that I had no choice but to re-evaluate my whole lifestyle so little by little, I started making important changes: I stopped drinking and smoking, I started to do yoga, eat nourishing foods and I began to look for skincare products that were free from endocrine disrupting chemicals, carcinogens and skin irritants.
As I was already a self-declared beauty junkie, I quickly became obsessed with finding stylish, minimal and organic skincare. I passionately believed that I had the right to know, and understand, exactly what I was putting into – and onto – my body. However, I couldn’t find any products that fitted the bill. I was quickly convinced that the market was crying out for a cool, simple and transparent skincare company that only used minimal, raw plant based ingredients. After months of making skincare in my kitchen, I eventually I took the plunge: I quit my job in TV and retrained in Essential Oil Science and Skincare Formulation at Neal’s Yard Remedies. Josh (my boyfriend) soon followed suit and together we launched Skin & Tonic in September 2014 – handcrafting all our products in our workshop in Hackney Wick.
How did your previous background help you launch the business?
In my previous career in TV, I was lucky enough to work with some very talented branding and marketing specialists. I had two particularly experienced female bosses who taught me so much – not just about strategy and how to market a brand – but also about business as a whole; about how working relationships function and, vitally, about how – as women in business – we need to support and inspire each other. This, coupled with my extensive training and Josh’s operational skills, has really helped give Skin & Tonic a good start.
Can you pinpoint the exact moment you decided to go for it?
I have a vivid memory of stepping off a tube one morning in White City (it was pouring with rain and I was following the crowd of people, all moving in the same direction) and thinking ‘I can’t do this anymore! I don’t want to do this anymore!’ I felt it so strongly in my gut; I desperately wanted to create my own company.
It wasn’t an easy decision though. I spent 18 months persuading myself that I had the strength to walk away from the career I had spent years building for myself. However, once I finally took the leap, there was no looking back.
Did you have to raise finance and how did you go about it?
No we didn’t raise finance. We bootstrapped from the start, using all our savings and doing everything on a shoestring (it forces you to be creative). We’ve been very lucky that the company has grown very rapidly.
What's the biggest risk you've had to take so far?
As a start-up, every day can feel like a risk. You do get used to it but it has certainly been tougher than I initially anticipated. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss some of the comforts I had in my old, corporate life: the steady salary, the perks and the nice apartment. However, nothing beats the sheer thrill of creating and building something you’re really passionate about and then seeing your customers’ joy when they try your products for the first time!
Urban Outfitters contacted us in our 3rd week of trading and placed a huge order for their stores in the UK, Europe and the USA. That was pretty crazy! I couldn’t believe it at first and was convinced it was some kind of wind-up or an email hack or something..! We’ve also had some incredible press, which is amazing as we haven’t been able to afford paid for PR. Our Gentle Scrub was in Vogue last month. I literally danced around our apartment squealing with excitement when I found out!
What are your most successful products?
Our Gentle Scrub has been a huge hit. It’s a powdered, organic scrub that uses French Pink Clay, Rosehip Seeds, Probiotic Yogurt Powder and Geranium Essential Oil. It can be used as both a facial exfoliator and a hydrating mask. I think our consumers love the fact that it’s simple, organic, stylish and multifunctional.
What keeps you motivated?
Having genuine conviction in the fact that we are helping to change the skincare industry for the better really motivates me. We give consumers an honest and transparent skincare choice. As we only work with fair-trade and local co-operatives, it motivates me to know that each sale we make has a positive impact on both our consumers and our producers.
Who are the people in your life that help you thrive?
Josh and I couldn’t have launched Skin & Tonic without the incredible support, help and inspiration we received from family, friends, friends of friends, beauty bloggers, press contacts and buyers. They have all believed in our vision and have then wanted to help. Launching Skin & Tonic has been a truly collaborative process.
What are the 3 most important business lessons you have learnt since setting up Skin & Tonic?
1.Be flexible, when a great opportunity comes our way we go for it and then figure out the logistics afterwards.
2.Plan (a lot). We’ve put an expansion plan in place, it took us a very long time and I’m sure it will change and evolve but it’s great to be able to see a clear pathway ahead.
3. Seek out help and experience. We’ve met some amazing business owners and entrepreneurs, their help and advice has been invaluable. Oh & get an accountant and lawyer on board early, we left it late and it caused us a major headache!!
Skin & Tonic London are kindly offering readers of West Village 15% off any products purchased from skinandtoniclondon.com
Just enter the code: wvw15 at on the checkout page. Valid until 31/7/15.