Years in beauty industry: 9
As Xen-Tan celebrates its 5 year anniversary in the UK, Natalie Roche talks to Your Beauty Industry about turning her business idea into reality, the importance of delivering on brand values and her top tips on starting a beauty business.
What inspired you to launch your own beauty distribution company?
I’d love to say that it was just a really smart, business orientated decision, but that wouldn’t be totally true. My love affair with Xen-Tan was a very personal one. I am very fair skinned and have never been able to pull off the ‘English rose’ look and I only really look healthy when I have a tan.
Having tried every fake tan on the market, I found that Xen-Tan was the only one that overcame all the issues of smell, streaking, patchiness and orange colouring. I tried it and loved it - the rest, as they say, was history.
How did you go about turning your business idea into reality?
I knew there was a gap in the market for a self-tan that didn’t look ‘fake’ and I realised that there was plenty of room for improvement on the market. It seemed pretty simple.
For a start, we needed to get the colour right with an olive base rather than an orange one, so that it would look more natural. Having tried Xen-Tan on my own skin and having felt the same concerns as other tan fans, I knew that if it could make me look as if I had a natural tan, then I knew it would look fantastic on other people too. When something excites you as much as Xen-Tan excited me, you know you have the formula for success.
I jumped on a plane to America to research the product in greater depth, secured the distribution deal and have never looked back since. I started Skin Solutions UK which owns the exclusive distribution of Xen-Tan in Europe, but there was a lot of preparation prior to launching the brand in the UK, so Xen-Tan did not really start to take off until 2007/2008.
"Whatever money I had was spent on PR and that has paid off for the brand"How challenging is it to control a brand as an exclusive distributor while also working towards the brand’s own vision?
It’s non-stop for us – we are constantly approached with exciting opportunities, but we have to make sure we remain focused, remember our brand values and deliver on them.
Since day one, PR is something we’ve invested heavily in, and that’s hard at the beginning when you need stockists to drive your consumer interest to. I know that a lot of start-up businesses build their stockist list first and then invest in PR, but when I started, whatever money I had was spent on PR and that has paid off for the brand. The consumer is much savvier now and wants to be convinced that a product is good. You get that opportunity with recommendations from beauty editors.
We also work closely with beauty bloggers who are great brand ambassadors of our products. We target some of our salons specifically for bloggers to visit for a spray tan treatment. This is two-fold; it provides a fabulous review for our salon and it also raises awareness of our professional treatment amongst an avid target market.
Beauty bloggers are just one area of our digital arena – our Facebook and Twitter pages provide a base for digital savvy consumers to check in and engage and interact with us on a personable level, too.
We’ve also had some fabulous TV exposure this year - 2011 has seen many TV opportunities for Xen-Tan. It has been a year of high visibility for Xen-Tan and we need more of the right stockists to help fulfil the consumer demand generated by our on-going exposure.
"The customer is king – make sure you know your customer inside and out"What are the most important aspects of developing and managing a beauty brand?
- The customer is king – make sure you know your customer inside and out
- Deliver on what you promise and make sure you are constantly driving what the customer wants
- Draw on the personality of your brand – we play on the positive feelings a customer gets from a great, natural looking tan, as well as the functional aspects. A beauty treatment or product can evoke a highly emotional experience
What top tips would you give to anyone wanting to start their own beauty business?
1. WORK HARD – the best advice I ever received was 'The harder you work the luckier you get' – I really do believe you make your own luck in life
2. Do what you love
3. Be truly passionate and enthusiastic
4. Build a strong, loyal team and always look after them
5. Live the brand – you are the best possible PR for your company