Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Rachel, founder of Artio Skincare – wild-harvested 100% natural skincare range created especially for Mum & Baby – inspired by our home on Ireland’s beautiful north coast.
It all began not long after our son Tom was born. Our little Tom struggled with a few skin irritations from the early days, including cradle cap, eczema and teething rash. As a mother, I wanted to help him as much as I could.
We tried a number of lotions and creams recommended by friends and our GP but nothing really helped long-term. The general medical solution to these types of skin irritations seems to be hydrocortisone cream. I’m sure you’ll agree, this isn’t what I wanted to be using on a regular basis! Babies’ skin is delicate!
Cutting a long story short I decided to try some natural skincare. Finding a ‘truly’ natural baby skincare range proved difficult but with a lot of research and perseverance, I eventually found a small range of products that began to help Tom. The products themselves were fragrance-free but aimed primarily at adults, not ideal. There had to be a better solution for us? There was – my solution was to create my own 100% natural skincare range. A simple, honest range that Mums can trust – not only with their baby’s delicate skin but with their own as well.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I proudly launched Artio Skincare in September 2019. I really believe Artio Skincare is amazingly different. Not just because we’re a ‘truly’ natural skincare range for Mum and Baby, but because of how our products are made.
Everything is handmade in small batches on the north coast of Ireland using only premium, 100% natural ingredients. All our formulas are unique to us, fully certified and have been guided by a doctor, as well as my passion for natural skincare. None of our products contain sulphates, parabens or synthetics, just pure, ethically sourced ingredients, vegan and cruelty-free. NO nasties.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
There are many skincare brands out there. Many making claims about purity and how their products are suitable for delicate skin. My biggest challenge from the beginning is customer awareness and understanding of what is actually in the products they are buying. ‘Eco-friendly’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’ and ‘green’ are all examples of statements used on skincare labels.
To say the least, they can be confusing and misleading to consumers. Whilst trying to find the right ‘natural’ skincare range for Little Tom (finding products that were ‘truly natural’ proved frustratingly hard. It took time and energy to read further into a product to find out exactly what was in there. I spent more time taking products out of my basket than putting them in.
Surprisingly, it’s up to the company selling the products to decide how they want to market their skincare – including the statements they choose to use. Anything goes, as long as labels are not ‘misleading’ to the consumer and Trading Standards stay away. So what have consumers got to worry about? With the complexity of ingredient lists out there it’s difficult to decide whether or not a product is exactly what it claims to be.
Companies appear to be sugar-coating the use of toxic ingredients with clever marketing. These companies need to stand up and be honest with customers, but in reality, that’s unlikely to happen. It’s all about £££ for them I suppose. Ingredient transparency is one of the things we’re proud of. It means you’ll be able to make a fully informed decision about the products you’re buying from a brand you can trust.
Who is your target market?
We see our products in the homes which are beautifully styled. Homes of affluent families who wish to use products luxurious, natural, eco-friendly, vegan but also that look good on the shelf. These products will be proudly displayed. For example, a professional couple (aged 30-50) living in high-end city locations with 1-2 children. Or a well off family with a stay at home mum. They live in a beautiful country house.
Both families love family life, holidays, interiors and shopping i.e. the nice things in life and the cost isn’t usually a problem. Our products can be purchased directly from our website but are also available in lifestyle stores, children’s’ boutiques, and apothecary stores.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We market our products in many ways but with being very new we are limited on what we can afford to do. We use social media to build awareness. At the moment, we also use paid ads on Facebook and Instagram.
Paid ads from social media have driven only a few direct sales, however, have increased brand awareness. We have gained a number of followers from paid ads which indirectly we believe has led to sales. These followers are unlikely to have found us otherwise. As our business grows organically I believe paid ads will always have a place. I do, however, think they will eventually become less of a focus.
We are currently looking at entering mama and baby awards and possible editorials in baby magazines. Word of mouth is the best free advertising we have had to date.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
The quality of the products we produce and the results. The results have led to repeat orders but also new customers from word of mouth. All orders are beautifully packaged and delivered with a personal note at no extra cost which customers love.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We are a small family business. Our business fits around our family life and other work commitments. Starting a new business has been very hard work and continues to be but our passion for it gives us great strength and motivation to continue to help others and do what we love.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We use Microsoft Excel at present for finances. Accounting software will be an option as we grow, and will move to Xero. We also use Canva for the design of marketing material to maintain a streamline brand look. We also use Mailchimp for marketing email campaigns.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
To build the brand up organically at the very beginning rather than using many influencers, to begin with. I think looking back it would be best to use them as the brand gets recognised. 1-3 at the very beginning would have been sufficient. Using an agent to brand and develop a professional website together with professional photos has helped the business grow from the beginning and has got it off to the best start possible.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being able to work hard for yourself and your family. Creating a brand that people love is very rewarding. To think that these products did not exist before. They have been created and put out there for others to enjoy and benefit from too.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The risk of making the wrong decision that will result in a financial burden on the business and family.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I have followed a number of natural skincare influencers and bloggers before my business journey began. As a result, I’ve built a very good understanding of natural skincare and ingredients and the benefits. I remember a number of long chats with my friend’s mum who formulated the products I needed to solve my skincare problems the natural way. As a retired doctor specialising in skincare she has been my driving force.
My other biggest support has come from my friends and family.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I hope to be increasing the volume of sales but also have secured our ranges in some high-end retail stores which operate both online or on the high street.
I hope that we have also expanded our product offering and built up a loyal tribe which is continuing to grow.