How I Started an Eco-Luxe
Natural Skincare Brand
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! I am Karolina Bajbuz, founder and owner of Deerieo Natural Skincare Solutions. Deerieo is an eco-luxe natural skincare brand inspired by the Scottish landscape and is dedicated to sensitive, combination and inflammation-prone skin. Our entire range is palm oil-free, vegan-friendly and recyclable.
We operate in the premium sector, creating all our products by hand in micro-batches, using luxurious natural ingredients and finest quality naturally occurring actives to gently provide visible results. Deerieo is a family run business – at the moment it is me and my mum, Nina, a qualified beautician, my partner in business and a best friend in life.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
Having worked for more than a decade in recruitment and HR, I’ve not been planning on running my own business. That was until I’ve moved to Edinburgh four years ago and fell in love with a beautiful country that Scotland is.
I’ve been always interested in the healing power of plants and was lucky to have my mum, a professional beautician, who always used to make natural creams at home. I was used to natural skincare but only when I moved countries and run out of the products made by my mum, I’ve realised how difficult it is to find an off the shelf alternative for my sensitive, acne-prone, combination skin that is gentle, natural but effectively targets complex skin concerns. And this is how Deerieo was born.
I’ve decided to learn how to make tailored natural skincare that not only is effective but is also friendly to the environment and cruelty-free. I’ve successfully graduated from Formula Botanica, an accredited Organic Chemistry Academy and obtained a Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation and a Certificate in Natural Cosmetic Preservation. Equipped in knowledge and a desire to offer something unique – I have embarked on an entrepreneurial journey with my own brand, Deerieo.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Operating within beauty business is not easy at all! It’s a highly competitive market given that natural beauty sector has been saturated for a few years now. There is also a lot of misinformation and unrealistic expectations, this is why Deerieo is not only manufacturing products but also has an educational angle to it. Another big thing is finance and legal requirements.
Cosmetic business is incredibly costly to enter and requires strict compliance with national and international regulations (which is great as it helps to protect the customers). As we are a self-funded business, it took us almost 2 years to gather the finances and obtain all necessary certificates to launch our e-commerce website!
Last but not least, our ethos is to offer sustainable, cruelty-free and eco-friendly products, so it was incredibly important for us to find suitable suppliers who share our ethos, source functional yet recyclable packaging and verify our entire supply chain. It was quite a journey but here we are – we made it!
Who is your target market?
As we operate in premium skincare sector, Deerieo products are mostly aimed at eco-conscious customers who seek unique, tailored and luxurious natural products that help them achieve healthy, glowing skin and optimise skincare routine while saving time and money.
Our formulations are designed for the age range between 25-40 and our customers tend to live a very busy life in the city, so they don’t have much time for the 23 step skincare routines or analysing long ingredients lists! They do, however, have problematic skin (often caused by stress, diet, environmental pollution etc.) and appreciate the effective, gentle and highest quality products that help them feel comfortable and confident in their skin.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We use both digital and traditional advertising, but also networking and workshops to promote Deerieo. Our most successful paid campaigns are mostly attributed to Instagram advertising (a bit less Facebook). We have also tried print advertising with prestigious magazines, yet it’s not our preferred method as it’s difficult to effectively analyse the conversions.
Other than that we enjoy networking and meeting our customers in person, so occasionally we organise workshops in collaboration with other natural brands, which is another great marketing opportunity for the business.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
At Deerieo we live by the principle of transparency and whenever we can, we encourage our customers to share their feedback and ideas on how they feel we could improve.
Our customers while investing in their wellness also seek unique products and tailored customer service approach which is only possible if we listen carefully, take on board all the feedback and continuously challenge ourselves to delight and impress them.
We offer a personalised approach to every sale, from a handwritten thank you card, providing our customers with order tracking details, easy to find contact information and a parcel insert that encourages them to share their feedback with us and on social media and provides customer service contact details.
Our response times are clearly defined and we have service terms on our website which set out the expectations. We always respond to customer queries as a top priority. We know that while we juggle many tasks, someone there is waiting for an answer and while they wait – one minute may feel like much longer.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
At Deerieo we are incredibly lucky – we are a small family business run by a mother and daughter! My mum and I always have shared a passion for nature, plants, natural medicine and skincare. The knowledge has been passed on through generations – from grandmother to mother to daughter.
We work together on product ideas, research, manufacturing etc. We also divide the tasks based on our skills. I am responsible for the business side of things, while my mum helps with labelling, packaging, lab organisation and stock management.
Since we work pretty much round the clock, we try to consciously set aside time for us to relax, bond and simply step away to re-gain perspective. A walk on the nearby beach, a glass of nice wine, a good film or playing fetch with our cat (yes he plays fetch!) are our favourite ways to relax.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
They say that the number one tool for a skincare formulator is a notebook and a pen! While true to an extent, we do use technology throughout our entire business. From stock management to order fulfilment, shipment, finances and advertising.
Our e-commerce shop is built on the Shopify platform which is a great CRM tool for small businesses. It allows for easy integration with multiple social media channels, apps and an incredible array of useful tools.
We’ve also invested in accounting software FreeAgent. This has been an absolute lifesaver for the self-employed/SMEs who don’t want to get in trouble with the ‘taxman’. We extensively use G-Suite with all mail, calendar and time management options, document creation and sharing functions.
In addition, we use Adobe Creative Cloud package and a few smaller apps for digital image processing (Canva, video apps etc.)
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Patience. Persistence. Intuition. When we launched, I remember feeling stressed about parts of the business that weren’t perfect. This was incredibly difficult for an utter perfectionist like me! Then a wise person told me – “It’s never going to be ideal. It’s a journey and you need to take the first step.” So I did.
So why patience? When we launched, nothing happened and it was somewhat devastating. I quickly realised that gaining people’s trust and building brand awareness takes much more time than I thought. I needed to be patient and persistent to work every day all day no matter what. Even though many things weren’t going as planned. I have now learnt to trust my intuition rather than doing things based on my fear of failure.
Something I have learnt and would do differently now is the launch itself. Deerieo was a quiet launch. There was no big event or pre-launch marketing campaign. Mainly, because I wasn’t planning on launching at the time that we did (but that’s a separate story!) I now know that we should have planned the launch campaign in the very beginning, rather than doing it all after the fact!
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love the creative freedom. Choosing the projects I work on rather than being given work, being challenged and learning something new every day.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I’d say it’s things that don’t resonate with my personality and yet must be every day to stay afloat. I hope to grow the team to delegate these tasks to someone who naturally enjoys them. They will bring enthusiasm and expertise into the business and allow me to focus on the core elements of Deerio skincare.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
If I’m honest, I don’t tend to read many “business” books. My business uses a lot of scientific research and I tend to read that the most. I always keep an eye on industry trends and innovations. I also read a good number of articles in many cosmetics/marketing publications.
If it comes to business itself, we are very lucky to have a great mentor. We work very closely with them to achieve our goals and brainstorm ideas. I find my ideas and inspirations through conversations and closely monitoring the data. I also try to be as open to trying and testing new things. So far so good!
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
We are currently a team of two. I’m aiming to double the size of the business and hire a few people to help with our planned growth. We are already working on expanding our range of products but also launching a specialised range for the health & wellness industry. We are also planning on expanding our customer range beyond the UK and opening a store/ workshop. Exciting times ahead!