In August we hosted a panel with some of the top Canadian skincare brands to delve into the business behind natural skincare. Lily Tse founder of Think Dirty, Julie Clark founder of Province Apothecary, and Bill Baker founder of Consonant Skincare joined myself and our lovely moderator Emily Ramshaw at an intimate panel discussing everything from breaking into a tough market, being sustainable, and what even is natural beauty.
On Breaking Into a Tough Market:
One of the first questions asked is usually: Why? Why did you decide to start your own skincare line, especially when there are so many others out there? The answer was unanimous: our own needs. Each panelist, including Lily from Think Dirty, stated the reason for beginning their brand was a need for something that didn’t exist. For myself, Bill and Julie, the need centred around aggravated skin that could not be soothed by any other products. Hence, the shift into natural - to create products that worked effectively and naturally to solve ongoing skin problems.
All three of our brands strive to provide effective, clean and transparent skincare. For Lily and myself, we also wanted to create ease for our customers in an industry that often sells confusion. Lily created a brand that helps to identify the ingredients lurking in your products: both good and bad. We both set out to create brands that would help the customer use clean products confidently - you can either scan your product through the app to find out what’s really in them and what that means, and also purchase any product from Amandine Sol Botanicals knowing there is never anything harmful in them. When asked what we would tell ourselves when starting out, everyone’s answers centred around passion:
Amandine Sol Botanicals: Be passionate and love what you do. Try your best to look forward and not to anyone around you.
Julie Clark: Ask for help and know your limitations.
Lily Tse: Get an HST number so you can expense things like R&D.
On Being Sustainable:
One thing a brand cannot lack today is sustainability. It is no longer an option but an absolute must, and those that aren’t doing their part are quickly called out on social media. Our panelists share the reality behind making your brand sustainable:
JC: As small businesses we are able to pivot faster to be more sustainable.
ASB: It's gotten easier to be eco-friendly as there are more options for sustainable packaging, but there are still many aspects left to be developed. It is very costly to purchase sustainable options but it's something our brand invests in not only for our customers, but for our future. Every aspect of our brand has been developed with a sustainable outlook - like using the smallest shipping boxes possible in order to use the least amount of padding and generate as little waste as possible. These are things small businesses are able to adapt to quite quickly as our minimums are smaller.
ASB & JC: there is a common misconception that because it's natural it is inherently good for the environment. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Not all resources are renewable, and thus we are seeing some natural ingredients becoming scarce and even endangered. We have to ensure our ingredients are being harvested sustainably and if not, we must look for different sources or even eliminate the ingredient from our production all together.
Bill Baker: Consonant focused on creating a great product when we first launched 10 years ago - now we are focusing on redeveloping packaging to be more eco-friendly, something that was not as feasible when we first launched.
On Education in the Industry:
Information on skincare is being shared at an immeasurable rate these days - social media and the internet has provided a plethora of information and data, but we have to be extremely careful about the information we consume. Like every other industry, there is a ton of misinformation spread. We also have to consider what works for our own skin, versus our favourite beauty bloggers.
JC and BB: the customers coming into their stores and retailers are extremely informed. They know what they want and understand ingredients. Customers shopping in the natural market are hyper aware of harmful ingredients and what to avoid.
ASB: There is a lot of misinformation, so it's a large part of our job to share reputable and accurate information with customers and followers. I ensure we are as transparent as possible so that there aren’t any gaping questions about our ingredients or processes.
LT: Ingredients and labelling are very confusing, even for an informed shopper, as things are hidden behind different names. This is where Think Dirty created a database for customers to shop easily, and this may explain part of why shoppers are so informed: they have incredible resources to verify the information they read and hear about.
LT and BB: A lot of shoppers do not believe natural skincare is as effective, so a lot of the education we do is about results and efficacy