Jennifer Rock, The Skin Nerd
28th July 2020
Launching a business can be daunting and exciting in equal measures. For our Women Who Launch July candidate, we hear from Jennifer Rock, The Skin Nerd https://theskinnerd.com/
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
We work to empower “hoomans” to feel better in their skin through education.
Right now, we have a warehouse in-house, and Skingredients and Cleanse Off Mitt are partially distributed through United Drug. We are set to move to a more self-sufficient location 5 times the size of our current location with a purpose-built warehouse, media rooms and our own laboratory.
We currently have 17 employees, including a Chief of Operations, Head of Marketing, Operations Manager, Education Manager, an accountant, a Nerd and Nerdette coordinator and our team of Nerds and Nerdettes (expert skin consultants), a marketing team, an analyst, an e-commerce manager and a logistics and fulfilment team. We are just in the process of onboarding two new customer service executives and a Nerd Network manager, with many more positions being filled in the coming months.
Our goal in the next year is to begin distribution in the UK and to work towards making Skingredients more sustainable in processes and packaging.
We worked with our banks initially, and Enterprise Ireland have assisted and are always appreciated. I believe most companies survive on cashflow and negotiating optimum credit terms, and terms and conditions favourable to their specific channel and sector. It takes some time to settle into a productive flow but it does occur.
Our target market is predominantly women between the ages of 24 – 35 who are interested in the health, beauty and lifestyle sectors. All are interested in skin health. A common misconception is that you have to have problematic skin but this is not the case, and Skingredients can help with the radiance of the skin, how it feels, and can help to protect the skin daily.
HOW HAVE YOU HAD TO ADJUST YOUR WAY OF WORKING IN RECENT MONTHS?
We have put a huge focus on pulling forward projects that would make our followers and users experiences better, on social media and on our websites. We’ve worked to upgrade both theskinnerd.com and skingredients.com for a friendlier and more efficient experience, and we have dedicated more time towards customer service in light of more online communications than we have ever received. When lockdown was announced, we launched At Home Skin School the same day, featuring global experts in skincare, wellness, nutrition and more in discussion with myself.
We worked with our 250 stockists to support them throughout this difficult time, and ensured our team were set up from home, and continued to invest in culture and remote training days. We also carried out performance reviews, so all of the team were being cared for remotely. Life is built on relationships, and it starts with yourself and then the team, business relationships and then of course, our clients.
HAS IT ALL BEEN CHALLENGING OR ARE THERE ‘SILVER LININGS’?
Many would argue that being an online company from the beginning has been our silver lining, as in a sense, we were set up to communicate online. Social media is often misunderstood and under-utilised, however, I see it to be of utmost importance, as it allows us to speak directly with the end user and learn what they truly want from us as a brand. We can never be unsure of their needs.
We still needed to pivot, as the fear was that online businesses may suffer greatly too – the beauty sector is often seen as luxury rather than necessity, and often in times of crisis, that which is considered luxury is what will suffer first.
In the beauty sector, bricks and mortar businesses collapsed. Skingredients main channel of distribution was through salons and pharmacies who understandably were not trading as normal. It was a daunting time but I’m proud to say we rallied, focused, tidied up a lot of the to-dos in our back end that we needed to do to strengthen us to be in the best position when opportunities arose.
BRANDS YOU LOVE
I have great admiration for Rodial, Kate Somerville, Inkey List, Drunk Elephant and Paula’s Choice among others… The skincare brands that have made their mark and changed how things were done.
From a trade perspective, I love IMAGE Skincare, Dermalogica and Environ ultimately for education, simplicity and innovation.
BIGGEST ‘WIN’ TO DATE
At the moment, the first year of Skingredients feels like a huge win. To be stocked in leading national pharmacy chains, salons and clinics and prestigious department stores such as Brown Thomas and Arnotts feels to be an achievement in itself. The organic press coverage that Skingredients has received in publications such as The Guardian, The Times, The Irish Times, Irish Tatler, IMAGE, Stellar, Irish Country Magazine, RSVP and many others has been consistent throughout the first year. Powerhouses within the beauty industry, such as Nadine Baggott, Caroline Hirons and Trinny Woodall, love Skingredients. A lot of hard work is behind it, from conception through to marketing, and it feels great for it to pay off.
Launching the #ProjectLoveYourSkin initiative has been huge. 6 months prior to launching Skingredients, we selected a number of “hoomans” who wanted to feel more confident in their skin, having felt down about it and having let their skin affect how they lived their lives for a long while. These people were the first to use Skingredients, and within months, they had seen a huge difference in their skin. To celebrate our first birthday, we have filmed a set of videos with some willing participants, where they speak about how they feel about their skin and what they love from the range, and these videos are available on our social media platforms. It has been a very emotional experience for me, so it feels like a great achievement.
BIGGEST ‘SLAP IN THE FACE’
When we first created Skingredients, we under-anticipated the demand for it. This means that within our first two quarters, we lost customers who could not repurchase the new product that they enjoyed, letting down retailers in the process. Maybe we were being naïve to think that there would not be high demand, and although it sounds like a great problem to have, it was not at the time.
Many a learning later, I’m delighted to say stock control is now managed perfectly thanks to our Operations Manager and Logistics Manager. I’ve since learned that seeking expert counsel is the way forward, and that the demand for affordable, clinical formulations is huge.
ARE YOU SOCIAL WHEN IT COMES TO MEDIA?
Social media was the original basis of The Skin Nerd, beginning as an education platform and branching into Nerd Network online skin consultations and our e-commerce companies.
On all of our platforms, including The Skin Nerd, Skingredients and Cleanse Off Mitt, we use social media as a means to provide knowledge on skin – from the basics to the very nerdie, from ourselves directly and from others in the industry and similar industries.
We have a private Facebook page for our Nerd Network members where they can truly feel like they’re in a community and ask the experts in our team for advice.
Social media is a cornerstone of The Skin Nerd and I see it as an interactive two-way channel between us and people who follow us, between comments, stories, replies, Lives, direct messages and everything that social media offers.
ON TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION
Our whole business is based on technology, but at the same time, we’re conscious of not losing our “hooman” element either.
We leverage up-to-date technology to converge traditional e-commerce with the community component of the Nerd Network. Our Nerd Network store has over 300 products, so the integration of elements of dynamic personalisation and ranges exclusive to only members who have had consultations is outside of the norm.
We also have a custom member dashboard, which is something not often seen in our sector. We work hard on the backend to allow for a seamless user experience with these features.
IS THERE A BUSINESS MODEL YOU WOULD LIKE TO EMULATE?
Skincare brands like Dermalogica have personified how education itself forges community and it would be an honour to be compared to them. I look within the sector, and my goal is always communication – within the internal team, business to business relations and with the end user (client) – as a means of improving. It’s a work in progress for us but it’s something we strive for.
IF YOU HAD A BLANK CHEQUE
For the business, I’d recruit global leaders within the sector and get the highest quality systems in place. If you have the right people, place and processes in the right location, I think anything is achievable. Ultimately, you need to have the right product and I have a lot of faith in our offerings.
Personally, I’d buy my friends and family homes so that they’re always close to me. I’d donate to charities – specifically Look Good Feel Better, the Irish Cancer Society, Mental Health Ireland and the ISPCC to name a few I would have on my list.
•Ambitious •Empathetic •Assertive
•Tardy •Impatient •Impulsive (at times)
BEST BUSINESS LUNCH DATE
Michelle Obama, because she knows how to build a community and camaraderie whilst remaining assertive, or Steve Jobs, as he failed and came back and always believed in a vision, while staying true to his morals and the goals of the business.
IDEAL BUSINESS PARTNER
I have nobody in particular in mind, but probably someone like a Hollywood-based nutritionist for a collaborative range that would tie in with our own beliefs. I’d also just be very curious to hear about their life…
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE
Surround yourself with people who are better than you in fields you don’t understand as well, and have no ego.
“Don’t accept where you are – there’s always something you can enhance, polish or promote – but find the balance so as not to demotivate your team.”