Sarah Chapman set up her skincare brand, Skinesis in 2008. Her Sloane Square clinic has at least an eight week waiting list and is loved by beauty editors and celebrities – Megan Markle was seen leaving her clinic before the royal wedding. We asked Sarah for her insights into building a successful beauty brand.
What was your background before setting up Sarah Chapman?
Having had a natural interest in beauty since school, my first move into the industry was as a trained make-up artist before undertaking further training to specialise in special-effects make-up. I later trained in aromatherapy, hairdressing and then completed a full beauty therapy course, which is where I learnt how to do all the facials, massage and other types of treatments that I have built my brand around. When you are younger you can absorb like a sponge and I took the opportunity to take many vocational courses rather than attend university. I can draw on these experiences and all the combined knowledge in my work still today.
With all these skills I began working in health club salons, gaining management and sales experience. I was exposed to the skincare industry for the first time, then employed by a number of skincare brands over the following years, where I learnt the importance of particular ingredients and techniques, and what they could do for the skin. As my passion for product grew I took myself back to training and studied cosmetic science, learning the intricacies about formulation work which has been invaluable in my product development and communication with chemists.
Skipping forward slightly, I was actually presenting for a TV shopping channel when a facialist friend of mine asked me to take on her small list of clients because she was moving to Australia. I started with about five clients, working around my TV work and then my client list began to grow very quickly and organically through people recommending me to friends. I took a small room in Chelsea and soon hired my first employee, gradually increasing my rooms and team over the years before outgrowing that space and opening my Skinesis Clinic in Sloane Square in 2015. Today I have seven treatment rooms in the Clinic, an interactive, educational boutique and a successful award-winning skincare brand – which launched in 2008.
What do you think is the secret of your success?
Hard work, passion, determination, thinking outside the box and never taking NO for an answer. I think that working in the beauty industry for so long and really loving and understanding it enabled me to identify a gap in the market. I was clear about what I wanted to achieve – blending scientific, cosmeceutical ingredients with botanicals in ways that had never been done before – and this helped me build my Skinesis skincare brand with the right foundations from the beginning. Once I knew the direction I was heading in, I never gave up and I never compromised on my mission.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in running the business and how have you overcome it?
Before launching Skinesis there were four challenging years of development to get my formulas ready. I worked with four companies in the UK during this time and none of them could achieve what I wanted. I was trying to do something that had not been done before and the chemists were struggling to deliver the results I wanted while keeping ingredients stable – they were telling me it couldn’t be done, or it was too difficult.
Then I found a lab in the United States who were willing to push the boundaries of what had been done before and we were able to launch with six initial products. But even today, because I am constantly expanding my range using new technologies and innovative ingredients, we still go through many rounds of formulations before we get it right and it is definitely the most challenging part of the whole process. I continue to overcome these difficulties in the same way I did in the beginning – by having complete belief in myself and my vision, knowing that it is possible and never compromising on my standards or taking the easy route.
Is there any specific advice you would give women developing a skincare brand?
Stay true to your vision and don’t let people tell you things are not possible. I was given this same advice at the beginning of my career and I have always carried it with me. You can achieve whatever you want to, you might just need a new approach or a different way of thinking. Trust your judgement and that you know what you are doing. This attitude will take you a long way.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to other female entrepreneurs what would it be?
Feel empowered to be who you want to be. It is possible and you CAN do it.