Derry City and Strabane District Council £10k Business Challenge winner Deborah Lamberton has described the positive publicity around her victory as ‘priceless’, as she bids to expand her customer base and product range over the next 12 months.
The proprietor of So27 Skincare is currently six months into the Business Plan she developed with the help of Council and the Go For It programme.
The public’s reaction to her skincare products, exclusively sourced from organic ingredients, has been exceptionally positive but she knows her plans to reach a wider market are reliant on increasing the profile of her brand.
“Skincare is such a personal choice and it’s hard to influence that personal choice when there is less knowledge in the public domain of your products,” she noted.
“I have had organic reach to date with lots of positive word of mouth – however the PR around the win will help me reach further and get my name and brand out there.
“The positive publicity and media coverage around my business in recent weeks is priceless.”
Deborah beat off stiff opposition from a short list of seven local entrepreneurs to claim the top prize of £2,500 in the Enterprise Week event earlier this month, funds which will allow her to further expand her range in the coming months.
“Because of all the front heavy costs of this particular type of business, the financial boost will be brilliant,” she admitted.
“I just recently recruited someone to the team and I am really keen to expand my range and give my customers what they are looking for.
“Next up is a hand cream and a range for people with sensitive skin and I also am keen to develop a beauty range in the not too distant future – so watch this space.”
Although Deborah always had an interest in beauty products, it was a trip to Italy five years ago that proved the catalyst for her idea to begin making her own products.
“The importance of a good skincare and make-up routine and never really scrimping on cost was something I learnt from my mum initially,” she recalled.
“I always had an expensive moisturiser and foundation in my make-up bag.
“As I got older, I was obsessed with moisturiser in particular, I loved how it made my skin feel and I was always on the lookout for something that would help me with my acne prone skin.
“About five years ago, I was in Italy with work and the hotel had olive oil soap and shampoo.
“I was very sceptical and couldn’t imagine putting something on my face that I would have used to cook with.
“But I tried it and after about a week of use, my skin and hair felt amazing so when I got back home and started paying attention to the ingredients in my existing skincare, I realised much of it was for cosmetic reasons and not for genuine results on my skin.
“That’s when the idea first formed and after a few failed attempts at making my own, I went back and studied it, then started making for myself and then gradually for family and friends.”
The start-up stage for any new business is a fine financial balancing act and is particularly so for skincare providers with the added cost of meeting the industry’s strict regulations.
The guidance Deborah received from the Go For It programme was therefore critical in helping plan for that cost and realising the potential of turning her past time into a sustainable business model.
“The Go For It programme made me realise that I could actually turn my hobby into a business and that it also made financial sense so it was really important to me from the very outset,” she noted.
“With the help of the local Enterprise Agency I did my market research and formulated a five year plan that had the potential to be a very profitable one.
“The biggest challenge was the regulations around the industry and the upfront costs, a lot of investment is required before I can bring even a single product in to the market but after the initial front heavy costs the potential to make the business a success was significant.”
Despite her ambitious plans for the future of the business, Deborah is keen to maintain So27’s strict organic principles.
“I am really keen to have a brand that is completely transparent,” she added.
“I only use the highest quality of ingredients that are organic where possible and that have clear supporting scientific evidence for their purpose.
“I also avoid any chemical nasties so that my products are as good to the skin as they can possibly be.
“I am also keen to reduce as much as possible my environmental footprint so I choose glass instead of plastic and I source my ingredients from ethical sources with an excellent reputation.”