Software engineer turned skincare guru shares her story of building a national brand

Friday, 4 September 2020

Phoebe Breckell shares her innovation journey as founder of natural skincare company Happy Skincare at I2N's Startup Stories.

Phoebe and her husband Aaron, have spent the last ten years creating skincare products that their customers love and the founders have grown Happy Skincare to over 350 stockists Australia-wide.

At I2N's Startup Stories virtual webinar on Wednesday 2 September, Phoebe shared her innovation journey of building a nationally recognised skincare brand from Newcastle. Phoebe and her team create 100% natural products made of what she describes as 'some of Australia's most powerful and effective ingredients'.

Happy Skincare is an Australian brand focused on crafting natural, vegan skin care that is made from Australian ingredients and free of harsh chemicals. Their products are made in their factory in Newcastle and they specialise in skin care for mature and sensitive skin. The team have bootstrapped the company, maintaining an annual growth rate of 45% and employing a team of 9.

Catch up on Startup Stories with Phoebe Breckell.

Phoebe Breckell

Top Takeaways

  • We started our business almost a decade ago with the desire to grow and then sell. What we ended up with is quite different!
  • It doesn’t matter if it’s not the best time to start a business, the act of just doing helps you work through any mistakes and is an opportunity to learn quickly. I2N Navigator can help you validate your ideas and articulate their value.
  • In our first 4 years of business we were feeling very fulfilled but still hadn’t made a profit. At some point you need to start focusing on how you’re going to make money. Having changed our focus we’re now growing at a rate of 45% YoY.
  • Take advantage of the struggle, it makes you focus on those hard to see opportunities that have the big payoff.
  • For a product company, sampling is something that works so well for promotion! It generates lists of people to follow up and engage with our brand.
  • As we grew, many different aspects of the business changed too. We had to move the business out of our home and into its own commercial space. We also grew our employee base and have grown the team to nine.
  • We only ever create things that our customers want. They’re the ones who will buy and use the product so it’s important to always listen. I2N Validator is a great opportunity for teams to validate their solution with real world customers!
  • You need to have the right equipment for the job. It’s important to invest in the right machinery especially when you’re scaling up.
  • We try hard to connect to our customers. We educate our audiences about what they use, we try to foster a community around the products and business.
  • When the pandemic initially hit Phoebe shares her method of taking the time to look at all her spending and figure out what is required vs what is nice to have. That is an important exercise to recalibrate business spend.
  • When giving her thoughts on the importance of Ecommerce, Phoebe says, “Because we’ve always been a native ecommerce business, we’ve kept all our staff employed and the impact during the pandemic has been minimal.”
  • Phoebe expands on this by explaining, when designing your marketing collateral, it’s important to be more open and add an extra level of sensitivity because hard selling right now while some people are doing it tough is not the right thing to do.
  • When asked how the University can help her company, Phoebe explains the University has so many capabilities to offer to companies. The testing facilities and research quality from the University can help businesses like ours, especially for clinical trials to prove specific products work.

The University of Newcastle's I2N works with individuals and organisations from across the Hunter region and beyond to turn ideas and challenges into opportunity. As a leading driver of economic and business growth, the I2N cultivates an entrepreneurial mindset that is behind many of the region's most innovative businesses and leaders.

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