How To Start a Skincare Brand
If there is one positive that came out of the past few years, it’s the rise of small businesses and professionals moving towards starting their own side hustle. Thinking about launching your own skincare brand? We spoke to Gemma Murari, Founder of Luneia Skin Wellness, about how she created a successful indie skincare business.
1. Tell us about Luneia and how it started?
Luneia was born out of my passion for beauty, colliding with ‘finding my purpose’ through my own wellness journey.
Being a beauty addict from a young age led me to pursue a career as a Senior Beauty Buyer at Superdrug, an incredible time filled with hard-work and phenomenal experiences working alongside global beauty brands such as L'Oréal and Estée Lauder.
Despite loving my job, I’d always had an entrepreneurial itch I wanted to scratch. I dreamt of creating a skincare line to help address some of the problems I’d experienced - acne-prone throughout my teens and never really “growing out” of it, instead persisting into low-level adult acne in my twenties.
I started to heavily research scientific papers and the role of active ingredients within skincare – to really start to understand how to treat my skin, and to try and achieve the clear skin confidence I craved. In coupling this knowledge with the support from a functional practitioner to balance my hormones (following a diagnosis of endometriosis and PCOS), I saw great improvements in my skin and the seed for Luneia was born.
With these two factors combined – great product and internal wellness - my skin was finally where I wanted it to be. The dots had connected and this dual approach made my lifelong skin struggles made sense.
And so Luneia was born, with our philosophy/ approach we’ve coined as ”Skin Wellness” - combining clinically-proven active ingredients to topically treat the skin, alongside a functional approach to internal wellness through supplementation and lifestyle factors.
2. What advice do you have for people looking to start their own skincare brand?
There is so much advice I have to share but these snippets are particularly great for those at the start of their brand-building journey:
- Start with a business/ brand plan but be flexible to adapt it as you learn, get feedback and are presented with opportunities you may not have foreseen.
- Budget more time and money than you initially forecast - both elements will always go over budget.
- Start to grow and nurture your community whilst you’re at the early development stages of brand building. Even when you have nothing tangible to share with your audience, you can still provide so much value in the advice and knowledge you share. In doing so, you’ll be building trust and an anticipation of what’s to come.
- Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Niche down and connect to your specific audience for a meaningful and authentic connection.
3. Where should someone start if they want to formulate their own products?
This is a huge question to answer as there are so many variables. And before we dive in, know that skincare is one of the most highly regulated industries with long development timelines, and costly testing procedures to go through.
Firstly, I’d recommend creating a Formulation Philosophy document. This should outline who you’re creating the products for and why, and what your point of difference is. Detail what is important to your target audience and whether you might want/ need any industry accreditations to validate this.
Secondly, you need to consider the best manufacturing route, depending on the type of brand you are trying to achieve. Some smaller indie brands developing natural products, might start by formulating themselves from their “kitchen table”. The benefit of this is very low volumes which is helpful for cashflow, but it can restrict the ingredients or manufacturing process you’re able to use.
The majority of brands within skincare and beauty would opt to use a contract manufacturer, either using their in-house lab to formulate, or an independent chemist to create a formulation which is passed to the manufacturer for production. This is the best route to pursue if you’d like to create sophisticated formulations, but it can sometimes be difficult for smaller brands due to large volume commitments involved.
Lastly, some brands might choose to “white label” their products, meaning they can buy an “off-the-shelf” product & brand it as their own. This is effective from a time and cost perspective but it is not a bespoke formula to your brand and is personally not something I would recommend if you’re aiming to build a skincare brand with longevity.
4. What is/was your biggest challenge when creating Luneia?
Newness is a big motivator for consumers and really drives the beauty industry forwards. Despite there being a trend of us all moving towards a more mindful approach to consumption, we’re still magpies attracted to sparkly new things.
This has proved a challenge to us as a self-funded indie brand. The question is - how do we sustain people’s interest in the brand when you have a small range, which is expanding at a slower pace than our larger brand peers?
At Luneia, we aim to answer that by forging deep connections with our community and keeping them engaged through interaction. We’re really open and transparent about these challenges and have actually received loads of positive comments to say they value us developing slowly and are willing to wait for the goodies!
5. What’s the most rewarding thing about creating your own skincare line?
Without a doubt, it’s hearing the amazing feedback from our customers about how we’ve helped to play a part in transforming their skin and usually their confidence too. I’m so lucky to have such a great community and love connecting with people in our DMs and emails - it’s definitely the most uplifting aspect of the role.
6. What do you wish you had known before starting your own brand?
I always knew that it would be challenging to start a brand from scratch, especially with limited resources and budgets vs established brands. But, even with that in mind, I’d definitely underscore the need for resilience and a positive mindset as the highs are really high and the lows can be really low.
7. Are there any new products launching that you can give us a teaser about?
We recently launched our amazing new face mist, Drench Dew, which is designed to hydrate, soothe and replenish your skin.
I’m also pleased to exclusively share that we will be expanding Luneia into supplements from June. It’s such a pivotal moment for us, as it really reflects our “skin wellness” dual approach in targeting the root cause, as well as the topical symptoms.
8. What are your favourite publications/platforms for business knowledge?
Some of my favourite digital publications I’d recommend subscribing to include Beauty Independent, Glossy, Cosmetics Business and The Business of Fashion (Beauty).
I also love to devour a few podcast episodes per week - finding them invaluable in providing both functional advice, alongside motivation and inspiration. Here are some of my go-tos:
- Beauty Founded with Akash Mehta (co-founder of Fable & Mane haircare)
- Glossy Beauty
- Beauty is your Business
- Outspoken Beauty with Nicola Bonn
- Diary of a CEO with Stephen Bartlett
- Masters by Shopify
9. What's the best business advice you've ever been given?
As the founder of a nascent brand, it’s likely you’ll either be working alone or with a small group of colleagues/ freelancers helping to bring your vision to life. This means you’ll be extremely time poor and trying to wear ALL the business hats. Couple this with being super protective of your brand (it is your baby after all), you’ll seek perfection, wanting to share only the best, most polished version with the world. Overlay the restraints on your time/ budget/ resource and it’s exactly where feelings of overwhelm can set in.
A couple of phrases which I live by to help me through this dynamic are:
For when you’re overwhelmed:
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time (no animals were harmed in this example!) It might seem like an impossible task, but breaking it down into small, manageable chunks is the best way to approach things without task paralysis kicking in.
For when you’re procrastinating:
JDI - an acronym for JUST DO IT (can be upweighted to JFDI depending on how bad procrastination levels might be!). Get on with the task, and it will all turn out ok. Done is better than perfect.