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Skinfood: Surviving COVID-19 as a Business

Friday 7 May in Business

Launching a science-based business as a solo effort is hard enough – it’s very expensive just for basic regulatory compliance and insurance, not to mention qualifications, equipment and the normal overheads.

When I launched in February 2020, I had no idea that we would be thrust into a worldwide viral pandemic situation barely 6 weeks later. The resulting first lockdown forced me to re-evaluate my building blocks and plans, finances and income-streams. I had ploughed much of my start-up capital into my building blocks – qualifications, research & development, stock manufacture, insurance and related regulatory costs. I’d panned a number of events throughout March and anticipated a “hard-launch” and lots of face-to-face brand awareness and sales opportunities to begin to build a reputation and customer-base, of course, the first lockdown meant none of this could happen. I had to pivot, rethink my plans and found the money to get my website up and running, I managed this by the end of March and that gave me something to promote on social media and by making contact with as many people and organisations as I could, hoping that eventually word of mouth would result in sales. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that people in shock, fear and facing a cut in or complete loss of income were going to buy a skincare product in the medium-high-end price range, that they’d never heard of.

I knew I had to get my products into people’s households, they had time on their hands all of a sudden and so I focussed on advertising lockdown as “a perfect time to regain healthy skin by trying new natural products” because people weren’t wearing the make-up they would normally and weren’t time-pressured. They were looking for self-care indulgence treats at affordable prices and that’s when I launched the miniature trial kits of products. I’d sent out a few kits to reviewers, who wrote testimonials to build social-proof for the brand and gradually I managed to make a few trial kit sales and over the next 5 months a few of these initial purchases turned into repeat sales on full-size products and referrals.

After being lucky enough to receive Government assistance at the beginning of April, which enabled me to pay compliance bills necessary in order to legally sell, I eventually found that the business began to pay it’s own bills without cash injections from my personal account. I joined a few local online selling sites, quirky.im, IM Local and makers.im and these extra outlets helped to grow awareness and accumulate more sales. People were buying to send to friends and relatives in the UK.

In November I gained some publicity on Manx Radio and a couple of local publications, rented shop-space in Island Inspirations, 71 Strand Street, Douglas and had a bumper November/December because everyone had got used to shopping with and supporting local small businesses because of the Spring lockdown. The second and third lockdowns were particularly difficult with larger post-Christmas overheads and no Government financial assistance. I had no capital, but managed to pay my running costs. The first financial quarter of 2021 has been poor for sales (and opportunities) and fortunately we were lucky to receive assistance for the shop rent we’d paid and weren’t able to open, from the Manx Solidarity Fund,

I’m extremely grateful to those organisations who have assisted me in my first year and enabled me to keep my business afloat, I’d also like to thank all of my customers, without whom, the business wouldn't be in it’s current position, with an opportunity for growth in the second year, now we are moving away from lockdown situations. It’s been extremely hard, but has been worth persevering with because I feel more confident and comfortable in this self-employed situation than I ever have before and the best part is having it proven to me that my products are in demand and helping other people to regain the skin-confidence I have, that is immensely rewarding.

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