You might not expect two men in their 20s to be the driving force behind a new skincare company, but Brack Norris and Michael Oliver are very much in their element.
Based in Perth, Norris and Oliver are the founders of Uandi Natural, which offers natural ingredients sourced from native Australian plants.
The business was founded in March 2010, but it wasn’t until the end of 2010 that a business plan began to develop.
Norris talks to StartupSmart about how his skincare company is different from all the others.
What prompted you to launch Uandi? What niche did you identify?
The idea behind Uandi Natural was conceptualised in Broome, Western Australia in 2010.
I was approached by a friend named Kim Harris, a Nyoongar man who had just completed a Certificate IV in bush and herbal medicine.
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He was really excited about the benefits that native plants could have on the skin and was taken by the idea of sharing these benefits with everybody that he possibly could.
When doing research into the idea, we found that there were a couple of other brands that used native Australian plants in their formulations, but nobody possessed a strong brand that reflected this Australian provenance and having effective natural products.
How did you fund the business?
The business was funded completely though investment. Initially, this was the investment of two of the three founders.
We invested $30,000 to fund all the initial costs that were involved in developing the brand and the products in order to get it to a stage where other people would be willing to take the risk because they were investing in something tangible rather than an idea.
Over the next 12 months, we raised a bit over $100,000 in order to take the product to market.
We invested a lot in the overall look of the brand and products, which meant that we racked up quite a large graphic design bill.
This included design of the brand, design for five products (containers and boxes), and the design and development of our website.
Product R&D was also an expense because I thought it was very important to get the best possible products that produced results.
We then had to get all our packaging manufactured, which involved large minimum order quantities of each of our five products and their boxes.
There are also a lot of little costs that add up including things like insurance, postage/shipping of packaging and finished products, website merchant fees, barcodes, etc.
How do you promote the business?
We started out trying to promote the business through social media, in particular Facebook.
We decided to run a free sample giveaway for launch through our website and Facebook to get people trying the product.
We soon found out, however, that there are people out there who post any and every free sample offer on websites with a huge number of users that love free things and have no intent to purchase.
We also discovered that as a new skincare brand, Facebook did not influence buying decisions and was only proving useful as a tool for brand-building and awareness.
We now promote the business with PR and have found this to be the most effective form of promotion.
PR is great for reaching a large audience, and is very cost-effective in relation to many other forms of promotion as you are only paying the retainer fee for the agency and generally providing stock to support promotions.
We have had some great success with radio promotions in a number of different states, online and offline print media, and also a small TV presence on the LifeStyle YOU Channel.