Mark Kelly launched natural cosmetics firm Unique Natural Products with his wife Lisa. We chat to Mark as part of our It’s My Business interview feature.
Tell us what made you want to start your own business?
I started my own natural cosmetics company, Unique Natural Products, purely by chance, initially selling a product for a problem no one likes to talk about.
My wife Lisa had suffered with haemorrhoids after giving birth to our first child 22 years ago. She was struggling to cope with the symptoms, especially the itching, and the embarrassment. Eventually after trying all the over the counter remedies she could, she plucked up the courage to visit the doctor, who basically said they would eventually disappear and to keep using the products from the chemist.
This left Lisa very disappointed and a little annoyed that there was nothing off-the-shelf that worked.
So, being the type of person that am, I decided to research natural ingredients to see if anything I could do myself to help Lisa. And to cut a long story short, I came up with a formula that used some of the ingredients I had been researching and asked Lisa to give it a try. The results were amazing and within just a few days her symptoms completely disappeared and never returned.
A few years later when the story came up in conversion with a relative who had asked if they could try it and experienced similar results, I decided to start a business to bring the product to market and called it Anacare.
We initially started selling on eBay and it was going well. However it became very difficult to promote the product as we were unable to make any medical claims or even state that it was a treatment.
We were given permission to market the product as a cosmetic cream to soothe and calm skin irritations associated with haemorrhoids.
Tell us about your other product, Natrabalm, and how you’ve developed it.
Once we’d been selling Anacare for a while, my next idea was use what we’d developed to help those with other skin conditions, especially those prone to eczema or psoriasis.
Using ingredients like calendula, aloe vera and jojoba, Natrabalm was developed over the course of around a year while we tested and trialled it, gathering feedback and perfecting the formula.
We now sell Natrabalm online via our website and despatch it all over the world on a daily basis and have recently started asking customers to take photographs of their symptoms whilst using Natrabalm so that we can share their results.
Photos of a customer’s results taken from Natrabalm’s before-and-after results blog.
You’ve recently expanded the Natrabalm range, tell us about the new products.
Over the past few months, I have developed Natrabalm body oil, scalp oil and a body wash products using all natural ingredients designed to calm itching, soothe irritation and hydrate even the driest of skin.
Customers had been messaging us and commenting on our social media channels asking questions like ‘do you have anything I can use on psoriasis of the scalp?’. We asked some of these customers to trial the new products and the results were immediately promising, with one customer seeing dramatic improvements in her scalp psoriasis in days.
I feel like we’re now able to expand and develop the range far more quickly as we have become more accomplished at what we do.
Running your own business can be rewarding and challenging – what are the biggest challenges for you?
The biggest challenge for my company is spreading the word about my products. Advertising is a minefield trying to find a reliable avenue to advertise that is not going to cost a fortune and give a good return on investment. Lets face it a cream to help those with dry itchy skin caused by haemorrhoids is never going to be easy to market and isn’t the sort of product people share on social media. This is why I decided to launch Natrabalm, aimed at general dry and itchy skin around the whole body.
Many will discuss their dry itchy skin openly but are not so willing to discuss an itch in a more embarrassing place! I get inundated from marketing companies with offers to guarantee that they can increase sales, get me on 1st page of Google and improve my ROI. Not so easy I am afraid so that has to be the biggest challenge for us.
And the biggest rewards?
The biggest reward is reading the many testimonials and reviews we get from those who have tried our products and are amazed at the results. This and not having to ask someone if I can have the day off, although those running a business will know that having a day off never really happens, even when you go on holiday there are still emails to check and orders to process.
What does 2019 have in store for Unique Natural Products?
As we have recently expanded the Natrabalm range and we hope that by the end of 2019 we will see the brand becoming a recognised natural brand for dry, itchy skin. We also have new products in the pipeline waiting to be formulated, do watch this space.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
If you are thinking about starting your own business, make sure you do your research first and be prepared not to see a profit straight away. In fact be prepared to not even get paid sometimes! If you have done your research into your product or service then you should give it a try but expect it not to be an overnight success. Work hard, enjoy the good days and use the bad days to learn more about your business.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice form other local business who can help you to find suppliers or services that are reliable rather than just taking a chance on someone who contacts you.
Being your own boss can be very rewarding especially when your customer appreciates it and tells others about your product or service. Good luck to those who take the plunge.
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