Monday, 16 May 2011

An interview with... Noelle O Connor, MD of TanOrganic

"Even though I would rather stick pins in my eyes than go on national TV, it was going to be massive PR for TanOrganic"
Years in beauty industry: 20

Frustrated by the lack of 100% natural sunless tan products available, Noelle O Connor created TanOrganic. After an initial struggle trying to bring TanOrganic to the Irish market, Noelle took her brand on Irish Dragon's Den and experienced phenomenal overnight success. Noelle talks to Your Beauty Industry about finding a gap in the market, working with investors and the importance of PR and perseverance.

Tell me a bit about your career background.
I am a passionate ITEC qualified beauty therapist/lecturer and postgraduate of many holistic treatments and have also studied in the Boston MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program. Education is my number one core value so I am always striving to learn new skills.

I have been in the spa and salon industry for nearly 20 years and began my self employed career in a single cubicle beauty room behind a local hair salon. I built it into Ireland's first beauty chain, Ealu Spa Therapy while setting up a distribution company Skin Logic, supplying the leading beauty products in Ireland and the UK.

I finally decided to develop my own line of products, due to the lack of 100% natural, ingredient-conscious sunless tan products on the market. I wanted products that would firstly preserve the skin, while hydrating at the same time. Frustrated by expensive, skin drying, chemical loaded, unnatural tans on the market, I decided to do some research of my own.

The more I researched the more I wanted to create a tan that was organic, natural and that worked, moisturising the skin rather than drying it like most tans available. Beauty therapists, including myself, have been asking for truly natural sunless products and by using certified organic ingredients it assures discriminating users that the natural claims are real. And so TanOrganic was born.

Having very fair skin, I used fake tans for over 20 years and felt there was a gap and need for a tan that was natural, moisturising, full of anti-oxidants and could double up as an anti-ageing body treatment. If I am going to apply a product continuously on my skin, why not make it a product that is hydrating and anti-ageing at the same time? With this in mind I set about sourcing ingredients and developing my very own formula. Now my fake tan becomes another part of my anti-ageing skin care routine as well as giving me a healthy, natural safe tan.

How has TanOrganic performed so far?
The company has grown rapidly over the last year, with ever-increasing sales to salons, health food stores and pharmacies. TanOrganic generated over €1 million in retail sales within its first 3 months. We have sprayed over 100,000 people through beauty salons and have had fantastic reviews from the media and celebrity following, including the cast of Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and the like.

We plan to bring out very unique brand extensions this year that have a point of difference like TanOrganic. I don’t want my products to be mainstream or just like all the others. TanOrganic is a niche and unique brand because I care about the ingredients I choose and the quality of what I put on my skin. For this reason TanOrganic, I believe, will be a world-beater and a global brand.

"I went on Dragon's Den because I felt it was a chance to promote my brand for free - my other businesses were failing and things were getting desperate" 
 You went to Dragon’s Den for investment – why did you choose to go this route and had you already tried to launch TanOrganic into the beauty market?
I went this route because I felt it was a chance to promote my brand for free and my other businesses were failing and things were getting desperate. I knew I didn’t have long before everything would fall like a deck of cards and even though I would rather stick pins in my eyes than go on national TV, it was going to be massive PR for TanOrganic, which I knew was capable of being a great success with a little help. I had already tried [launching the brand] through my distribution company but it was a slow, hard slog because no-one knew me and no-one knew the brand. Dragon’s Den made it an overnight success without a doubt!

What did appearing on Dragon’s Den do for your brand?
Since appearing on Dragons Den it has been a whirlwind.  In the 24 hours after the show we had 60,000 hits on our website. The following morning every major distributor in the country was looking to work with us. We were opening new accounts every 30 minutes, which was unheard of even at the height of the boom times. We had consumers screaming for the retail line and pharmacies were delighted to have people coming in to look for an Irish brand. We did over a million in retail sales in the first 3 months of releasing the retail line and we are the first ever professional tan to launch a TV advert.

"The following morning every major distributor in the country was looking to work with us. We were opening new accounts every 30 minutes"
The brand has fast become the number one organic tan in the country. We also noticed that there was a demand for a smaller 100ml bottle for travel and that consumers with a lower spend could buy, and that the 240ml was too large for first time users even though it is exceptional value for money. We are now launching our new 100ml size bottle in the first ever Bio Bottle used in the cosmetics industry, which is made from extracts of corn. Using this type of material is using natural resources and there are no dioxins released into my 100% natural product.

We are also getting ready to launch into other markets including the UK, USA, South Africa, Australia and many other European countries. We have had huge interest internationally and the hardest job is picking the right distributors from all the enquiries for our brand. We have never once had to approach any of our customers. From day one they have all been chasing us which is a fabulous position for any company to be in. We are definitely on target for becoming a leading international cosmetic brand, all thanks to Dragons Den.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to approach an investor for their beauty brand?
For anyone approaching any investor, they must have something that there is demand for, a good business plan and always an exit strategy. Investors always love to know when they are going to get a return.

How do you intend to grow the brand?
After huge success in our home market, we are entering the UK market and then will follow into 14 countries waiting to take the brand on. After that the sky is the limit.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt about launching a beauty brand?
Test you market and brand in smaller markets before you jump into the big markets.

What top tips would you give anyone wanting to launch their own beauty brand?
PR - without that the best of brands will go nowhere.

Who inspires you?
Richard Branson and Judy Naake from St. Tropez are just a couple of people who inspire me.

What’s the best career advice you have received?
Learn by your mistakes and never, ever, ever give up!


1 comment:

  1. I've never heard of tanOrganic before but Noelle sounds lovely and I'm certainly going to have to check out the brand, can't resist a great self tanner!

    Great post hun

    Lu xxx