Driven by the desire to bring greater awareness to consumers concerned with transparency and accountability in the beauty industry, California-born and bred entrepreneur Raquel Wing founded The Clean Hub, the world’s first accelerator program for clean beauty companies.
‘Clean beauty’ is the new term for identifying beauty brands that are free of known toxins and carcinogens – and its an industry growing by almost 9 per cent year-on-year, according to a report published by Persistence Market Research in 2016.
Such growth has given rise to The Clean Hub, founded in 2016, as a virtual accelerator program to assist clean indie brands to scale easily and affordably (check out www.thecleanhub.com).
Founder and managing director, Raquel Wing, says this is achieved by providing the brands that use The Clean Hub’s program the opportunity to understand key business issues that many small businesses face as they grow their sales.
“These issues span from branding, intellectual property, product development, and regulatory issues. Additionally, we give our brands the potential to pitch to a UK retailer for shelving space which means they can gain direct and immediate access to market and a position in one of the UK’s largest department stores,” Raquel says.
“Our participant brands can expect to gain a general understanding of where their business is in relation to its competitors, as well as understand their immediate needs. We give them the tools and ecosystem to build their own success.”
Raquel is a former wealth management professional whose career spans more than seven years with global banking giants Morgan Stanley and UBS. When pursuing her Master of Business Administration (MBA) full-time at the University of Edinburgh Business School in 2015/16, the blonde bombshell realized her calling: to support up-and-coming clean beauty brands to scale and become more accessible to consumers all over the world.
Raquel’s clean break
Raquel made her “transition” towards clean beauty whilst studying for her MBA in the United Kingdom.
“The beauty industry has been a longstanding interest of mine, so I began to look more deeply into it. I kept reading about things like ‘known toxins or known carcinogens’ and I thought, wow, this could have serious consequences for my health in the long run,” she says.
“I was frustrated to see a lot of mainstream brands putting known toxins into their beauty products, without honestly communicating to consumers the truth about these ingredients. Consumers deserve the right to know what a brand is all about and that means the full story – no ‘green washing’ through mislabeling.”
Through her own research, Raquel subsequently discovered a range of clean alternatives to the products she had been using. This sparked her desire to want to help these less-known brands obtain greater cut-through and exposure among key consumers.
“When I was in Edinburgh studying my MBA, I realized the importance of having a community of peers to help get you where you want to go. That is how ideas come to life – you can’t build a company all by yourself – a good support network is critical,” she says.
“I saw a unique opportunity to create a network and a community for clean beauty businesses and that is when I started looking at developing an accelerator program solely dedicated to clean indie beauty brands and their special needs.”
Acknowledging the fragmented nature of the clean beauty sector, Raquel saw the need to provide these businesses with a central platform to grow. She visualized a ‘hub’ to collectively boost the profile of beauty brands doing “good things”. With a long-standing ambition to run her own business someday, this idea turned into a business plan, an internship, and later, a full-blown business operating across the US and UK.
“I realized there were a lot of challenges facing the clean beauty sector, such as consumer awareness and industry fragmentation, which I thought could be fixed by creating an ecosystem,” Raquel says.
“With the support of my business school network I decided to give it a go. I really just wanted to help the industry and there was an obvious way I could do it. Having worked in wealth management – a sector which is dependent on trust and accountability – I figured I could build on this knowledge and apply it to a sector I am most passionate about.”
The entrepreneurial journey
Launching a business hasn’t all been about ‘fairy floss and merry-go-rounds’ for Raquel, who says there have been plenty of high and low moments throughout her entrepreneurial journey.
“Its been a really exciting and equally scary experience,” she says.
“My passion for helping these brands has really driven me to keep going – every success I have had along the way has given me that extra bit of encouragement to push a bit farther.”
While it might sound cliché, Raquel’s advice is simple and ‘clean-cut’ (pardon the pun): Just do it.“If you really want to start something and you believe in it enough that you’re willing to work on it full-time, then don’t be afraid to make that jump,” she says.“I would also say don’t be afraid to tap into your network as you’d be surprised at the number of people willing to help, from my friends, family, my business school – people are incredibly supportive – and that’s the premise of The Clean Hub.”
The original concept for the Clean Hub has evolved along the way, constantly being refined where necessary, Raquel reiterates. And that ‘pivoting’ has helped her establish the right curriculum for The Clean Hub’s accelerator program.
“The fact that we’re a small business ourselves, we understand the challenges start-ups face, and we recognize time is critical so we aim to cut through the noise and get down to what matters and to prioritize what is most valuable,” Raquel says.
“We have shaped our program accordingly. We took a lot of time creating the program and to ensure the content would be accessible and valuable to as many clean beauty brands as possible. We carefully selected sector experts to create and teach the courses because they are the best in the game.”
The Clean Hub’s program is now open to waitlist. [https://www.thecleanhub.com/webinar-program]. Courses include Project and Team Management Tools, How to Value Your Company, Tax Implications, Brand Story and Your USP, Product Development, and Import/Export Procedures. Each course is written and taught by an expert in their field – be it legal, international business, finance, and marketing, with all content carefully tailored to the beauty sector.
The first of its kind
The Clean Hub is truly a world-first. “No one is addressing these needs like we are – we are the only ones focusing on helping clean beauty brands scale,” Raquel stresses.
“There are other courses out there but they are not tailored to this industry, which faces its own set of challenges and opportunities. These other courses haven’t worked to build a community that will benefit our participants over the long-term.
“I know that when building a business, you need to be able to reach out to credible industry people, seek advice or help, and all that can manifest into further opportunities. Its like a ripple effect.”
Launching in January 2018, The Clean Hub welcomes expressions of interest from clean beauty brands motivated to scale easily and affordably.