Today we had the pleasure of chatting with London based business-women, Elsie and Dominika, co-founders of CBCO and BYBI Beauty. They started CBCO back in 2015 after working together in advertising, and have since hit their stride. They are now making some serious waves in the clean beauty and natural beauty community through CBO, BYBI beauty and fabulous book all about Clean Beauty.
All of their BYBI products are 100% natural, vegan, and of course cruelty free. They believe in affordability and transparency, and have fab products that range from natural lip scrub, to lip balm, to their multifunctional Babe Balm. You can check out their full list of products here.
They have become quite an inspiration as well as a great case study for clean beauty brands on how to grow a clean beauty or natural beauty brand. And more importantly, they are happy to share their knowledge with the community to talk about how they do things a bit differently. Here are some key pieces of advice from Elsie and Dominika to all clean beauty founders:
Perfection is a killer. Their advice is to get your products out there. They say, “It will never be perfect. We are constantly iterating, we are constantly analyzing….” So get your products out there!
Test, get feedback, make changes, iterate. BYBI Beauty tests out small batches of products and change it according to customer feedback and trends – quite uncommon in beauty. As Dominika mentions, “You know what tends to happen is huge corporations will produce millions and millions and millions of one sku, and once its out there its out there. And if they don’t like it they just pull it, they don’t look to improve it at all.” You should always be finding ways to better your products for your customers.
Reach out to your own network for investment first. If you are looking for investment, its better to raise it with people that you know who understand your work ethic, vision and will leave you alone to do with you do. They mention, “we found a lot of success through extended networks – you know, ex-colleagues, friends of friends, family friends…” So start with friends and family first if you can!
They also talk advice when meeting with investors and much, much more! Be sure to check out our full interview below!
Raquel: Hi there and welcome to Clean Chat. I’m the host Raquel Wing founder of the Clean Hub. Every Thursday we help to grow the clean and natural beauty industry by interviewing key experts and founders and influencers so that people can make informed decisions. Check us out at Thecleanhub.com to learn more. Now onto The Clean Chat Podcast.
Hello everyone, today we have the fab founders of the Clean Beauty Co and BYBI Beauty, Elsie and Dominik. They’ve done a great job in raising a profile about the benefits of clean beauty and their stories also quite amazing so we are excited to dive into today’s chat. So thanks for coming onto the show today guys.
Elsie/Dominik: It’s our pleasure thank you for having us.
Raquel: Could you tell us a little bit about yourselves individually and your story?
Elsie/Domink: Yeah of course, so we met about years ago now when we were working in advertising. We’re both actually from advertising backgrounds and the two of joined the same company at the same time and just hit it off straight away and just became best buds at work and one thing we found that we had in common was a shared interest in wellness. So it was around that time that the wellness scene was hitting the UK and it was really led by influencers or I guess what we now call influencers. Over here we had Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley Sisters and Madeline Shaw and I think from a personal point of view we both found it kind of interesting to explore these new ways of eating and new types of fitness and just generally discovering how to be healthy and well and I think on the flip side of that we both were massive beauty junkies. We would spend all of our time and money in the halls of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols kind of looking for the next big thing in beauty. The idea of Clean Beauty Co came from a collision of both of those things and I think it’s a very typical journey for people who discover natural beauty kind of go on. It’s that light bulb moment of wait, what am I putting on my skin? You know I’m thinking so much about what I’m eating I never actually stopped to think what’s in my beauty products. We went through that sort of journey together. When we sort of started to try and pull apart beauty labels and understand what these ingredients were and what was making up our beauty products. The place we got to with that was feeling quite disappointed that there wasn’t much good in any of these products that we were using. It’s not that we were like freaked out by things that we were finding it was more just like hey there’s just loads of water and the active is the last ingredient on the list every single time and we’re paying loads for this moisturiser. So what we did was kind of mimic what the food bloggers were doing and jump in the kitchen and make our on beauty products basically. So that started out really basic, avocado face masks and hair masks and that sort of thing. But as our interest in grew I guess our skill level grew and we started to formulate more complex products and that’s how the idea of Clean Beauty Co was born because we just documented that journey across social and across our blog. We were really honest and open about the recipes in our experimenting and the great things that we were making and the really bad things that we were making and you know how we were finding that whole journey. That Clean Beauty Co is kind of alive today, it’s still kind of our platform where we share all of that advise and it’s really a personal blog about the two of us and our sort of journey in natural beauty and also entrepreneur and skin care founders. It’s kind of a platform where we share our journey.
Then BYBI was born, born? I don’t know if that was the right word. BYBI was founded by us last year so it’s under a year old, it’s last August that we launched. It stands for By Beauty Insiders. And it’s pronounced BY-BE which people don’t know which is fair enough and it was our answer to spending years making our own beauty products, trying all of the natural beauty products out there and understanding what us as consumers found was really missing in the market and that was really beauty products that we felt upheld really strong ethics in terms of being 100% natural and vegan and cruelty free and the boxes that we wanted to have ticked but also that felt like a beauty product that felt like a luxurious experience and not like a health food product. I think that’s what we struggled with was that a lot of the products that we were buying and had amazing lovely ingredients kind of weren’t packaged or marketed in a way that felt like they were going to make our skin look better and if they felt like they were healthy. That’s kind of the whistle-stop tour, have I missed anything?
Raquel: (Laughter) Well I mean you’ve created Clean Beauty Co and BYBI but also you’ve both written a book. Could you tell us about that?
Elsie/Dominik: Yeah so the book was kind of towards the end of our journey on Clean Beauty Co I guess making the switch from mainstream to natural but also our skill set as formulators. The thing that we did really differently with Clean Beauty Co was start to make our own products. So we were making initially food based ingredients to make skin care products and then we kind of developed that skill set and became more comfortable with using things like oils, butters and essential oils. We did a huge amount of training and education around that piece as well. We also trained as natural skin care formulators and at that point we had quite a lot of interest in doing a book because the content we were producing was really bookable. You know it’s almost like recipes that are accessible. We thought at that point, two years in that we had elevated ourselves from kind of amateur experimenters to experts and professionals in that space so we were published by Penguin which is amazing and I think the team that published us totally got the concept. The fact that everyone is scrutinizing food labels and then going and then making their own bits of food from scratch. you know everyone is making their own pesto’s, sweet potato brownies, hummus. People really enjoy having control over every ingredient that they put into their food and for us it’s exactly the same message around skincare or not just skin care but beauty in general because we do face, body and hair across Clean Beauty Co and it’s just the idea that a lot of skincare of beauty products aren’t customized. You tend to get one formulations, even for brands who have good ethics, it’s difficult to get any sort of customization when it comes to beauty but as you all know we’ve got all so many nuances in our skin and our hair that you’d have to combine 30 different products to get like..
Raquel: Yeah and every day your skin’s different.
Elsie/Dominik: Exactly so it doesn’t even make sense to invest in all of those products if you know most of the time your skin is like this but every other day it’s like this. So the idea behind in making your own skin care from beauty products with food is it’s always fresh. You can make small quantities of it and use it that time, depending on what your skin need that day and the next day the kitchen is kind of open to be adapted. That concept is kind of a core pillar of Clean Beauty Co and to a certain extent we’ve tried to incorporate it into BYBI, this idea of bespokness and customization but as said it’s really difficult to do that on any sort of scale. We kind of talk about it and encourage people to do it with our products. We encourage them to mix certain things with food based ingredients or just not buy things like masks or things that you can so easily make in your kitchen. The two brands work really nicely side by side but definitely the book was kind of the end of that journey and I guess the start of the BYBI journey. We really had a good understanding of what the market needed at that point.
Yeah it’s amazing being published authors, it’s just the coolest thing ever.
Raquel: That is amazing. I guess the book kind of gave you validation that what you’ve been doing or working towards for the last couple of years is something that people want to know more about and why BYBI was born like you said. I follow Clean Beauty Co, what would you say are your favourite posts on Clean Beauty Co?
Elsie/Dominik: So the recipes do really well and we run two businesses basically which is tough so when we don’t post enough we’re really conscious of that and as we grow out the BYBI the plan is really upping the Clean Beauty Co content because that’s where we started but recipes do really well. So we just got one up today, a green tea body scrub so yeah I think that’s where people recognize as where we kind of came from and where we started. Then we review other brands as well, that’s still kind of a big part of what we do because despite the fact that we have our own skin care range Clean Beauty Co came first and it was a platform where we could kind of gain some trust and I think part of that means we’re not just a sales platform for BYBI, our audience is there to kind of learn from us and learn from our natural journey and that includes every other wonderful brand that we find even if they are a competitor of BYBI. So we do a lot of reviews naturally clean makeup is quite popular because I think it’s quite scarce and whenever we’ve reviewed like a new mascara people want to know.
Raquel: Mascara is one of the hardest ones I think to get right. So tell us a little bit more about BYBI skincare, what are the products you guys carry and what are the most popular ones?
Elsie/Dominik: So we launched BYBI with Babe Balm which is our multipurpose beauty balm. It was our first product and it was a great first product to launch with because it literally does everything but clean your house . You can literally put it in your handbag and use it for anything. So lips, you know smooth over eyebrows, makeup removers, face moisturizer, body moisturizer. It’s kind of a nod to a 8 hour cream. That’s really been a hero product for us. I guess it embodies everything we try to do with BYBI which is not only formulate naturally, so that’s definitely one of our popular formulated with vegan ingredients only. For example in Babe Balm we don’t use any beeswax or any animal derived ingredients. I guess innovation is what we strive for as well and I think that Babe Balm, for example a lot of natural balms are quite dense, strong in colour, they feel quite heavy on the skin and then normally are in a jar and we just try to turn it on its head and make a really high performance balm that from a formulation standpoint was innovative and high performance and had really great actives and had a great story around it but then affordable and the price point is really reasonable. Those are kind of the core pillars of BYBI generally and I think Babe Balm embodies a lot of those in terms of products. Then further out we have an antipollution face mask, we have an hyaluronic acid face mist, we have an active concentrate rejuvenating serum and then we have two lip products Plumper and Buffer, lip scrub and lip balm. Then we have Prime Time which is our exfoliating face scrub. We are looking at the moment to bring out a couple more face masks and some cleansers as well this year so that kind of completes our core skin care range and then next year we’re going to get really exciting hopefully.
Raquel: Can we talk about where you see yourselves in the next few years, what are the plans for BYBI?
Elsie/Dominik: So this year the focus is rolling out internationally with our existing product and a couple new skews, so the mask that Dominik mentioned and internationally were focusing on Europe and probably Asia Pacific with a key distributor so that’s due to launch in September. Then the plan for next year is the US, the US takeover we are coming.
Raquel: (Laughter) British Invasion coming
Elise/Dominik: I think that with BYBI there are quite a lot of natural brands, particular in the US, I mean you guys are spoilt for choice in way but in the UK and to an extent internationally as well there’s a real gap in the market for what we do which is definitely skin care that works, that has really strong efficacy around it, that has the really strong ethics but is mainstream and can be accessed to all audiences and it’s not a price point that excludes the younger generation as well which is really important for us because actually we feel it’s that younger generation that does really value those ethics. Environmental as well, you know we use sugar cane for our tube packaging, it’s biodegradable, we use glass you know we have really strong ethics as you peel back the layers of BYBI all around environmental sustainability. I think that message really resonates with a millennial or younger audience. But then you find that they’re often passed out so we make sure they’re really assessable and price is a huge focus to us to make sure that we still maintain the efficacy but we don’t over price our products. So I think in terms of that arena there’s actually not to many players and it means that we can definitely make good skincare that has these good ethics and mainstream and scale it really globally and that’s what we’re really excited about. Because there are so many just bad practises and not necessarily with the customer in mind and we really want to do that and make sure that yes sustainability and particularly packaging is scalable and that starts to change in beauty as well.
I was just going to add in another thing that we’re doing as well is rolling out new product development, we’re actually tweaking our existing range. We work with fairly small runs of products which gives us huge flexibility in being able to change each of our skews. So what we do is collect all the feedback that we had across each of the skews and then when we’re at the end of the run and due to renew it we then look for any correlations of trends across the feedback that we’ve gathered and if there’s anything kind of screaming, smell, texture, packing, colour, anything like that that we can see has been a real big bug bear for a few of our customers we’ll tweak it and change it. So yeah constantly changing and that’s actually quite unusual in beauty. You know what tends to happen, huge corporations will produce millions of millions of millions of one skew and once it’s out there it’s out there and if it doesn’t work they just pull it. They don’t work to improve it at all, there’s very little evolution of a beauty product. You know you just look at something like a great lash mascara or L’Oreal Elnette, I mean it’s been on the market for so long. You know maybe it does the job but for us we want to continue developing, continue listening to the customer, it’s really important to us. So Babe Balm will be the first example of that. We’re now sold out of the smaller size of our Babe Balm so the new one lands with us in July and it’s got an improved smell and an improved texture and we’re so excited about it and that’s all because our customer has told us, it’s the customer that’s made Babe Balm basically.
Raquel: You know I think you guys are right about that. Obviously coming from the states there’s not a lack of a beauty serum but I think that where I see your brand is it’s affordable, it’s one of the only brands that are affordable for everyday use and it’s minimalistic still. It’s very light and interchangeable. like you can use different products at the same time. The branding is on point for a millennial as well so I obviously see where you guys are going with this and I think it’s honestly great idea and I love all the marketing you guys are doing, so you’re rocking it by the way. I don’t need to tell you that so awesome job.
As you guys have obviously and you’re constantly pivoting as you said like when you find new data about your customer which is honestly I agree a lot of brands struggle with because they don’t know how to test things out and change things on a short time span and also on a budget. So is there any advise you would give to a brand starting out, anything you would have done differently?
Elsie/Dominique: Um well there’s lots of things that we would have done differently but I think the overarching piece of advise we tend to give brands that are in the launch phase is just get something out there. Like perfection is a killer when you’re trying to launch a brand because essentially it will never be perfect and I think constantly analyzing. I think it’s just really important if you’ve got a decent product, get it out there, start collecting feedback . If you’ve identified a really strong USP, definitely shout about that and also don’t delay in launching because it tends to be that if you’ve got a good USP somebody else has thought of it too. So many brands pop up and none directly say okay they’re after our space but I mean you just can’t sit still. I think we launched probably before we were ready but it was absolutely incredible in terms of when we did have great products it set us up to scale really quickly as well. So we already had retailers in the pipeline, you know people already knew the brand before we really even had anything to go to market with.
Yeah and I’d add to that as founders, or founder, I would strongly recommend putting yourself out there as the face of your brand and really leveraging that. I think it’s slightly different for us because we do have Clean Beauty Co to do that but if we didn’t we would still be outwardly the faces of BYBI Beauty and I think what that means is the customer is kind of able to relate to you, resonate with you, watch your journey and it builds up that level of authenticity and trust and I think watching a lot of the indie beauty brands, not just in the natural space, you know there’s a ton of indie beauty brands that are really interesting at the moment and most of the time their founds is really present in the brand story which we haven’t had that since Estee Lauder was running Lauder you know. It’s that something that really got lost over the past 30-40 years in beauty, it’s something that kind of back now. I think as a founder if you can feel comfortable as the face of your business you know going for speaking opportunities, networking opportunities, doing things like Instagram Live and stuff I would just say that that would give you an edge because the customer can relate to you and it gives you a level of humanity to your brand as well which I just think is helping indie brands win at the moment.
Raquel: Yeah, no I agree. Face behind the name, I mean they want something they can resonate with. I obviously see your guys face everywhere but one place I always see your face is on Virgin Start Up, congrats by the way.
Elsie/Dominik: (Laughter) We love watching Start Up by the way.
Raquel: Yeah awesome job. So obviously funding is a huge issue for beauty brands, around clean beauty brands. Any advice for someone who’s trying to seek funding? What do you think worked for you? What would you have done differently?
Elsie/Dominik: So I think something like the Virgins Start Up Loan is a really good place to start. So I don’t know where all your listeners are based but if they’re outside of the UK I’m sure the internationally most countries will have something in place. But Virgin Start Up Loan, the Start Up Loan is basically a very low rate loan that is awarded to start ups in very early stages, they have to be in the first two years of business and Virgin have kind of backed the initiative and as part of the Virgin one you also get kind of mentor and they kind of coach you through some business plans, you know putting together your business plan. It’s a small amount in the grand scheme of things, we were awards £25000 per person, so per founder but it’s enough to get you off the ground at that point without giving away any equity in your business before you’ve even started. So I’d recommend if you’re at that very early stage looking into government backed business loans in your country and just seeing what’s available because it is kind of a nice way to start you off without having to go straight into the world of equity funding. But when you do go into the world of equity funding it’s exhausting.
It’s tough, it’s difficult for people to invest in early stage start ups because they are super risky and I think it’s important to make sure that you meet with people face to face and talk them through your idea and vision and they want to know where the brand is going and what’s the potential end goal. You know what’s best case scenario and what does that look like and luckily for beauty that is a really strong proposition, it typically means quick returns and early exits and you know really exciting things going on in terms of acquisition and beauty. But it is really tough because the competition is really fierce, there are a lot of brands launching so you have to make your narrative and your opportunity really compelling for an investor. I mean we found a lot of success through kind of extended networks so ex-colleagues, friends of friends, family friends, people that tend to know us either on a professional or a personal level because the immediately they have a sense of your work ethic and how driven you are and also how far you’ve come in a short period of time. You know Investors don’t always tend to appreciate the hard work that goes into launching a brand whereas someone’s seen you do it day in day out and seen the struggles and successes they tend to be more empathetic or have more admiration for you. So I would say the best thing to do is just reach out to your own network and your extended network and you’d be surprised and people willing to just throw a bit of a pun, you know a 10 or 20K investment because you know they’ve just sold a house or just got a nice tax return or you know just something like that were they’ve just come into money and investing in start ups is actually not easy for private individuals unless you’re plugged into a high net worth network. So people who have sizeable money that they’re willing to invest and that’s kind of an exclusive network and saying where we’re trying to get in, sometimes smaller investors are also trying to get in and it’s not that easy if you don’t have big cheque sizes. So if you’re doing an early seed or pre-seed, you know friends and family and internal network is definitely the best place to start. And we have a platform here in the UK called Seedlegals and we have wonderful schemes in the UK which gives tax benefits to early stage investors. So the UK is particularly set up for that process of bringing in friends and family into the early stage investment rounds. Then there’s always institutions, BC’s that are looking for the next big thing. They tend to be a little bit more idealistic, they tend to be looking for like a unicorn, a billion dollar business in two years, a Google of Facebook.
And valuations tend to be a bit stickier with BC’s because they have so many businesses that they’re looking at all the time. So they all have a really good sense of valuation in the market which doesn’t always work in your favour. I think we haven’t taken institutional money yet, we’re thinking about it for this round but ideally private individuals will always be the preference because they tend to give you the money and kind of let you do your thing because also they’re investing in you and not necessarily your business at that stage. Obviously a few years down the line when we start to take bigger cheque sizes it will definitely be about the business but right now we’re still very early stage and I imagine a lot of people are, there’s only a few business that are really at the next level in the indie scene. So yeah I think network and also I think leveraging things like grants, in the US I’m sure you have grants and councils and stuff that support small businesses, particularly women in business. In the UK you can get all sorts of tax relief for product development and research. You know there’s so much you can do once you start to get a bit clever around funding as well so hold on to your equity, don’t give it away particularly if you think your business is going to be worth a lot of money one day because that’s when ultimately you’ll reap the rewards for all your hard work. You don’t want to giveaway loads in early stage just for like not even that much money.
Raquel: Yeah and it’s not that much money, you’re right if you have a few friends and family.
Elsie/Dominik: And it’s more scrappy that way but I mean it’s worth it if you can hold onto that equity so something like a loan can be a bit of a juggling act, sometimes you have to do a lot of groundwork to get funding in that way but it’s worth it if you can because you don’t have to give away any equity.
Raquel: Actually a lot of feedback I get for people looking for funding in the beauty business is that there is not a lot of people familiar with beauty. A lot of times they’re pitching to guys, who if they’re maybe angel investors or maybe they work with the BC but are not familiar with the beauty space, did you kind of find that as well?
Elsie/Dominik: Yeah, I think yep. It’s a well sought after industry, there is a lot of activity going on in this space and a lot of investors wanting to get in on the space as well which means as a beauty brand we’re kind of hot property. Pretty much every entry that’s been made, the investor will be willing to meet, you know, we don’t find it hard to get our foot in the door because investors are kind of squabbling over the indie beauty brand because they want to invest in the next Glossier. So yes, but what that means is when you then get to the table actually yes they don’t understand or aren’t kind of familiar with the industry as a whole and then there’s also the added thing of typically if it is heavily weighted towards males then they’re not necessarily you’re target audience. So there’s definitely a harder job to do. Then I think there’s a slightly harder job for us being a natural beauty brand because for anyone that that doesn’t resonate with, for anybody that vegan, cruelty free doesn’t resonate with, they kind of don’t get it. They don’t really get why people would want a natural cruelty free. Different sort of challenges pitching towards like a non beauty consumer and then a non vegan, non natural and in those instances and in those scenarios it’s all about highlighting the opportunity, highlighting the numbers and the growth and really looking at it from a business point of view rather than spending too much time on the product I guess because the product isn’t necessarily what they will connect with. They will connect with the business side of things more. So yeah that would be kind of the advise that we would give. But because it is such an active industry, more and more you walk into meetings now and investors are pretty okay now with what’s going on in the market because there is just so much going on.
Raquel: Wow, I’m excited to see where you guys go. Already like I was just telling you earlier, just a year ago you guys were obviously had just launched BYBI Beauty, it was just such early days, it’s just so exciting to see you guys internationalizing your products, moving to the US, larger product development.
So what are the next steps for Clean Beauty Co and BYBI, is Clean Beauty Co going to kind of take a back seat as you BYBI on?
Elsie/Dominik: I think Clean Beauty Co will be great to continue to use as documentation of like our personal journey so we definitely will keep updating it and putting loads of effort into that platform because it give us a real insight into the industry as well. People are really willing to share and give their honest opinions because it’s such a safe and unbiased environment. But I think even from a personal perspective it is such a great documentation of our journey and we wouldn’t necessarily want to miss out on a chapter. Particularly from a business perspective, we’ve both not run a business before but we’re learning all the time and we really want to share that with our audience I think it’s such a great time to be a female entrepreneur and the barrier to entry to starting your own business is starting to get lower and lower so we want to really provide as much information so people feel comfortable in that space. So Clean Beauty Co is definitely going to keep ticking along. We’ll try to write another book at some point when we’ve got something to say. And we really want to get the events up and running again in a more systematic way because the events we enjoy them so much and they’re just time consuming for us, particularly when we’re trying to do something like fundraising it’s quite challenging but as soon as our diaries are a bit free we’re definitely going to get those back up and running.
And then for BYBI, just about growth you know new product development. Making sure the products are the best that they can be at all times and constantly improving and taking a step back, analyzing, looking at what we’ve done and then moving forward. And as I said just making sure that message of our natural, vegan, cruelty free and just that eco message is accessible to everyone and not just available to those who can spend a hundred pounds on serum. It should actually be a really accessible way to do beauty so that’s our target with BYBI for sure.
Raquel: Awesome, so excited for you guys, And so how can people get a hold of your products?
Elsie/Dominik: So BYBI.com is our website but if you want to buy them in a shop then you can go to Urban Outfitters internationally. You can pop to Oliver Bonas in the UK, Anthropology in the UK. You can go to Credo or Riley Rose in the US or you can go to ASOS which ships worldwide everywhere.
Raquel: Awesome well thank you guys so much for coming on the Clean Chat it’s been honestly a pleasure, I hope to have you guys on again soon and that’s it for today. Viva clean beauty.
Thanks for listening to the Clean Chat today. If you’re a clean beauty founder don’t forget to sign up to our free resources hub at Thecleanhub.com. Have a fab day everyone and viva clean beauty.