I’ve always had a passion for supporting local entrepreneurs. From buying dish clothes from a lady at a market, to supporting local venders, I do believe that local is lekker. I have a new found interest in learning more about female CEO’s since I recently left the corporate world to make it’s a Sher thing, a real thing!
I met up with local entrepreneur Jesslyn Schlamm, who started natural skincare brand Lulu & Marula.
See her Q&A below:
You look a leap of faith and left your corporate job to start your own company, tell us a little bit more about that?
Leaving a job with a dependable paycheck for something that held no guarantees is never an easy decision, but I was lucky enough that I was able to do it gradually. For the first 2 years of the business I continued to work full time, running Lulu & Marula in my lunch hour and after work, often late into the early hours. I didn’t know what a weekend was! When the business got to a reliable point financially, I managed to reduce my hours at my full-time job to give me more time to work on Lulu & Marula. Luckily I had a great boss that trusted and believed in me. Fast forward another year and I left the corporate world completely. I did everything at a pace that I was (relatively) comfortable with.
What do you consider to be the personal strengths that have helped you achieve who and where you are today?
Oh gosh. I’m never great at talking about my strengths, but I guess I would have to say my advertising background really helped to get Lulu & Marula as a brand to where it is now. It has really helped with the aesthetic and communication around the brand.
What inspired you to create Lulu & Marula and when did you launch?
Lulu & Marula started quite organically, I didn’t initially set out to start a business. I had been making my own skincare products for years, taking cue from my mother who often makes her own soaps and body butters in her kitchen. I had always struggled with my skin, which was often hormonal and temperamental, so on my search for something that worked for me, I came across the use of oils and balms to treat a whole bunch of different skin concerns, including unbalanced, blemish-prone skin. This method hadn’t quite reached South Africa yet, so I started mixing my own formulations. My skin loved it, and soon I had friends and family placing orders for anything from a hand balm to a face oil. Lulu & Marula was born. This was in 2013.
Where did the brand name come from?
Lulu is my childhood dog, and Marula comes from the key ingredient that we use throughout our entire product range.
What would you say is the biggest challenge you have encountered about breaking into the skincare industry?
Being a small business with the budgets that go along with that, it’s tough to stand out among the clutter in a way that creates enough trust for people to take the plunge and actually want to buy our products. Then as we grow and begin formulating with more specialised ingredients, minimum order quantity requirements and cash flow also becomes a struggle. They are all challenges that are part of being a small business, but there are a lot of upsides too!
What do you feel has been the greatest satisfaction about being an entrepreneur so far?
Getting amazing feedback and support from customers is always an incredible feeling. It really makes things feel all worthwhile.
Are your products safe to use on skin that suffers from excema or psoriasas?
Absolutely. We have a lot of clients who struggle with sensitivities that come from eczema or psoriasis, and who have found relief with our products. Being 100% plant derived with no irritating synthetics or fragrances means that our products are ideal for sensitive skins. That doesn’t mean they lack efficacy, either. Natural ingredients and formulations can deliver powerful results.
Where would you like to be in the skincare industry five years from now?
We’ve just launched our Lulu & Marula Professionals range along with full treatment protocols for spas and salons. We’re currently implementing our range and treatments in a few select salons, but we’d love to be in more spas and salons around South Africa and Africa, along with a cult customer base.
What’s the difference between your professional and at home range?
Our professional range provides clients with an experience they can’t get at home. The treatments, such as our Enzyme Mask Treatment, are generally a stronger professional use grade. We also have a few additional products that are used in the treatment which clients can’t purchase to take home, such as our Soothing Marine Mask, which is a peel-off alginate mask that balances, firms and cools the skin after their Enzyme Treatment. We have also developed a set of treatment protocols in collaboration with Almarie Venter, an award winning spa and wellness consultant with impressive experience in the industry. These protocols include lymph drainage using crystal massage wands to tone the face, as well as energy cleansing treatments to balance and centre the client.
What should we expect from you next?
We’re launching an incredible marine plant based serum soon. It’s a game changer with some amazing ingredients including botanical hyaluronic acid, marine collagen and wakame extract.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Just start, don’t overthink things too much. Put out the best you can with what you have, if you get caught up in the small things it can be super overwhelming and seems a lot harder to get started.
What are your top 3 must have products from the range?
This always changes based on the season and how my skin is feeling. Right now it’s our new serum that’s about to launch, the Balancing Hydra Serum. I can’t go a day without washing my face with our Balancing Cleansing Balm, it melts away makeup and leaves my skin feeling so soft and nourished. And then our Refreshing Tonic Mist, which I use after cleansing every morning and evening. It hydrates and refreshes my skin, giving it a little extra boost of moisture, and the smell is just amazing!
What price range do your products start at?
Our facial range starts at R300 for our Refreshing Tonic Mist, and the most expensive product is R400 which is the price of our Treatment Oils. Our products last a long time though as a little goes a long way, so you can expect a Treatment Oil to last about 5 months.
If someone has a limited budget, what do they need from your range for their skincare needs?
I would suggest one of our Facial Kits. Each one includes a total skin care regime, including a cleanser, toner, mask and treatment oil. The kit will last you about 2-3 months. We have Purifying which is ideal for combination, oily and blemish-prone skin, or Nourishing for normal to dry, sensitive and mature skin.
Your range is definitely something I’ve never experienced at a spa before, tell us a little bit about what ingredients you use to create the experience a consumer receives in terms of scent and visual appeal?
We’ve created a range that touches on all the senses, focusing on scent, feel and look. It was really important to us that we create something unique that doesn’t currently exist in the local market, something that spas and salons can use to differentiate themselves. We want clients to have a totally relaxing experience, where the treatment they receive is super effective and results-driven from a visual perspective, while also addressing internal imbalances that cause stress, tension and insomnia. Basically a complete, holistic solution for ultimate wellness.
You use crystals in your work, would you like to expand on why you believe this is an important part of the treatment?
Not only do the crystals feel lovely, smooth and cooling on the skin, we use them to stimulate certain acupressure points in the face to tone and firm skin, as well as address internal imbalances linked with stress, anxiety and insomnia. We also believe that crystals can create positive, healing energies to soothe the client, as has been used in traditional therapies for centuries. Whether or not a client believes in their healing energies, the crystal massage wands we use still provide a functional benefit with the massage techniques we use them for.
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