Hello and welcome to the exciting new series Entrepreneurial Wisdom, which you will find in the blog twice a month.
Since starting Enovate Marketing, I wanted to ask other entrepreneurs about their own journeys, to learn from what it is like to start a company and to share their stories and wisdom with others who may be in the same path or perhaps thinking about embarking in the exciting journey of entrepreneurship.
I must thank every guest in these series for being so amazingly sweet, honest and open to share their stories together with some great nuggets of advice!
Our first guest is the wonderful Marina, the founder and mind behind organic skincare brand Marina's Ambrosia.
I have known Marina for over 3 years and I could not be happier to start these series with her story of how she has grown her company from being a home-grown business to being on her way to launch her products to the international markets.
I hope that you find her story and advice as inspiring and helpful as I have.
To begin, how and why did you decide to start Marina’s Ambrosia?
Marina’s Ambrosia started by accident when I created a completely natural cream purely out of a need to repair my own skin after acquiring a contact dermatitis, which later developed into allergic reactions due to synthetic chemicals found in the skincare I was using.
After repairing my skin and others seeing that I had in fact discovered something frightful in personal care products, people starting coming forward wanting the cream I was using myself and this is how the brand began.
Why did you decide to use your own name for your brand as opposed as creating a brand name for your products?
I decided to put my own name on the products because it was created for me. It was a personal cream for no one else but me. I was in a way forced to share it around and it gave me such an incredible boost of joy to see that it was also working for others who were suffering the way I was. The ingredients which make the cream are from food, cocoa butter, Rose Hip oil, coconut nut oil, they are all food ingredients and Ambrosia is a word from the ancient Mediterranean meaning Food Of The Gods.... The name Marina’s Ambrosia fit perfectly because it was MY SKINFOOD for YOU.
What were the biggest struggles with starting your own independent business?
The biggest struggle for me in the beginning was keeping my customer base small. That sounds absurd to many people starting out in business. During the time of the conception of the brand, there was only 1 product and it was the Raw Organic All Over cream, which was then formulated to the Primrose Moisturiser. This was the product I first developed.
During this time I was setting up house and having children as this was my first priority and I didn’t want anything to distract me from what was most important in my life. I had customers telling other people and the orders came through hard and fast in the first year and I had to tell customers to keep it a secret. Then another realization was that I had to look at was, the customer demand. Customers were demanding the Primrose Moisturizer, more than my services as a practising Naturopath. Expanding the product range was another obstacle which required a lot of time researching and experimenting. For the business, the client base and demand was there, it was all about filling in the gaps and to make it a real business.
What have been the greatest joys so far?
The greatest joys so far have been the stories from customers. Seeing a customer come through the door presenting very upset skin and then coming back in a week or two with clear happy skin just releases in me happy fireworks.
About 2 years ago our logo changed and that was hard for me to come to terms with as I had to let go of what was so familiar to me and give the brand an international look. Just recently we are giving the skincare a new look packaging which we designed and have had manufactured and customers love the new look.
What do you look for when looking for people to employ or work with?
Trust is the most important thing for me when I look for someone to work with in the M.A business. There is an emotional attachment for me as there is a story behind each product in the brand. I love hearing new creative ideas and different ways of doing things, but at the end of the day everything we do has to be in line with the ethics behind the brand.
How do you balance your work with your family life?
It is always tricky when it comes to family life and I have from the very beginning put my family first before the Brand. Sometimes it gets difficult when something needs to be done during family time. Ultimately I make a point of not going online before 8.30am and I continue to be available online till 3pm. After this time, emails are not checked, but phone calls continue to be answered. All orders on the phone are not actioned till the next day unless it’s a pickup and that is fine, but mostly everything happens onlline and general walk-in customers happens during school time. I love that I can stop working when I want and resume when it suits and customers are very understanding.
What would be your ultimate project or client?
My ultimate client would be points of distribution in different countries. We export a lot of retail sales to customers purchasing online and mainly through email, it would be wonderful to secure more distributors in Europe, US and New Zealand.
As a company, how do you stay in the know about how to attract more of your potential clients?
I try to keep my fingers on the pulse as to what other new chemicals are finding their way into skincare and telling people about them. Everything starts with education and so you need to peak the interest of customers as to what is out there so that they too can pass the message on. I also like to see what other new products are coming out onto the market and if it is possible, whatever is seen as very popular, try to re-create the product using plant or mineral ingredients so that there is a safe alternative to that product. Ultimately the main aim is to keep our products exceptional with top quality ingredients and remaining consistent with our pricing and being affordable.
This in turn, maintains customer retention and builds trust with new customers contemplating using our products. Our priorities are the quality of the products we sell, customer satisfaction, service, stock reliability and then sales, always in that order.
What channels do you use to sell your products and which one is more effective for you?
Online channels are the best areas to sell products and this is perfect for Marina’s Ambrosia, trailing very closely behind are the free product classes that we do. I basically go to homes or workplaces and give a presentation on all the products and give vital information about the ingredients and blend formulation of the brand. In turn, customers take that information away and then research it and tell others and these results in excellent sales. But the most important thing for me is that people that are making a purchase, want to purchase and then enjoy the products they are using, this typically results in repeat business.
What trends are you noticing in Western Australia right now for your particular industry?
There is a big push at the moment for natural products and I am finding new brands coming on the scene and some are lasting more than others. New handmade skincare brands come in and then within 5 years they are gone. The trend is that everyone has a great idea for a cream, but the push sell doesn’t last long. Everyone is looking for a natural alternative and something that is affordable and is going to suit their skin.
What book would you recommend to any new entrepreneur?
I have tried many times to read books about people whom have started their own businesses and I can say that what has worked for one person, hasn’t worked for others. Gut instinct and talking face to face with someone who has been there, done that and not selling you advice, is what I strongly recommend.
You must have learnt a huge deal about starting a business since starting Marina’s Ambrosia. What advice would you give anyone thinking about starting their own business or to those who have just started?
Great question...... firstly you need to be passionate about something. Start small and start for yourself, look at what is already out there similar to what you have in mind, be different and follow your gut instincts.
Any exciting near future plans for the company?
We have recently released a new product called the XtravaLASH which is a fiber lash extending mascara made from Olive oil and Green Tea. This product is something very new and very different to what is already out there in the market. Our packaging change is also something that we should hopefully complete by the end of the year with all the skincare products which need repackaging and labelling. This is taking up a lot of time, but it will all be worth it in the end.
If you wish to be featured in these series, I'd love to hear from you. Please get in touch HERE.