Marie August’s skincare business is a classic Kiwi success story of hard work, persistence and a desire to shine in a crowded marketplace. Glenn Baker has her story.
It was a long and winding road that led Marie August to her true calling in life. After college, her career pathway took her first to a dispensary technician’s qualification, then to London at age 19 where she worked in hospitality and administration, before returning to New Zealand to begin a 20-year career in recruitment, which culminated in heading up external recruitment for Chartered Accountants Australia NZ (CAANZ).
The genesis for breaking into the skincare industry came after having her second child and noticing a deterioration in her skin quality.
“I had spent thousands of dollars on numerous clinic-only skincare ranges and nothing seemed to make any improvements,” recalls Marie. “I also realised how harsh some of the preservative systems were.
“I decided to make my own moisturiser based on natural healing ingredients. I was formulating and trialling this when I worked at CAANZ and many of my colleagues wanted to try what had improved my skin.”
Marie quickly realised that she had a product that people wanted to buy, so she made the big call to leave her corporate career and establish a skincare range.
Little did she realise that it would take more than five years of development and self-financing to have Juvenate ready for clinic stockists and to start making a profit from all her endeavours. She attributes this to the complex formulations.
“I formulated Juvenate myself and actually started out in my kitchen, with many failed attempts and just enough glints of breakthroughs,” says Marie. “When I had the formula to a point where I was ready to take the range to the next level, I then outsourced the manufacturing. We work closely with an excellent cosmetic chemist and contract manufacturer who help to enhance the formulations I create.”
Marie explains how the active ingredients chosen provide Juvenate’s unique point of difference. “We use the strictest of protocols, selecting actives which must jump through many hoops before being incorporated into our formulas.
“Every ingredient is researched and tested not only for its individual quality and impact, but also for how well it combines with other ingredients.”
She says people shouldn’t over-spend on multiple products to achieve different results.
“That’s why each of our products has multiple effects in one. And we only use clean, pure formulations with ingredients that do no harm to body or environment, while never compromising on results.”
Juvenate’s growth has been strong and steady – although, not surprisingly, Covid hasn’t helped. As of January 2022, clinic stockist numbers stood at 55, with the highest number of clinics using her products in the Bay of Plenty region. Marie puts this down to the “high-level standard” of beauty clinics in the Bay, which are geographically well distanced from each other.
“We are very selective as to where our clinics are located to protect customer loyalty,” she says. “And we are only now able to penetrate into Auckland, due to Covid.”
Looking back, Marie says she was fortunate to have the brand accepted by some of the country’s leading clinics when they first went to market. “They recognised our strong points of difference – namely being results focused and a Kiwi brand. Customers want a New Zealand clinic-only skincare range and most of our competitors are offshore brands.
“Our cut-through came into play when we raised awareness around our unique approach to skincare and leveraged from our well-respected clinic-owner testimonials,” she explains. “It’s one thing to market skincare to the end-user, but a harder ballgame to win-over beauty industry experts.”
Marie says with Juvenate quickly becoming customers’ No.1 skincare range, the brand has gained an enviable reputation in the industry, helping to onboard new stockists in what is a very competitive market.
Business mentoring has also had an important role to play in growing Marie’s business.
“Wellington NZ was instrumental in connecting me with my current mentor who has been hugely beneficial. I have also been extremely fortunate to report directly to some very astute and wonderful businesswomen throughout my career, which has helped me get ahead in this very competitive industry.”
Juvenate skincare products are not sold online, so the question is: how were sales impacted by the pandemic?
Marie says importing ingredients and packaging soon became a logistical nightmare. “Not only have supplier shortages been a major problem due to covid’s impact on staffing, but there have also been freight and shipping issues in getting ingredients to these shores,” she says.
Nevertheless, there are ambitious new product development plans in place to grow the Juvenate range.
“We will remain a small boutique offering compared to some of the larger brands out there,” says Marie. “Australia will be the next market we target, once our trans-Tasman neighbours become more accessible.”
So, while covid has added a new level of frustration for entrepreneurs like Marie, she’s not letting it slow her down.
“If you have a product that works, everything is worth it. And consumers deserve to have access to products which match or exceed expectations.”
Glenn Baker is editor of NZBusiness.
Marie August: Lessons learnt
- Passion is what keeps us going but persistence is what gets us over the line.
- Never give up and don’t listen to the naysayers.
- Honesty and integrity are paramount.
- Always create, never copy.