How I started a $20k/mo business selling cutting-edge, science-based personal care products

Laviol skincare solution feature image
Theresa Tobin Laviol Skincare Solution founder image
Theresa Tobin
Founded: July 2014
No of employees: 3
Location: Australia

With over fifteen years’ experience in the beauty industry as a marketing and product professional, Theresa Tobin founded Laviol Skincare Solution to provide its millennial consumer base with safe, science-based personal care products. The brand’s main vision is to develop cutting-edge products based on the latest developments in skin microbiome science, with its ultimate aim to improve skin conditions and maintain healthy skin - particularly in people living in urban conditions. 

Theresa’s ambition is to grow her business and expand to new channels and geographies, all while maintaining customer satisfaction levels and an affordable price point on all products. So far the brand has seen a strong reorder rate and incredible customer loyalty (particularly through Facebook) and generates around $20,000 a month. We want to find out how she plans to keep the momentum going to expand the business further.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

My name is Theresa Tobin and I am the founder of Laviol Skincare Solution. I have over fifteen years’ experience in the beauty industry as a marketing and product professional and I am inspired by this industry. I am passionate about developing new products and brands. I am creative and always think outside the box to find creative solutions to challenges. I have recently completed the Diploma of Personal Care Formulation meaning that I am a fully qualified product formulator; this study has given me in-depth knowledge of ingredients and methods for creating personal care formulations, and it is helping me to develop more safe and effective products to solve consumers’ specific concerns. 

Being a business owner for the past 5 years, I have gained solid entrepreneurial skills and experience by overseeing many challenges and opportunities. I have successfully created brands and products that are filling a niche in the high growth probiotic skincare category. 

At Laviol Skincare Solution, we believe that product quality is the core value of the business and this is something we will never compromise on. Our R&D experts conduct in-depth ingredients research and skin science to develop products that deliver real results. 

We are located in Sydney, Australia. We have developed several product ranges and a unique brand story based on the Australian farmland and our associated brand characters. All of our product formulas have been developed using our own resources and our brand imagery, with packaging and brand resources having been developed in-house. We have built up a solid sales base in Australia and several other countries, and we are in the process of building relationships with partners to expand our offering into other countries. 

Our target audience is millennials who are looking for safe, high-efficacy, science-based personal care products. They have some basic ingredient knowledge and have a strong preference to avoid harmful chemicals, and they usually do some research before they purchase the products. Typically this audience is made up of working professionals, with a mid-to-high income.

Laviol Skincare Solution homepage image

How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Laviol Skincare Solution?

Our vision is to develop cutting-edge products based on the latest developments in skin microbiome science. From skin barrier function to epidermis cell regeneration, our products are designed to improve skin conditions and maintain healthy skin. 

Product quality is at the core of our business and will never be compromised. Our ambition is to grow our business through the development of a wider range of products and expansion to new channels and geographies, all the while maintaining customer satisfaction due to the development of products that provide real results at an affordable price. 

I have always been creative and wanted to create my own brand. Having seen other products achieve success, I realized that there was an opportunity in the market for a brand with a strong ethic and a strong brand story. I saw first-hand how many products on the market are formulated with unsafe ingredients, so I developed an interest in the use of natural and organic ingredients. Living in Australia I also had a passion for animals and the native environment, and this led me to develop our unique brand story based on the Australian farmland and animal characters.

During my research into natural and effective ingredients, I became very interested in the use of probiotics, probiotic metabolites and prebiotics. I could see that there was an opportunity for skincare products to use these ingredients if it could be done in a safe and effective way. This led to the development of the Elissah and Alfie Rabbit product ranges. These brand names come from our hero characters from the Australian farmland – Elissah the emu and Alfie the rabbit. Our master brand and company name, Laviol comes from a combination of Lavender, Violet and Olive Leaf – natural ingredients that we have featured in some of our products. We continue to innovate to include Australian native plant extracts today such as Kakadu Plum and Finger Lime Caviar.

Take us through the early stages of Laviol Skincare Solution's brand journey

I had a vision to create a family of products themed on the Australian farm and associated animals. We came up with many different potential characters and went through numerous design ideas and prototypes before settling on the final brand imagery. We wanted the products to reflect the essence of the brand – the clean air and natural living of the Australian farmland. 

By now, I had built up my R&D team as well as having a strong understanding of the products that I wanted to introduce. We went through many variations and lots of product testing before I was happy with the final products. I had already made the decision that I wanted to launch a range aimed at babies and children (Alfie Rabbit) as well as an adult range (Elissah) – it took more time to finalise the Alfie Rabbit range so that we could be sure that it was suitable for use with children.

Theresa and team from Laviola

Describe the process of launching Laviol Skincare Solution?

To launch the products we did extensive social media marketing and provided free samples via our Facebook page for an extended period. It was heartwarming to get such positive feedback on our products and a strong reorder rate from early on.

Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

We do find that attracting customers is the most challenging part of the business – our repurchase rate is very high (around 85%) and as such we are happy to provide free samples to customers. From day one we specially designed small size samples of our products in professional packaging – this investment has proven highly valuable. 

As a launch special, we even provided free shipping to customers who requested samples via Facebook and we had an overwhelming response. We still get many such requests and while we do now charge a shipping fee, which we find is still a valuable strategy. Many customers are curious about probiotics and prebiotics in skincare but are not always willing to buy sight unseen, but will willingly purchase after having tried the products.

How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?

We have developed a sustainable business in Australia mainly relying on online sales and our network of beauty clinics that champion the product to their clients. We are now re-doubling our efforts to develop export opportunities – to date this has primarily been through online sales with a number of partners, but we are also working on more significant export opportunities in a number of markets. 

Our plan is to develop a number of export markets over the coming years and also look to expand into other areas of the Australian market. Our products are designed to provide a healthier skin environment that can respond to the challenges of Urban Living with daily environmental aggressors such as pollution and dry environments due to air conditioning. We are seeing increasingly that children are prone to allergies and the skin is a barometer of this with conditions such as eczema increasing in today’s urban environment. 

Research has also shown that the prevalence of caesarean section births are contributing to the challenges that children face with regards to skin conditions. Our products help to provide a healthy, balanced skin environment where the natural defence of the skin is enhanced to where it can more readily maintain equilibrium.

What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?

The biggest challenge is around resources. While I am involved in almost all areas of the business, bringing in experts in key areas can save a lot of time and money in the long run. For me that meant investing in the R&D side of the business to ensure that all of my products were formulated to my requirements and that I kept control of all of the intellectual property associated with that.

It is also important to consider early about potential export opportunities. I looked at the markets that I was interested to expand into and ensured from very early on that I had trademarks to cover those countries.

What marketing tools do you use to run Laviol Skincare Solution?

I have used Wix to develop most of my online content and included several e-Commerce add-ons to manage my online store. The advantage of using a tool like this is that it is simple enough to do yourself and to maintain control over the content, yet it is fast and powerful enough to grow with your business. I am also a keen user of the Adobe Creative Suite which is invaluable to me developing images and videos and other content for the various online platforms. While I will use resources such as Air Tasker from time to time, being able to handle digital content is vital for me in my day to day job.

*Find full list of tools/platforms at the bottom of the page.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?

I have to admit that I do rely a lot on the internet to educate me on various facets of the business that are new to me. I also am always happy to leverage my network of contacts from the industry if I ever get stuck.

Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?

My husband for always giving me great advice

Any advice you’d like to share for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice is that always try to understand what you are trying to do before you bring in an external resource to advise you. That does not mean that external resources can’t be beneficial, they can. However in an important area of the business it is vital that as the owner of the business, you really understand what it is that you are trying to achieve and the various ways it can be done.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?

We are having some discussions at the moment with potential partners and investors. I believe that now is a good time to expand the business while the market for probiotic and prebiotic skincare is still relatively undeveloped.

I am open to new investors that understand the market and share my vision. Part of those plans will likely require the addition of key staff around business development locally and internationally.

Where can we go to learn more about your current offers/promotions/programs?

Online Business Tools that Laviol Skincare Solution uses:

TypeTool Name
AnalyticsGoogle Analytics
ShippingAus Post, TNT

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