We interview Olga Rumble, founder of British luxury skincare brand, The Rose Tree.
The Rose Tree offers customers organic skincare products made with high quality natural organic ingredients. The Rose Tree’s award winning products all have aromatherapy benefits as well as being amazing for the skin, no small achievement for a lady who had no prior experience in skincare!
We chat to Rose Tree founder, Olga Rumble, about how she started her business by accident and how she has grown it to become a well-loved, award winning, luxury brand.
Olga, can you tell us about how The Rose Tree was launched and your background prior to starting the brand?
I actually started the brand by accident. I had a real corporate job, doing project management for IT departments. After leaving my permanent role at The Yellow Pages in Reading, I was contracting in London for the likes of News International, BBC and O2.
As much as I liked the roles, the commute got the better of me and I decided I didn’t want to do this forever. I took time out and recharged my batteries. I had been feeling stressed and as a result I was suffering from eczema.
I have always been interested in aromatherapy and as one of four girls I’d always made potions to try out on my sisters. I was also fed up with using the standard recommended creams for eczema prone skin which were often ineffective and full of undesirable ingredients.
Now with some time to myself, and with irritated skin, I decided to follow this up and did some courses on soap-making and skincare. Feedback from my family and friends about how good my products were made the decision that this could become a business.
How long did it take between having the initial idea to actually trading as The Rose Tree?
It took me two years from the time I left my corporate life to launching The Rose Tree. In that time, I studied hard, went on courses and thought about the products I wanted to offer. I was interested in natural products, plants, aromatherapy and botanical ingredients. I wanted to offer products using the best ingredients possible, that would nurture the skin. I had to work with a chemist to assess my formulations as this is a legal requirement within Europe. There are a lot of health and safety processes that you have to work through when creating anything to do with skincare. Once my formulations were in place I then had to start to source my ingredients.
Can you tell us about the natural ingredients you choose and why?
I use organic ingredients from certified suppliers so that I can account for the traceability of my ingredients. Some of my favourite ingredients include rosehip oil for facial oils, and rose essential oil and rose petals for bath and shower oils. Rose is obviously significant as it features in the name of the brand and is an iconic British flower, but it’s also beautiful to use in skincare products.
I use lots of other natural butters and oils too, such as calendula infused oil for soothing irritated skin. Lots of bath products on the market won’t use these valuable ingredients in bath products, only using them in the skincare products, but I will use it in the bath oils too as I see the value in it and want to make my products as effective as they can be.
I choose to source all of my ingredients in Britain or, for things that can’t be produced here or don’t originate from the UK in their original form, from British suppliers. For example, I use UK suppliers for my rose products but a lot of the roses are actually grown in places like Turkey, where the climate is more predictable.
You make and source everything in the UK, what challenges do you face with this?
Finding suppliers to build a relationship with and that you can trust. If you google shea butter you will find that you can buy it anywhere but, what is hard to account for, is the traceability and the ethnicity of it. It’s hard to find suppliers who are happy to share that information with you. In this instance I use a supplier in the UK who sources shea butter from a women’s community project in Ghana and the supplier can provide me with specific information about the group so I can be confident in the quality of the ingredient and how ethically it has been sourced.
What are the advantages of using UK suppliers?
UK suppliers are perhaps a little bit more expensive than suppliers overseas but it matters to the brand to use UK suppliers and it allows me to have a close relationship with them offering transparency and confidence that their claims are genuine. With items like essential oils I can guarantee that they are good quality, and that the concentrate of the oil is the maximum.
I would be wary of using suppliers from outside of the UK incase the oils I receive are diluted or mixed with other ingredients. I want the purest ingredients and often use cold pressed oils that have been processed as little as possible. My UK suppliers source me ingredients that I know are pure.
How did you test the effectiveness of the products when you first started the brand?
When I started creating products I hadn’t planned on it becoming a business so they were tested on willing family and friends to start with. But, along the way, I’ve become more business savvy and have started using market research. I get feedback from customers via questionnaires, but particularly through social media.
I’ve found Facebook, Twitter and Instagram best for engaging with our customers. These social media platforms offer the chance for the brand to create a community of users and I can talk to them as a group or one to one and build a relationship with them.
Who is the main target market for The Rose Tree?
Women in their 30s and 40s, who are mums and busy career women. We’re not targeting the people that are seduced by an 18 year old model on the packaging; but those who want a good quality, effective skincare routine that will only take two minutes out of their day, but that has a therapeutic benefit as well – a little bit of luxury in a very hectic day.
Stress is the biggest complaint amongst women in the workplace in their 30s and 40s. This stress, lack of time for themselves, age and hormones can all affect skin condition. So I offer products for customers with many needs for example sensitive skin, dry skin/oily/combination skin, those prone to breakouts and also dryness.
I wrote a blog piece on the subject of stress in women which you can read here.
How do you promote your brand to this audience?
Marketing, google analytics and SEO have all been a steep learning curve but I’ve found that social media platforms definitely help with promotion and driving traffic to the website. As does the blog, and I’m blogging on a more regular basis now.
I tend not to advertise in magazines as it’s a very expensive promotion route, but I do market on the back of awards the brand has won. Awards are a great way of validating the quality of the brand.
Which single decision have you made which has had a significant benefit on the success of your brand?
I think probably to ask for help. As an entrepreneur, it can be very isolating working on your own, and no matter what you do, there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. I came from a position where I found asking for help very difficult, but now accept that to be successful and build a strong business, that means seeking help from others. I work with a mentor who has proved invaluable (and kept me sane). I work with a DIT advisor who is helping with our international expansion, and a number of different marketing specialists who help with our marketing strategy and SEO.
Have you made any mistakes which you have learnt from during the process?
Yes, lots of mistakes! Had I approached this endeavor as a business in the first place I’d have thought about customer demographics, products, marketing etc. in the first instance. Because of the route it’s taken, the brand has won awards without planning out these details, so perhaps I haven’t been able to utilise these successes as effectively as I may have done.
One issue I encountered was with a new supplier providing bottles, but the tops didn’t fit! It took a lot of negotiation and persuasion to rectify as the supplier had provided the bottles from existing stock and the tops from a new line. I now know that bottles and tops are ordered as separate items and do not necessary match up! But you only learn these things through experience.
What would be your key tips for someone passionate about starting their own beauty brand?
For me it’s been an amazing journey and I’m hoping this is just the beginning for The Rose Tree. My advice would be to do your homework; think what do you want to achieve; who is your customer; what they want; the products they need; the price point and where you will sell it. Create a solid business plan first as preparation beforehand is time well spent. Doing it the way I did caused unnecessary stress and hassle!
You need to be aware that the business side takes over and leaves you less time for the bits you enjoy. I thought it would be all about doing the nice bits that I love, but as an entrepreneur, especially in the beginning before you can outsource, there are so many things you need to do yourself.
What is next for The Rose Tree?
I’m exploring export opportunities with a lot of interest from beauty retailers who want a piece of British Beauty.
And I’m working on a few new products too…that’s my favourite part of the job!