How one man went from creating skin products at his kitchen table to a business turning over £10 million
His company sells around 1,000 beauty products around the world and he's targeting a £25m turnover by 2020
Twelve years ago Jem Skelding sat at his kitchen table mixing raw ingredients in an effort to develop a serum for damaged skin.
Now the company he created had a turnover last year of £10m, a figure Jem expects to double this year and is targeting £25m by 2020.
He has been put off by the increasing amount of products with confusing labels on shelves and wanted to create something that was completely natural and ethically sound.
Today, Naissance sells more than 1,000 different products and employs 134 staff in the UK and Germany.
And from its base in Neath, the natural health and beauty brand, distributes all over Europe, as well as the USA, South America and Australia.
'It’s been amazing to see the company grow over the last 12 years'
"Our challenge now is to continue this growth as we expand into new markets, all while maintaining our ethics and principles," he says.
The inspiration behind Naissance and Jem’s passion for natural materials and products stems from a childhood spent in Africa with his family.
"Supermarkets were few and far between, and while there was a shortage of ‘ready-made’ products, there was an abundance of natural plant materials at our disposal," he says.
"You really had to make the most of what was available and create products yourself.
"Seeing the work and effort it took for people to make a living from growing these plant materials gave me an insight into something most people don’t see."
As Jem always enjoyed growing plants and food with beneficial properties he chose to study sciences at university and completed a degree in biomedicine.
By trying his hand at numerous small ventures over the years Jem built up a lot of experience in the basics of running a business. When ecommerce began to take off, he spotted an opportunity to start an online retail business selling natural and organic plant based products with health and nutritional benefits.
"As companies grow, I think there is an assumption, and sometimes a reality, that values and ethics become less important, however this has never been an option for me.
"We are a business so we have to make sure the numbers add up, but what’s really important to us is that we focus on delivering great products to our customers without cutting any corners.
"I hope that as we grow, we can continue to support and give back to the people and communities we are working with."
The importance of the Leaping Bunny
Naissance recently added another accreditation to its name after committing to ensuring every ingredient used in the making of its products does not use any form of animal testing throughout the entire production process.
The Leaping Bunny is the only globally recognised guarantee that a brand has made a genuine commitment to ending animal testing for its products. Certified companies have to meet rigorous criteria to gain the official cruelty-free status.
"The Leaping Bunny is the most trusted and widely recognised cruelty free certification," Jem explains.
"I think by officially declaring our commitment to being cruelty free and having the Leaping Bunny Certification in place, we are showing out customers how committed we are to standing up against animal testing.
"Consumers are more savvy than ever before and it’s important to them to make positive buying decisions that benefit not only them, but also broader society and the environment."
While holding up a code of ethics is vital to Naissance, Jem believes what really sets them apart from other brands in a somewhat crowded market is their commitment to customer service in all the markets they work in.
"We are genuinely committed to dealing with customers on their own terms and we recognise that this needs to be consistent wherever we trade, not just in the UK.
"As soon as we started trading in France we employed native French speakers to make sure all our content was translated, we labelled all our products destined for France in French and we made sure our customer service number for France was a Freephone number and manned by our native French speakers. This was replicated as we entered new markets.
"Of course this requires a significant amount of resource, but I think it showed the respect we have for all our customers and has paid off."
New branding and new products
"We’ve grown significantly over the last 12 years, and much of this growth has been reflected internally, however the brand makeover has given us the opportunity to focus on who we are and what we want to achieve moving forward."
Despite Naissance’s success, Jem is clear that there is always more that can be done.
"I think what really drives me and the team is that nothing is ever the best it can be. We’re constantly on a journey to grow and improve as a brand.
"I’m incredibly proud of how far Naissance has come and the team we have built, but I’m also very aware that we can never rest on our laurels. There is always more that can be done and I believe that the brand will always be on a journey of discovering better."