I’ve been using natural British skincare brand Balance Me for a few weeks now. The Super Moisturising hand cream is fantastic for dry old crone’s hands like mine, the Super Moisturising body oil smells ridiculously divine and the Wonder eye cream sounds wonderful with its promises to smooth, brighten and lift tired eyes. Founded by sisters Clare and Rebecca Hopkins, the company celebrates its 10th year this year and is renowned for its range of 98.8% natural products (i.e. no paragons, sulphates, artificial fragrances etc), which not only smell great, but also work like a dream. With a decade of business under the belts, we wanted to ask them how they set about creating an award-winning company from scratch and what it feels like to work with a sibling…
When did you first come up with the idea for Balance Me?
Clare: We founded Balance Me in 2005. We’d previously left our respective corporate careers behind and retrained in the holistic field in the search for a better work-life balance. We were making products in our kitchen to use at some holistic events we were running, when Topshop approached us to purchase 200 of our Skin Brightening Body Polishes for their VIPs. This led to a pop up shop in their Oxford Street store and it was here that our third partner, aromatherapist and retail expert Sian Jones joined us, and Balance Me was born.
What were you doing before you launched Balance Me?
Rebecca: I was working in communications for L’Oreal and had experience in both their London and Paris head offices. This gave me a great insight as to how beauty businesses were run on nationally and globally, and also great contacts that I could then use to support Balance Me. Clare was working within Management Consultancy and her expertise within this field really helps us with the financial and operational side of our business.
Is this the first business idea you’ve come up with or were there others before?
Rebecca: Balance Me actually grew from our first business venture, “Balance Being”. After we left our respective corporate careers we retrained in reflexology and yoga, and we wanted to address wellbeing in the workplace. We created relaxed events evenings and would always give away a sample with each treatment we gave, such as our Super Toning Body Oil which Clare created when she was 18, or our Skin Bright Exfoliating Body Polish which was how it ended up in the hands of Topshop and led to the birth of Balance Me.
How did you go about turning an idea into actual useable products?
Clare: We wanted to create products that we would be happy to use on our own skin, and also the skin of our own young families that gave fantastic results and skin benefits. I studied aromatherapy and the power of essential oils whilst at university, where I developed a passion for mixing ingredients and creating beautiful, aromatherapy inspired products that give benefits to both the body and mind. In the early days we tested our products on our family and friends who always gave us very honest feedback to allow ourselves to push our products to the very best they could be and we spent hours hand-filling product into bottles and pots we had individually branded. As our brand grew awe began expanding our testers to an official panel and we seek advice from industry insiders, influencers and key market trends so that all of our products push the boundaries of natural beauty.
How long did it take between having the idea for Balance Me and actually launching the brand?
Rebecca: Within a year from this initial approach from Topshop we launched Balance Me. We seized the opportunity and sourced British manufacturers to help us create our capsule collection and bring our idea to life. Our third business partner Sian joined us and brought a wealth of aromatherapy and retail expertise to the brand, and within this first year we were excitedly selling throughout the UK and had a distributor in Denmark.
How do you juggle work with family life?
Rebecca: One of the pleasures of running your own business is that you can be your own boss. The reason we left our corporate careers behind was to find a better work-life balance, and as we all have children under the age of twelve, we really understand the importance of maintaining this balance. Both Clare and I have scooters which help us to whizz around London to drop our children off at school and still be in the office before 9.30am for a full day of work. We have learnt over the years how to be time efficient during the day, so that when we go home we can switch off and relax with our families, so that we don’t miss any precious memories of the children growing up! We have always been empowered by our own mother to be working mothers, and we have found a balance which means that we can be successful working women and raise a loving family at the same time, which is very fulfilling!
Were you ever worried about working with a sibling?
Clare: Never! We grew up very closely together so there is a real trust between myself and Rebecca, plus we share the same values which is hugely important when working so closely with anyone. We have very different skills and experience so we are used to approaching one another in order to create the best possible solutions for the brand.
Do you find it hard not to talk about work when you’re together at weekends?
Clare: Work can come up occasionally. However, we both have such busy family lives that once we leave the office home-time takes over, which we see as a huge positive! Our children aren’t that different in age and they always keep us busy with their games, stories and hobbies! We think that it is important to remember that the weekends are the two days of the week that you can completely dedicate yourself to family time. We remind ourselves that we can discuss our ideas together on Monday morning rather than Saturday, and sometimes this extra head space helps the idea to grow in your mind anyway into something even better!
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Rebecca: Being your own boss and being in charge of your own destiny! We both find this greatly exciting and rewarding.
What’s the worst thing about running your own business?
Rebecca: I don’t think there is one!
What advice do you have for people dreaming of launching their own business?
Rebecca: Make sure that your dream can be turned into a commercial reality. If not, then it is best to keep it as a hobby, which isn’t a bad thing at all.