Pure Halal Beauty: Rose Brown
The young entrepreneur on leaving university to fulfil her business dreams – and why she hasn't looked back
Company name: Pure Halal Beauty (PHB)
Founder: Rose Brown
Staff numbers: One (plus an apprentice)
Date started: December 2010
Tell us what your business does:
Pure Halal Beauty (PHB) is a pioneering natural cosmetics company, which combines the power of nature with cutting-edge skincare formulations.
I have just launched my own range of beauty products, which is handmade in the UK using organic ingredients, and presented in luxurious, eco-friendly packaging. The products are free from alcohol, animal ingredients and harsh chemicals and they are never tested on animals.
Halal certification and Vegan Society registration supports this ethical ethos.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
As a vegetarian, I was horrified by the ingredients in many high street cosmetics. Animal fats are regularly used in creams and make-up, as are crushed beetles and pigs' placenta.
It is quite difficult to tell where certain ingredients are sourced, so I was determined to set up a business that used natural and organic products; as well as offering certain assurances to the customer.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I knew from my personal frustrations that there was demand that was not being catered for. In Islam ‘halal' means ‘permissible', and when applied to beauty products it requires that they contain no alcohol, animal ingredients or animal testing.
My unique selling point is the halal certification and my store is the first of its kind in the UK, selling solely halal-certified products. Because of the stringent certification process, my products are also suitable for vegetarians and for people with sensitive skin, as they don't contain harsh alcohol.
At first I thought that my business would be quite niche but it is actually a very broad and inclusive market. My company motto is: ‘Where beauty & belief co-exist.'
What were you doing before starting up?
I've always had an interest in beauty and fashion and in summer 2010 started to research natural and ethical beauty. That's when I came across halal products.
I've only just turned 21 and was in my second year of a media degree when I set up the business. I initially put my studies on hold to see how things would go and have been amazed by the positive response. Needless to say, I've not looked back since.
What appealed most about being your own boss?
I'd often thought about running my own business, but was never really sure what I would do. What appeals most is definitely the enthusiasm and energy I have for running my own business, as I don't think I could ever be this motivated if it wasn't my baby. You have to be very determined and incredibly hard-working.
What planning did you do before you started?
I put together a business plan right at the start – although I'm not sure how useful it was as my plans have changed a few times along the way. I also conducted a lot of research around the products.
The more I learnt about the dubious ingredients used in the cosmetics industry, the more I questioned some of the ingredients used in halal products. Although they tend to be more ethical, some brands still use synthetics/chemicals.
I set about formulating my own collection, using only natural ingredients that are ethically-harvested and come from sustainable sources. I also source my ingredients directly from producers which support local co-operatives and regeneration projects.
How did you raise the money?
I've self-funded the business so far, with help from a friend. I've used all profits to fund our new PHB collection.
How did you find suppliers?
I had quite exacting criteria about how the products would be made, so it took enormous amounts of research to source all the different suppliers.
Then I had to identify a flexible UK manufacturer. It was tricky but you just have to be persistent, and inventive in the ways you search.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Initially I was only going to sell online. Having a store seemed a long way down the line but fortunately I found a suitable one.
The biggest challenge though has to be the sheer amount of hours I work. I try to remember to be grateful that I am doing something I really enjoy. I want to keep learning as much as possible.
Where is your business based?
My store is based at the Pavilions Shopping Centre in Birmingham city centre and I've just taken on a young apprentice from City College, Birmingham.
It's very rewarding to be in a position to offer students valuable work experience.
How have you promoted your business?
I've just spent the summer redesigning the website, to make it much more interactive and linked with Facebook and Twitter. Social media is something I will be focusing on in the coming months.
I've also built up a very good mailing list, and I stay in touch with my customers, offering them special rewards etc.
What's the impact on your home life been like?
I pretty much breathe, eat and sleep the business at the moment – though I did have an afternoon off last Friday for my 21st birthday!
I'm honestly not complaining as I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to run my own business. I wouldn't want it any other way.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
I have to say that the financial climate has had an enormous effect on retail and this has been a big obstacle to overcome. I'm gradually building up a dedicated customer base and this is what I'm focusing on.
Because I've done so much by myself (creating all our labels, branding, design, formulations, press) there have been times where things have been really difficult. However, they are only ever moments and, looking back, I'm really proud of what I have achieved. The whole process has been an enormous learning curve.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The PHB Collection. This has taken a while to get in place but will open up a lot more opportunities.
I currently have many magazines and beauty bloggers reviewing my products.
What would you do differently?
I've learnt not to rush into things. Initially, I was overly hasty with certain aspects of the business, whereas now I've learnt the balance between working quickly and taking the time you need to make sure you're entirely happy.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Always research your chosen area as much as possible. Work hard, seek good advice and be both determined and persistent.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I hope in five years' time that my business will be well-established and well-known here in the UK. It would also be fantastic if the PHB name spread further afield. I have had lots of international enquiries.
At the moment I'm so busy looking forward and developing my brand that I haven't even considered an exit plan! This is not something I am focused on right now as I love running my own business.