Organic Apoteke: Dr Nitasha Buldeo
Its perfume isn't cheap but the business smells of success
A £115 bottle of organic, alcohol-free perfume sounds pricey, but the business producing it hasn't been hindered. Far from it.
Organic Apoteke, which develops and sells luxury organic cosmetics, was founded in 2004 and started trading seriously in 2006. Despite its small size and the price tags, its products were snapped up almost immediately by a top US retailer. This year, revenues are up by 600% as the number of stores it supplies rises from six to around 300 worldwide.
Dr Nitasha Buldeo, the company's founder, has had a busy few months to put it mildly. When Whole Foods Market asked the new company to supply to 180 of its US stores, the business had three employees. “In terms of logistics, it was a nightmare,” she says.
This frantic pace of expansion contrasts with the time spent bringing it into existence, founded as it was after 10 years of research undertaken while Buldeo worked as a professional homeopath.
The business-to-be changed fundamentally in these years. Buldeo's research had initially been based on developing medical products: “We were trying to create the purest products possible, free of synthetic and carcinogenic ingredients that could cause allergies and other health conditions.”
But the organic market took off and allnatural products assumed the status of mass appeal. Organic Apoteke evolved into a cosmetics company in which “formulation, production, packaging design – absolutely everything was done in-house”.
Soon after the company's incorporation, independent boutiques began to stock the luxury products. Buldeo approached stockists, but “the products received quite a lot of consumer press, which was very useful in getting smaller stores to contact us”.
Things were going well, but plans for gradual organic growth were thrown into the air following the approach from Whole Foods in August. “We almost couldn't say no. They are the perfect stores to be in – they attract almost 80% of organic consumers and for us that was vital. If it hadn't been for Whole Foods, I would have thought we would expand into the US in around 2009 after growing our domestic market. But that all changed.”
The business raised over £1m from private investors to fi nance international growth. Only 54 of the 300 stores soon to be supplying the products are UK-based; one is Fresh & Wild's fl agship store that opens in Kensington this year. Not bad for a business that only recently allocated a marketing budget.
It is now catching its breath, having gone from producing 500 units per product per month to 10,000. Last year's turnover of £60,000 is expected to increase by 600% this year. But it is yet to recruit a UK sales director and still only has three employees here and four in the US.
However, the next phase of expansion – focused on “planning, not problemsolving” and which includes new products for release next year – is already under way. If Organic Apoteke can meet the challenge of Whole Foods, the world is its oyster.
Company: Organic Apoteke
Founder: Dr Nitasha Buldeo
Turnover: ?600,000 (projected)