Young & Pure: Lianne Miller

How Young & Pure’s chemical free skincare products are taking the fight to the beauty behemoths

“Behind every great entrepreneurial idea there’s an even greater story,” I once heard Dragons’ Den star Doug Richard say. Young & Pure is no exception to this rule. But this is no normal cosmetic brand, but one driven by passion, emotion and a genuinely moving personal story.

“Young & Pure was really about 18 years in the making,” says Lianne Miller, founder of the ‘green teen’ range. Natural skincare is an issue particularly close to Miller’s heart. Her interest in the use of potentially carcinogenic ingredients in products began when her son Kregan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was just two years old.

Following the diagnosis, Miller became very aware of the link between cancer and synthetic ingredients and the effect of preservatives and chemicals in the body. “There is a direct correlation between what chemicals we put into our bodies and illness,” says Miller. As a result, the entire family – Miller is a mother of three – embarked upon a homeopathic diet.

Fortunately, Kregan made a full recovery. However, when Miller’s daughter, Danielle, began approaching her teenage years and they came to look for natural skincare products, Miller was shocked to discover a gaping hole in the market. “There was literally nothing in supermarkets or chemists to cater for teenagers without chemicals,” she says.

And so the idea for Young & Pure was born, with the first product hitting the shelves in July 2006. Miller raised £80,000 in start-up capital to fund research and chemical testing and to get the product off the ground. There are currently four shareholders, whom Miller met at a networking event. “Our existing shareholders came on board during the second round of funding. They are signed up for the journey,” she adds.

It seems they are not the only ones who see the potential of the proposition: Whole Foods Market, Harrods and Fenwick have also signed up. But Miller is in no hurry to enlist the services of large chains without checking out their green credentials first. “We want to be as accessible as possible but there is a fine balance between getting the distribution and not compromising our values. That’s the problem of having a natural or organic brand; you want to find a distributor with the same set of values so you can work together to build the brand.”

The brand also required a new approach in terms of marketing, recalls Miller. “In a survey of 700 teenagers, 71% said their mothers had the biggest influence on what cosmetic products they buy.” Young & Pure needed to be marketed at two markets: both parents and teenagers.

But the biggest challenge by far was “not being a chemist myself”, says Miller. Young & Pure’s vivacious founder has a degree in psychology from WarwickUniversity, a Masters in Organisational Psychology from UCL and is currently studying for a PhD in entrepreneurship at the University of East Anglia. She is also an ambassador for the YES programme, which has been launched to promote entrepreneurship in schools. “I have no difficulty putting together a business plan but I had to work closely with the scientists and learn quickly about the industry I was going into,” she recalls.

Miller is approaching the times ahead with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. “We are breaking into a multi-billion dollar industry,” she says. And Young and Pure wants a slice of the market – and a slice of the profit. It’s getting there – turnover of around £200,000 last year has risen considerably and is expected to be well over £1m this year.

It seems Miller has a secret weapon in her battle against the beauty behemoths: “People are looking for things that are exciting and innovative. We are re-inventing ourselves on a regular basis because that’s what teenagers are doing themselves.”

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