Lucy Vincent Marr is a co-founder of the Department Store and the Lucy and the Powder Room and Stephen Marr salons. In 2009 she launched her own natural hair and body care brand, Sans [ceuticals].

Where did the idea for the business come from?

It basically started about six years ago with a specific need within our businesses - Lucy and the Powder Room and the Stephen Marr salons. We'd started working with a lot of what I'd call a new generation of cosmeceuticals for the face - really active products but without the nasty ingredients like parabens and so on - within the Powder Room. But for the body and hair I couldn't find anything that ticked all the boxes: was beautiful from a design point of view; had pure, natural ingredients; and was really active. I got frustrated, so ended up making my own.

I connected with an amazing cosmetic scientist and it took us about two years to create the products.

How have you worked to differentiate your products in what can be a pretty crowded market?


Being natural is a given in our products, but our primary goal is efficacy - making products that work. We're in the process of running clinical trials on our products for the hair and skin. It's a huge investment - which we gained some New Zealand Trade and Enterprise support for - but given our core proposition is that we make products that actually work, having evidence from clinical trials to support that is going to key.

Have you pursued other certifications for your products as well?

There are a whole lot of certifications and stamps you can get on your products but choosing the right one can be a minefield and they can cost a lot of money. That's where I think more regulation in the sector could be helpful, to provide more trust and consistency for consumers.

Are you taking your products offshore?

We launched into Japan last year and we're now launching into the UK and US. We'll also be going into Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and China.

What role does your 'New Zealandness' play in selling your products into those markets?

We're very focused on promoting the fact it's a New Zealand-made product. We're also really focusing on New Zealand active ingredients that get good results, and that will be part of our core proposition because New Zealand really is seen as this quite beautiful and pristine place.

Coming up in Small Business: Productivity is an issue we hear lots about - how to get more out of your business relative to what you put in. If you've got a good story to share about how you've boosted productivity in your small business, please get in touch.