Christchurch entrepreneur Hamish Donkers, 25, founder of natural skincare brand Bera Skin, talks discovering a 6000-year-old alternative medicine and how a friend's trip to India influenced his latest e-commerce venture.
What does your business do?
Bera Skin is a skincare brand that uses turmeric as our main ingredient. We've started with a turmeric clay mask but we're already looking to branch into new products such as a serum, moisturiser and foaming cleanser. The business was under development for eight months before we launched at the end of April.
What was the motivation for starting it?
One of my friends went to India and he cut himself in a camp site in Bengaluru and one of the guides took him into a room and they applied turmeric paste over his cut as an antiseptic and wrapped it up. A couple of days later he noticed the cut was pretty much healed and not infected. Once he got back to New Zealand we caught up for coffee and talked about his trip and he kept highlighting not only the amazing way the Indian locals praised and used turmeric not only in cooking but medically as well. I was quite amazed by that and got researching the benefits of turmeric and kept finding that it had been used daily in India for 5000 to 6000 years.
Being at uni and playing sport I had the odd grazes and cuts and started putting turmeric on them and found the same thing, so I kept looking into it. [I could] see there was a big boom in skincare but saw there was a gap in the market for turmeric-based skincare so I got working on the product. We got our final mask and started using them on friends and family, and we got some amazing results.
How was your business funded?
I started the business up with my personal savings. I spent just under $10,000 and started with 2000 masks as the initial order. We get our product made in China, which in itself has been quite a fun learning process.
How big is your team?
It's just me and my graphic designer at the moment but I'm going to start building the supply chain and building the team. We hope to have five staff by the end of the year.
What are you focused on at the moment?
We're working on creative marketing and design, and influencer marketing. That's a big sales channel for us so we're trying to get our product out there through influencer collaborations, product for content collaborations and we're trying to do a lot of giveaways with other businesses in our sector. We'll soon start putting together a direct-to-retail plan as well as distribution, while we get the word out there about Bera Skin.
What are your long-term plans?
We've got big plans to go into retail, such as pharmacy stores and chemists. In three to five years Bera Skin will hopefully be global, shipping into the main areas of the world, and in a lot of retail stores and being distributed worldwide. The sales we have had so far have been amazing and some of the feedback we have got is incredible so we definitely think there is a market for this in every country in the world. We want to grow as quickly as we can.
We want to build our awareness and presence before we go into retail, so the plan is to focus on that this year and then launch into physical stores early next year.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Take risks. Realise what you can't do and always surround yourself with people smarter than you. Spend most of your energy on continued learning; read books, read articles, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos and be prepared to make mistakes along the way.