EPISODE 16 TRANSCRIPT – Elsie Rutterford & Dominika Minarovic – BYBI Beauty


Hey, everybody. Welcome to the next edition of the future first podcast. I’m delighted to have Dominica and Elsie here on the show today from Bybee beauty. Good morning, Elsie and Dominica. How you doing?


Hello. Well, we’re good. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks for having us.


Yeah, brilliant to have you on the show. So we connected probably about, I would say about maybe 11 years ago, through YME during the crazy world of mobile marketing in and around London. And you two met through you, me? Is that correct?


We did, yes. Yeah. Great times. So we both joined YuMe in 2013. And we were brought on basically to do the same role, but for a different patch. So we were wrapping group him. And I had half of group handle and Dominica had the other half. So, you know, we were kind of like peers from the off literally sat opposite each other. And it was lovely, because essentially, we were doing exactly the same thing. But yeah, obviously we could do it along. Yeah, do it alongside each other, which was really nice. So we spent a lot of time taking clients out together and coordinating trips that really we really wanted to go on and turning them into a jolly good. It was good. It was a it was a fun time. But yeah, hit it off, straightaway. And it was good to get a kind of grounding as working as colleagues together because we kind of got a good sense of each other’s working style and kind of work ethic as well. So yeah, it was it’s thanks a lot, a lot to thank you mean has a lot to Yeah, a big part to play in babies kind of journey. Really.


Braille. Yeah, I remember those days arranging business trips to like I even tried to swing one to Australia for a company I was working for, but they were like, Are you sure you need to go to Australia? And I was like, yeah, there’s a big there’s a big coin out there. Did it didn’t work? Yeah. Dominica tell me about those crazy days of mobile advertising and what you know, what was it like? And there’s a lot of fun, wasn’t it? I was there. You were there, you know?


Yeah, we were all there. And it was kicking off. Yeah, it was good. I think what it gave us a real insight into was like the hustle. I think that, you know, it was there were a lot, there was a lot of competition. And it was all very relationship driven. And I think those things we’ve really taken into how we’ve built the brand. Being an entrepreneur is just pure hustle. 24/7. And I think working in sales, particularly in media, it really gives you that grit and kind of, you know, you have your patch, you have to deliver that number, no one’s going to handhold you no one’s going to help you. You’ve just got to, you know, go and crack on. And I think that spirit really gave us a good attitude when we then launched the brand, and started kind of our own entrepreneurial journey about Yeah, and as he said, You know, that’s where we met. So it was a huge, huge milestone for us working at uni because yeah, I met my feels like lifelong business partner and life coach. You know, everything literally married partner. sitting opposite me at those deaths on Rathburn place. So it’s, um, yeah, it was a great time for us.


Brilliant. Yeah. And I used to work on Rathbone place as well, for a recruitment company. That was my first job there. So many fond memories. So brilliant. So you met you me and formed a, let’s say, a lifelong marriage partnership business partnership. And, you know, tell us about baby. Why did you found the company? Wha hoo hoo, less than maybe refresh the first question, because it’s a very broad question. Why why beauty products? Why did you, you know, go into that.


Answer is, is two pronged. So firstly, both have been massively into beauty. It’s just been a part of our lives, which sounds like a really like boring, generic answer, but it is really true. So you know, nodding to the jollies that we used to engineer when we were in the wild west of mobile marketing, like a lot of those would be centred around beauty like we’d you know, take our favourite agency like managers and execs to go and get your nails done, like, get a facial. Go and like try the latest like LED light treatment at Selfridges. Like there was, you know, that’s always been a thing that we’ve both always been really passionate about. And it was kind of, you know, still present even though we weren’t working in beauty at all. It was still present in our jobs back then. And then that time in the UK, those kind of mid teens 2013 In 2014, was really a kind of big time for the wellness movement. So we were seeing a lot of, we didn’t call them influencers back then that time didn’t even exist if they were bloggers, kind of rising to fame sharing kind of their journeys and insight into, you know, going vegan or paleo or keto, you know, had all of these like different ways of like understanding food and ingredients and, you know, fueling your body and then equally the sort of, like fitness blogger was very present as well, in their kind of brightly, brightly coloured leggings. And that was all just a quite an interesting scene for us just to kind of watch like, we were both kind of quite interested in it. So, you know, we dabbled in veganism when it suited us, veganism until we wanted to we wanted a donor. And like, you know, we, we did some crazy things like we end each other saw, not only like, you know, a work colleague and a friend, but also somebody who could kind of spur the other on like we had quite a good like energy between us. So we go to the gym together, we did an Olympic distance triathlon, we did a walk to Brighton, which is 64 miles, overnight, non stop, like, we did something like loads of half marathons, we were just like, really interested in this wellness scene. And I guess, the thinking around the beauty, starting something with beauty was a sort of collision of those two things, because we could see the direction that wellness was going. And whilst that industry has some criticism these days, it was clear back then that it wasn’t going anywhere, like it was here to stay, people were really embracing it. But it was oversaturated already, even at that point. So we were kind of watching with interest and thought, you know, what, I think this will probably lean into beauty, beauty will probably start to pick up cues from this, because, you know, people are thinking about what they’re eating, they’re probably going to start to think about what they’re putting on their skin. And we did that, you know, we were like, Why are we like group like agonising over the ingredients list of you know, something that we’re about to have for dinner, and yet what we’re putting on our face and spending probably more on we have no idea what you know what’s in it. If we want great skin, if we want our skin to be healthy, as well as our insides, like, you know, what does, what does that involve? And I think we could just see that, that way, the movement was probably going to edge that way. So we sort of embraced it and, and, and started making our own beauty products in kind of mimicking the what the bloggers were doing with food. So we just started like getting together. And well, you know, after we’d go for a gym session, we’d be like, Oh, should we just quickly make a quick facemask like a bit of avocado, butter, banana, let’s see what it does. And it kind of like went from there. We just started like documenting it. But I think alongside all of that, we also both knew that media sells one wasn’t going to be where we wanted to end up. And we both wanted to do our own thing. Like we both have had that an entrepreneur entrepreneurial spirit from, you know, from managing three or four jobs in our teens kind of thing. So like there was also this background of this is quite a cool hobby project. And it’s definitely speaking to our interest in both wellness and beauty. But also, could this be the venture? Like could this be it? And is this person somebody that I would like that venture to be with like, probably as we were kind of exploring that as a sort of passion project on the side. So there were a lot of sort of, like collisions to why it ended up being natural beauty, but it just made sense at the time, and it was something that we both really enjoyed, but could also see commercial potential in


brilliant, that’s really great answer. And Dominica, what was what was the product that you you, you know, let’s say formulated in in the kitchen at home or, you know, started to use where you thought that that this is a really good product? And then you know that was the tipping point into starting a business? Is there anything there that really stood out? Because one thing I noticed is you got an award winning glow current booster, which correct me if I’m wrong is carbon negative? Yeah. Was it that one? Or was it something else that you did? Tell us about that?


Yeah, I think a lot of what we were working with was quite new to us as beauty consumers, which was a lot of kind of cold pressed oils. And before you know, I guess there’s something about kind of putting oil on your face, and it’s maybe not as glamorous, but genuinely when we started using high quality kind of organic, natural cold pressed oils, the results for our skin were like hugely profound. And that, you know, again, that is why we pursued you know, the brand and the products that we have is because when we were back in that kitchen, you know, putting those ingredients on our face, we did see amazing results. So I think a lot of our early products and still quite a lot of our products are quite oil based and glow current is a good example of that. It’s just two ingredients. And one of them is you know, a cold pressed oil. They just really, you know, just they just your skin knows what to do with these ingredients. They’re very akin to the chemical construct of your own skin and it’s just so replenishing so moisturising. Seeing and so hydrating. And I think that those are the kind of real benefits that we were always seeking. We were desperate for that, like, great night’s sleep, you know, just come off a holiday glow. And the glow is something that is like, you know, it lives and breathes within the brand. Not only through our products, but the way that we kind of, you know, talk about them and the way that we market. So, yes, I think that the idea of just using really high quality natural ingredients in the form of cold pressed oils was kind of like the seed and then that kind of grew. And obviously, our formulations are much more complex. Now we have, you know, things like an SPF and we have, you know, creams and cleansers and moisturisers and treatments and a whole bunch of products, that we’ve still got these icons of of kind of this early, you know, nod back to the, to the blog in our journey, which are these kind of pure cold pressed oils. And we sell them, you know, in our booster format, and they do super well for us. Because yeah, I think people just see those results. So very humble beginnings. And you know, we’re still humble. But yeah, I think we’ve stayed really true to our origins and where we started.


Brilliant. Great. And then obviously, you know, that’s go to the next step. So you set up the company. You know, founding company is not always easy, right? Because, you know, I do digital, purely digital, so you can build a website and start selling stuff, you need to build software. But this is a physical products. So that’s a challenge in itself. And also, we spoke about this before we came onto the podcast being female founders. What challenges did you face with that, because LCU shared a really interesting stat that for every one pound of VC money in the UK, only one pence goes to, let’s say, female founders or female founder teams. So tell us about some challenges that you face there.


Yeah, it’s been a kind of an interesting ride being female founders. Even in the beauty industry, like you would expect, given that it’s an industry geared towards women that the percentage of female founders or CEOs might be higher. But actually, that hasn’t been the case. Certainly not up until more recently, where we’ve seen a kind of rise of independent brands coming to, to the market. I think that like we, we haven’t experienced anything that feels, you know, really, obviously divisive or, like we’ve obviously been discriminated against, if our job has been harder, which I’m sure it has, because that stat in itself speaks volumes, right? Like we are one we are that 1%, which is which is absolutely bonkers. And if that has been the case, we are very much just heads down and try and try and get on with things like we don’t, we’re not wanting to kind of like stop and acknowledge that maybe we have, we do have a harder time. Or maybe when we’re in a room full of, you know, Mel VCs, our job is like automatically harder just because we’re female walking through that door. And because of that, I think the energy that we give out, has meant that we’ve got good energy back. And the teams of VCs that we’ve worked with, both male and female have been incredibly supportive. There are, of course, nuanced times across the years where we’ve come up against a real dinosaur, or we often get told, like, oh, the products great, but I’ll just give it to my wife, like, you know, there’s a, I guess there’s also like, slight barrier in the, because the industry that we’re in typically makes products for women, then it’s not as of interest if we are speaking to male investors. But you know, that’s definitely changing. I think, yeah, there hasn’t been anything that’s been like a really obvious stumbling block for us. But what we are really passionately passionate about is trying to understand why that 1% is where it is, you know, why that one Pence is, is why it is and why the statistics are as they are at the moment, and understanding if there’s anything that we can do to kind of help change things. You know, I think the fact is that it feels like it’s earlier on in the process that that we have real problems. So there aren’t as many female founder teams or female founders coming to the table to even ask for money. And we see that through. So the first bit of funding we got was a loan from Virgin StartUp, who are a really great arm of the Virgin business. They work with the startup Loans Company, and they award up to 25,000 pounds per founder as a loan that’s repayable over six years. So it’s like really kind of like low barrier entry way to get your first bit of funding and they are hugely passionate about, I guess, decreasing the gender funding gap. And what they found through the research that they’ve done is that actually they don’t have as many female founders coming through the process from the very top. So what their mission is all about is like how do they recruit from the beginning? thing rather than saying, Okay, why, you know, why did more of our male male founders get funding than females actually saying, why are we not even getting applicants, female applicants coming in at the top? And I think that is also, you know, the same for the stats that we see with VC money. So we’re really passionate about like, how can we empower women to feel confident enough to take the step to start the business, to even think about getting funding to feel prepared enough to be able to put a pitch deck in front of somebody like virgin or, or indeed a venture capital? firm. So that’s kind of where we’re like what we’re trying to do and trying to play in. And really, that’s about like community building being collaborative, we’re super open with everything we do. We really share like the full breadth of the entrepreneur story. And when we find that female entrepreneurs really resonate with that, because we’ll share the challenges as well as the wins. You know, we’re open to questions like if ever anybody comes and asked us, but we do get a lot of small business owners kind of speaking to us, like, we just try and be kind of like, as open with our knowledge and experiences that we can because we find that that is often a helpful start for women who are thinking about starting out.


Yeah, this is the thing. So you really make an excellent point there. So it’s about how to encourage those to have the belief in themselves to go out there and ask for money to go to go out to get out there. It’s it’s something that must, I think, start from an earlier age. Also. There are no there are there may be there are but I’ve not seen it. Or it’s very rare that VCs generally are, like hugely male dominated. I’ve never met a female VC yet. And I’ve at one stage, I was going out a lot to raise funds. And it just seems so what seems so unfair, doesn’t it really. So hopefully, we’ll start seeing that with more and more female founders coming together. And more and more VCs becoming maybe like 100% Female VCs, why not? Right? There’s 100% Male theses there should be 100% Female VCs, Dominica, what are your you know what your thoughts on that?


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Yeah, I agree. And I think we’re in a sector of the even consumer market that is actually quite female dominated being beauty. So we do know a lot of female VCs and we know a lot of female founders, I think we’re in a slight kind of, you know, like, niche in beauty. Because, you know, traditionally a lot of beauty companies have been run by men. And if you look at the C suites of all the major conglomerates, they stole men, but there’s something inherently female about beauty. So that’s why you see a lot of female founders and beauty. But when you step outside of that, and you look to something like tech or FinTech, you know, that is where there’s just yeah, you just do not come across many females? And I think, yeah, as obviously said, it’s, it’s, I don’t think it’s necessarily conscious bias, always, I think there’s just not enough women at the table to then make the deal flow equitable. So I think just really encouraging women to enter the world of finance initially, and then move on to, you know, venture capital, I think is super important, and finding out ways that we can do that, you know, you meet a very classic archetype in VC, you know, I think a lot of them go to the same schools. And you know, it’s very like, clubby and everyone knows one another. And so I think how how people break into that is, is obviously really challenging. But yeah, I think it’s, it’s so important to just not look at the outcome of the stats, but actually take it a big step back and say, Okay, who’s actually making these decisions? And who’s at the table? Who’s sitting around the table for everyone to decide? And if there’s no female founders, and no female VCs at the table, then obviously, there’s not going to be money going to female founders. So um, yeah, but I mean, our two venture capital investors, our main ones, one of which being Unilever ventures, I mean, they are, I’m actually just looking through their portfolio because I was just interested to see, I would say, they’re almost like 5050, female male, like they have the huge proportion of female founders within their portfolio. It’s like, it’s just not even like a thought for them, I think. Because, again, it’s they’re focused on beauty and personal care. So again, you’ve got a lot of female founders in that space. So yeah, I think it’s just something that we’ve got to be cognizant of and keep the narrative and the conversation going, but it’s, as founders, we can’t get too hung up on it. And if we’re kind of nervous to go in a room because we’re females, then we’re never going to succeed, so you can’t even it’s almost like you can’t even acknowledge that you just have to. You have to act like you’ve got Have the best chances everyone else otherwise, yeah, you’re just not gonna succeed.


Yeah, you’ve got to believe that it’s really it’s really good. It’s really inspiring. So your your backgrounds both in the marketing media world, you must have seen some great campaigns you must have seen some out see awful campaigns in your time. You’ve got a really strong social media presence. And what’s what’s working for you, baby to get to get more awareness to get more sales online.


I mean, I can’t say that we’ve found the like, the silver bullet yet. We are big believers in like, test, learn, like test small learn, and then invest if we think it’s worth it. But along that journey, we’ve tested small a lot of things that like really have done nothing for us, which has been super interesting. I think like at the moment, we’re trying to navigate the changes in in social platforms. So Instagram has historically been our biggest platform. But we found that quite challenging by way of kind of reach, awareness engagement, particularly if you’re not spending big on Instagram, you like it’s quite hard to get cut through. So we’re like really thinking about that platform and trying to kind of like test types of organic content to see what resonates and being like super super strict with any paid budget that we’ve got going across either Facebook or Instagram. Tik Tok is obviously like on the cards for us at the moment, I think what we’re trying to do with Tik Tok is understand how, rather than relying on content from a brand perspective so, in you know, with Instagram, it’s like quite heavily geared around what you’re posting on your own feed what you’re posting on your own stories, then what you’re promoting, I think with Tik Tok, what we’re trying to think about is how we get people on Tik Tok talking about the brand. So like thinking more about influencer creator relationships, but how does that happen in an organic way? You know, everybody’s looking for that viral Tiktok moment, like right now. And when it when it lands, it really lands like you see beauty products, specifically, because it’s such a visual platform, obviously, Instagram as well. But if you think about tick tock in the context of beauty and skincare, like, you know, there are routines where you literally seeing people kind of like using the product where you get a real sense of what it does. And if there’s something that a use of a product that can really make it appealing to a wide audience, you know, that product will sell out overnight. Yeah, it’s what we’re seeing happening in our industry. But that’s less reliant on us as a brand, telling people what the product is and more reliant on somebody with a following with reach speaking about us on on our behalf. And it has to fit authentic. So there’s lots of things that kind of have to line up. And ultimately, you’ve got to have a great product as well write great product and get it into the right people’s hands. So that’s kind of what we’re really thinking about, like, thinking about our range, thinking about our products, thinking about, you know, what, what has the most kind of like broad mass appeal, and then also thinking about who are the right people that we should be speaking to? How do we foster and cultivate those relationships on a platform like Tic Toc, which is still relatively new, and which most people are still kind of really finding their feet on, but it has huge potential. Whereas To be honest, Instagram feels like it’s becoming a little bit stagnant, certainly, as a brand is, it’s hard. So that’s how we kind of that’s how we think about social, I think what we’re trying to do, as well as just be a bit more, I don’t know, like, get out in real life like so we’ve just worked with Holland and Barrett, for example. And the two of us as founders spend a lot of time at the moment going physically going into stores, with baggy T shirts on training the store staff handing out samples in real life, like there’s an in real life like moment connection that you can have with people that I still think is is important to create a brand. And we’re kind of like just experimenting with how we, I guess, make that scalable, but how use that to really kind of like drive UK brand awareness and there are some really interesting brands doing some quite cool things in that respect, that are kind of like drumming up interest and awareness in real life rather than solely relying on digital which like, obviously is now the main part of most people’s media plans. But I think that kind of like real life connection is still really important as well.


That’s great that you go into the stores that must be quite fun as well because you get to talk to your potential customers and then you know, hopefully they buy the product I wondered if they’d be up for being filmed there and then that they’ve you know, they’ve just popped their baby cherry and they’ve had their you know, they purchase their first ever baby product, right? That kid’s like genuine. I think with with tick tock them a lot of any kind of form of advertising. If it’s genuine and it’s trustworthy. It just makes huge, huge, huge difference, isn’t it people are more likely to invest and really get into our brands. If it’s genuine, I think especially with millennials and Gen Zed, that’s so so important. The glossy, glossy, super glossy advertising days, in my opinion are sort of fading. They’re less and less relevant. Now we see that with brands like I just one that comes to mind is Jim shark. I mean, I think Jim shark basically growing their whole company just by being genuine and having their fan fan base promoting their their brand. I can’t imagine they spend huge amounts on on paid advertising. Cool. All right. So how is it being, you know, working so closely together all the time? Running a company founding a company is not easy. How do you keep yourself sane? Dominica


can’t think too much about these things. Sometimes you just a little bit heads down and just steam ahead. I think like, you know, obviously, there’s obvious things of you know, switching off and taking time for yourself and making sure that you know, you have everything in perspective. But, you know, fundamentally, I think we’ve really enjoyed what we do. It’s, it’s been, you know, at times really challenging. And, you know, when you have big ambitions, they don’t always come through or things don’t always work out exactly as you had planned, you know, that that is really emotionally challenging. But I think overall, you know, we’re so passionate about what we do, and we just want to, we really want to fulfil the potential of the brand that we’ve created, because we really believe in our brand. So that kind of keeps you going, I think when things are quite tough. And then in terms of, you know, our partnership, you know, we’ve worked together for so long now that we’re like, you know, we literally Finish, finish finish each other sentences like, we will be in a meeting and guaranteed we will go to say word for word like exactly the same thing, like we are singing from the same hymn sheet. We, if you ask us separately, we will say the same thing. And I think like when I talk to some other kind of business founders, you know, having your your like, mission and the goals of the business and what you’re trying to achieve. So aligned is the most important thing, like we are so clear and so aligned on what we want to do with this business. And that is, I think that has been part of the key to its success, because we’ve always been completely on the same page and been very transparent about what our ambitions are and what we want to achieve. And I think that has been, yeah, a real key to our success because it means you’ve got two people that are hyper focused on achieving something and egging each other on. And, you know, this goes back to where we started, right, like, rather than you egging each other on to finish that last kilometre on Olympic trials. We’re now like, you know, egging each other on to hit that next revenue milestone or get that next investment. So, yeah, there’s a real like cheerleader kind of mentality between the two of Austin. Yeah, I think just being good communicators is key. So, I mean, I personally would just would not want to run a business on my own, I think it on your own, it can be a very lonely experience. Because being a founder is the most unique kind of like role you can even take on I think, and not having someone to really understand and share that I would find, I think, yeah, like really lonely and not that motivating. So for me, I would you know, I have never ever for a second regretted having a co founder and you know, definitely not LC So, yeah, I think it’s, you know, for me that is has been, I don’t know, if I would have ever been successful on my own. I think it’s a lot to take on for one person. I think that’s a


great complementary to each other, if only more you know, let’s say founding teams are as strong as you I think they do a lot better right? Because so often you know, you don’t you don’t see that very much you have like arguments in the team where they fall apart and then one person leaves so that’s, that’s a credit to you. Let’s do a little bit of promo so you’ve launched in Holland and Barrett which is an amazing achievement. One of my favourite shops, well done, but I also Googled you and you’re on www.Zalando.com as well, right? Yeah. Where else are you?


So in the UK you can get us look fantastic. Boots online. A sauce and Holland and Barrett, which is Yeah, our first kind of proper physical store launch in the UK. And we are Yeah, just psyched to be there. It’s one of those like under the radar like British high street shops that you’re like, you go in like for a pack of cashews and you can’t About like 60 pounds later with like every protein powder under the sun and like three new moisturisers, so we’re like, happy to become a part of that person’s basket. So really excited there. Internationally. We’re with target in the US so far in the APAC region. And then yeah, you’re right. So Zalando, in kind of covers Europe, and we also do good business in Scandinavia. In England, you can probably find us everywhere. 

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