Small Business Spotlight: Corinne Thomas, Founder, Rare Beauty Co.

With ‘Blue Monday’ behind us, now is the time for making plans, setting goals and aiming high…

Every month  in 2018 I will be speaking to a small business innovator as part of my Small Business Series, featuring some of the most exciting start-ups in the South-West.

Taking the spotlight for January is Corinne Thomas, founder of Rare Beauty – the unique online marketplace for British-made natural beauty products, launching in Spring 2018.

Tell us a bit about Rare Beauty and what you do

“With millennials leading the call for sustainable beauty, yet three-quarters remaining confused about how ‘ethical’ many beauty brands really are[1], our mission is simple: to help people feel fabulous and disrupt the mass-market beauty industry by making truly ethical skincare choices.”

“As well as giving customers a gorgeous range of natural, British-made artisan products to choose from, we also offer a genuine business opportunity to small/start-up beauty brands in the UK who want a bigger online profile, but who do not want to compete with the thousands of natural products in more established online marketplaces.

“I am working with a team of people to help me launch later this year – all of whom are professionals in their field, and who offer the right skills & experience for this type of e-commerce venture.”

What inspired you to set up the business?

“A few years ago I received a book for Christmas about making your own skincare products, and realised how much rubbish I had been putting on my skin thanks to the so-called ‘beauty industry’, so I set about creating my own products for face and body. I then took a couple of courses on Herbal Medicine and really started to understand the power of plant-based health and a holistic approach to self-care.

“I was originally going to create my own skincare brand after receiving rave reviews from family and friends about the products I gave away as gifts (and still do), but I did not have the patience for batch-making high quality products on the scale that is needed! So I started to research the natural skincare market and realised that there were lots of brilliant skincare brands already out there just waiting to be found – the idea for Rare Beauty was born.

“As a sales and marketing professional, it felt like a natural fit as I can focus my energies on the business-side of beauty rather than covering my kitchen in cocoa butter!”

What are your plans for Rare Beauty in 2018?

“I will be launching the marketplace this year which is very exciting. We will start with around 10 brands with the view to introducing new products/brands every month thereafter. We have some exciting launch campaigns planned with our ‘Rare Beauty Residents’ – real women who will test every product for us on the website – and also some established lifestyle influencers to help us spread the word about our new independent beauty marketplace.

“After that – who knows? I am an ideas person so I have a ton of ideas of where to take the business and how to grow it, but right now I need to focus on the task in hand, which is creating a fabulous website and digital marketing strategy for capturing a proportion of the natural beauty market (which was worth £62 million in the UK last year).”

What are your business goals in the longer term?

“Running an ethical business is very important to me, partly due to my background in socially responsible business, but also because I know it makes perfect business sense to do so. If we become an established brand that has longer term growth potential, I will seek to register Rare Beauty Co as a B-Corp.

“I’d love to collaborate with a range of non-profit organisations to reach out to people who need to make ethical choices about skincare products due to health reasons (people who have had chemotherapy are advised to avoid parabens and petrochemicals for example) and also to raise awareness of important issues such as animal testing in the beauty industry. Oh, and possibly creating a Rare Beauty cruelty-free natural make-up range!”

 What are your top 3 tips for others thinking about starting their own business?

“Firstly, don’t do it alone. Even if you just use family/friends as sounding boards, it is so important to have people around you to support you on your journey and to give another perspective when decisions get too much alone. I felt so much better once I brought a small team together to help me with some of the areas of the business that are not in my skill-set.

“Secondly, do your research. The first thing I did was to create some customer research questionnaires, and test my ideas with the beauty brands I wanted to work with. It was all free, and helped me to shape the direction of the business and the areas to focus on (and what to leave behind).

“Thirdly, don’t sweat the small stuff. I am a big picture kind of person so this comes fairly easily to me, but I parked a lot of the detail in the early days and just focused on my vision and what I needed to do to get there. The finance course for small businesses can wait until I have made some actual profit and can then hire an accountant to do it for me!”


[1] Mintel Natural, Organic and Ethical Toiletries 2017

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