When you enter the £430bn beauty industry, building a brand that is organically endorsed by the likes of Margot Robbie, Bella Hadid, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Kim Kardashian isn’t easy, but Dr Yannis Alexandrides and his wife, Eva, have done just that — without paying for a single endorsement.
Though most of the brand’s loyal fans know 111SKIN as the best-selling niche skincare range at Harrods attached to the posh clinic on Harley street, its founders never had a plan to launch a skincare line.
In fact, the brand was born out of a need to fill a gap in the market which, at the time, only allowed for patients to choose between intense (often harsh) formulas or ones that were too weak to offer any meaningful effect. Guided by a desire to accelerate post-surgery healing, Dr Alexandrides developed a treatment of an amino-acids complex designed to accelerate post-surgical healing.
“Patients were constantly requesting the NAC (N-Cystine) formula to help heal their skin. So to meet that demand, we collaborated with cryobiologists and developed a formula, NAC Y2,” says Eva. The formula includes a trio of actives with superior antioxidant properties assisting epidermal strengthening, scar reduction and enhancing a youthful appearance.
Since then, the brand has evolved into five expert skincare ranges with over 50 products. Here, we speak to Yannis and Eva about their journey and the lessons they have learned in building a million-dollar beauty business.
Y0u run four different businesses under the 111 brands. Can you share a little about the challenges that come with managing multiple brands and how you have overcome them?
Yannis: This question made me smile because it can be challenging at times. Organization, time management, and compartmentalising each business is key. It is also important to have boundaries around each business and make time for yourself to recover and enjoy life because otherwise, it could start to feel like a chore.
Sustainability is something you’re passionate about. Can you share how important this is for you and some of the steps you have taken in this area?
Eva: From the beginning, we were committed to forming a sustainable path but it is important to note that sustainability is an ever-evolving microcosm. We committed to using glass packaging ten years ago and our very few plastic components are recyclable.
We align with retail partners who respect sustainable challenges and we always question, negotiate and research the sustainable practices of those in our supply chain. As aluminium is the third most abundant material on earth and is recyclable, we chose to house our masks in aluminium sachets. We offer free eco packaging with orders, all our ingredients are ethically sourced and cruelty-free, our masks are biodegradable and we are implementing processes to reduce water usage and gas emissions across our supply chains.
We were recognised by Positive Luxury as a company that is positively changing the world. We support them through aligning their pillars with our practices including providing ethical training, equal employment, paraben and PVC free products as well as responsibly sourcing raw materials.
What are the skills you feel helped you navigate the launch and growth of the company?
Yannis: It’s important to find the right people to build your team with the right talents, knowledge and experience. Make sure they understand your brand’s core values and continuously support them and then, listen to them and provide them recognition they deserve in the company. Then, it’s about staying focused.
Philanthropy is a big part of your brand mission. What are some of the ways you give back and how important do you think corporate giving is to the success of a company?
Eva: From the inception of the brand we have focused on allocating products for charities that support women and children from Make A Wish to Women for Women International. During the pandemic, we wanted to support nurses and front-line workers whilst they worked endlessly for us. Allocating over 5,000 units of our products to healthcare workers was a small way that we could offer some relief and joy to their gruelling schedules.
You’re a very successful team with complementary skill sets. Will you share your best advice for working with a partner?
Yannis: Establish the boundaries and differentiate between the two roles; be a business partner at work and a partner at home.
Beauty is a very personal business and all of your brands require close human contact (which is not possible with social distancing regulations).
Will you share how you managed the lockdown situation in terms of staying connected to clients and keeping the momentum of the brand?
Yannis: During lockdown, we enhanced our digital campaigns and started reaching out to our consumers and audience through IGTV live, online master classes, and communicating virtually instead of face-to -face. At the 111 Harley st Clinic we provided online consultations and giving patients advice on how to navigate both surgical and non-surgical treatments in the future.
Beauty is a cutthroat, billion-dollar industry. What’s your best advice for standing out?
Eva: Be authentic, don’t get caught up in craving attention and invest in product and innovation rather than endorsements.
Finally, what is the biggest lesson you have learned thus far?
Yannis: The importance of understanding what the unique selling point of the brand is.
Eva: I couldn’t single out a particular lesson but the ones that stick out to me would be to never underestimate the powerful combination between working hard and seeking opportunities. There will be many bumps in the road but focusing on your brand and avoiding obsessing over the competition will help you to focus on your own opportunities, innovation and truly harnessing and understanding what your customers want from you.
Originally published in Brenda Della Casa’s column in Business Leader Magazine.