This month we are proud to present an exclusive partnership with the brilliant, impactful and intentional OSKIA.
We like to provide our subscribers a deeper insight into the brands we partner with, so we were delighted to be able to sit down with OSKIA founder, Georgie Cleeve. Georgie’s interesting background in food and nutrition formed the unusual but wholly appropriate foundations for a career in skincare, creating products and utilising ingredients and practices that work from the inside out.
We explored the inspiration behind the brand as well as her experiences as a female founder, including challenges and triumphs , and what we can expect to see from OSKIA in future.
What were you doing before you founded Oskia?
Before OSKIA (so now almost 20 years ago), I was a food editor for six years, writing about all things food-related but passionate about and fascinated by the health benefits of certain food types.
What inspired you to create a luxury skincare brand?
I didn’t wake up one morning and think, oooh I’d like to go in to the luxury skincare market. Rather it was a long, winding personal journey where I discovered the effect of certain nutrients on skin health – it involved numerous knee operations and a supplement called MSM that was designed to help regenerate damaged knee cartilage in race horses and which I tried as a last resort. The effects were life changing and not only did my knees repair beyond expectations, but my skin condition improved beyond recognition – my acne and eczema dramatically improved, and as a result my confidence soared too. This remarkable supplement was MSM, the most bio-available source of sulphur, a nutrient which is required in over 150 bodily processes including collagen production (hence its effect on cartilage, of which collagen is the main protein), as well as keratin and glutathione production. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I turned my attention onto MSM, which still had not been used in skincare, and realised that what I wanted more than anything was to share with others the benefits I had experienced myself. So I left journalism and spent four years researching the effects of nutrients on skin health. I learned about everything from the physiology of the skin to how to apply products by doing a therapist course. I wanted as broad a view of the science and market as possible. Then I brought together our own team of doctors, nutritionists and cosmetic scientists, and researched, formulated, invented ingredients and manufactured our ourselves – a very different route to that taken by most young brands!
What has the journey as a female founder been like?
Have there been challenges along the way? We boot strapped our business from the start, meaning we never had any investors, cash injections or six-figure marketing budgets – simply put, at the beginning, the only money we had to invest in the business was whatever we made from selling the products. Clearly competing in a very busy market without much cash was massively challenging, but we just put our heads down. This is unheard of in today’s market, but it meant I never had to answer to anyone else, never had to explain my ideas, apart from to my husband and business partner, George. It also meant that we would stand or fall purely on the efficacy of our products – the products did the marketing for us – and that remains the most important aspect of our business and lies absolutely at the heart of what we do. No funky marketing just the formulations themselves. As a result, we have exceptionally loyal customers.
Being part of a largely female-dominated industry has meant I have had a very positive experience and found lots of other founders were keen to share their stories, as I do with young female entrepreneurs who come to me for advice. We are all in it to help each other. However my biggest challenge, like so many other working mothers, is juggling having children and the business. The day we launched in 2010 I was a week away from my eldest, Arthur arriving. I desperately wanted to take some time off while having our three children, which I did – but it was a case of feeding over the laptop and conference calls over bath time – you never take time off if you run a business and that is something that you just have to accept. Even now the term ‘holiday’ is just another way of describing ‘working from somewhere else’. Anyone who says the juggle is easy is fibbing, it isn’t, but women are hugely resilient and we just get on with it.
How do you come up with new products?
I never look at trends, but spend my days looking at new ingredients and papers, and a new product often starts with something that I’d like to use. More often than not I see the industry heading one direction, so I head the other. The huge recent popularity of acids for example, nudged me into knowing that there is going to be a lot of skin with damaged barrier functions. Exfoliation is wonderful, but it can so easily be overdone. This prompted me to design the Rest Day Range, which is designed specifically to restore our vital barrier function and give skin time to rest and recuperate from the barrage of overly active skincare products and users.
Apart from brilliant skincare products, what are the other key elements to achieving and maintaining great skin? Two of the most important things for our overall wellbeing and vital to skin health is eating well (minimal processed foods and loads of seasonal fruit and vegetables) and low anxiety and stress levels, which have a very visual effect on our skin. Stress in particular (and that feeling of being in fight and flight mode) has the most dramatic effect. The process of stress and skin is complicated but, in short, a rise in cortisol triggers hyper-pigmentation leading to uneven skin tone, as well as triggering inflammation and sebum production. This is why stress often triggers the appearance of spots, and conditions such as acne and eczema become worse.
What is your favourite product in the range and why?
Currently our Rest Day Range is my skin saviour. The last year and a half has been anything but plain sailing and these products are like an enormous loving hug to my skin. However, I am most proud of our CityLife range, in particular the CityLife Concentrate which took years to formulate (it’s an incredibly challenging and complicated formulation) which is clinically proven to protect against 97.7% of free radicals (all four types) and 98% of Particulate Matter, as well as Ozone and heavy metals and was hailed as the most advanced scientific advancement in the field of pollution protection.
What is your vision for Oskia in the next five years?
We’ve some very exciting new products coming out this year, one that includes a brand new ingredient that we’ve been working on for years and targeting acne prone skin. We also now work with the UK’s most exquisite spas (Chewton Glen, Cliveden, The Berkely, Mandarin Oriental, Gleneagles) so I’d love to see us expand across the globe as a key luxury spa provider. Additionally, Australia and the USA are clearly the next stop….
What advise do you have for budding entrepreneurs thinking about becoming their own boss?
Go for it, believe in your convictions and your gut feeling. Mistakes are the best things that can happen as they allow you to learn what works and doesn’t work for your brand – every brand is different. Enjoy it but if you don’t, you’re in the wrong job.