[7 MINUTE READ]
Well, TGIF everyone! It’s another warm Friday here in London and we are excited to start off your morning right with this week’s Friday Founder Interview.
You may have already heard of Votary Skincare, which counts the Tatler Beauty Awards 2019 and Get The Gloss Beauty and Wellness Awards 2020 among its many accolades. Votary Skincare is all about high-performance, plant-powered skincare that helps you achieve healthy, dewy skin at any age.
In today’s interview, Co-Founder Arabella Preston divulged what made her start the brand, her favourite products, and how she unwinds at the end of each working day. So, grab yourself your drink of choice, cosy up and keep reading for your weekly dose of inspiration...
"Oil cleansing is unbeatable when it comes to makeup removal as it actively benefits the skin."
Morning Arabella! We are so delighted to have you! Please could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
I grew up in rural Shropshire. It was simple and fairly idyllic. But, of course, I spent my teenage years working out how to escape and get to London. My Mum was a very talented and passionate gardener. It’s interesting because now that I live in the countryside, I have inherited some of that passion. I particularly love growing herbs, salads and cut flowers.
How lovely! So, how did you first get into the beauty industry?
I actually started out in fashion. I spent quite a lot of time on shoots and was always hanging around the make-up artist’s station. I was a little bit obsessed and would hang off every tip and trick they shared. I eventually decided to re-train as a makeup artist and was incredibly lucky to meet Kay Montano soon after my course ended. I became her first assistant and that is really where I learned my skills and developed my approach to beauty and skincare.
What a brilliant opportunity! So, when did you decide to start up Votary Skincare and why? Was the timing important?
I would always use great-smelling facial oil to prep my clients’ skin. It had the double benefit of making their skin look glowing and alive, but it would also relax them and instill a sense of confidence. Makeup artists are also interested in how best to remove makeup, as well as how to apply it; oil cleansing is unbeatable when it comes to makeup removal as it actively benefits the skin.
I had started blending oils for myself and had started to give them to friends and clients, but never intended to set up my own brand! However, one fateful lunch with friends changed all that. Charlotte, my now business partner, heard about my love of oils and cornered me after lunch, and so Votary was born.
Friends can be very convincing! Does Votary Skincare consider issues relating to sensitive skin/allergies?
Absolutely! I firmly believe that all skin is unique and individual and so we have tried to create ranges to suit all skin types and life stages. Our Super Seed range was created with sensitivities in mind. Apart from the cleansing oil, the range is essential oil-free and is our most nourishing range. Many skin sensitivities stem from a compromised skin barrier. Pure natural plant oils and botanical actives are brilliant at working to give you your best possible skin and helping to maintain a smooth, strong barrier function.
That is great to hear! How does sustainability factor into Votary Skincare?
We care passionately about the quality of each bottle we make. That’s why Votary products are made in small, fresh batches here in the UK. Our oils are cold-pressed and bottled all under one roof! This means we minimise the carbon footprint of our supply chain and ensure the absolute freshness of each ingredient.
We strive for sustainability in our packaging too. For example, all our outer paper and card packaging are recyclable. Our box manufacturers are FSC and PEFC certified and support the World Land Trust to offset any emissions produced during manufacture. Our parcels are packed with Eco Flo chips which are made from 100% GMO-free starch and are 100% biodegradable. We have even switched our packing tape and sticker closures to paper. Our glass bottles are fully recyclable and also work to preserve our luxurious oils from over-exposure to sunlight and heat.
We are always looking for ways to improve our practices and we never assume we are doing anything perfectly.
That is refreshing to hear! You certainly are doing your part though. Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty and skincare products nowadays too?
Yes, definitely! We certainly see that our customers are incredibly well-informed about ingredients and they know what they’re looking for. There is so much more access to great information and people are passionate about products that work for their skin. Skincare experts (like Caroline Hirons, for example) have helped to inform people about different ingredients, the specifics of different skin types and generally guide them through the marketing noise.
Ingredient transparency is important to us. For example, when we decided to make a retinoid oil (Votary Intense Night Oil), it was obvious to me that we needed to use a lab-made retinoid. It simply isn’t truthful to tell customers they can get a proper Vitamin A effect from natural oils.
As a consumer, I really appreciate that! So, in terms of the business, what were your biggest challenges in starting up Votary Skincare?
My Votary Co-Founder Charlotte had set up two successful businesses already, so we were incredibly fortunate to have her expertise. We both live about an hour from London but in opposite directions. Fortunately, technology has enabled us to work remotely which would have been very difficult before the tech advances we use daily. We were well-prepared for lockdown when it happened!
Thank goodness! And what is your favourite thing about your job?
Creating new products is always an exciting process. The best bit is when a new product starts to get rave reviews as that means we have achieved what we set out to do.
I also love being in touch with our customers daily on Instagram. They are often the inspiration for new products.
"Our Rose Geranium and Apricot Cleansing Oil was featured as part of Jess Glynne’s set at the 2019 Brit Awards."
I love that! Social media is such a great asset for growing businesses, for sure! Which is your favourite product you’ve ever created?
It has to be Rose Geranium Cleansing Oil. It’s where it all began!
I’m using it currently and I absolutely love it! What do you think makes Votary Skincare stand out?
I think we have successfully navigated being a natural brand, while never compromising on the end results. We know when and how to use carefully selected, lab-made ingredients. Essentially, that means that thought goes into the sourcing of each and every ingredient, so we are always using the very best option in every situation.
It makes a real difference, not only to the product but your ethos and reputation! Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting Votary Skincare?
Our Rose Geranium and Apricot Cleansing Oil was featured as part of Jess Glynne’s set at the 2019 Brit Awards. Her song ‘Thursday’ opens with the lyrics, “I don’t wear makeup on Thursday, I’m sick of covering up.” As part of the show, a stage-full of performers removed their make-up with Votary Cleansing Oil and proper face cloths. It was a very proud moment and beautiful to watch it perform its effortless function on such an international and prestigious stage.
That’s incredible! I remember that performance, but I must go back and watch it now that I know this! What inspires you?
I look for inspiration everywhere. My family, friends, colleagues, garden, even Instagram!
Oh, I agree! I think there is a lot of inspiring content on Instagram nowadays! Could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
Each morning starts with setting the children up with their schoolwork. My working day usually begins with a call to my business partner before tackling my inbox. Meetings now take place virtually and I catch up with the team throughout the day about new launches and other projects. I love to end the day with a hot bath. I find it completely relaxing and it really signals the end of the working day for me.
That’s a brilliant way to punctuate your day! Do you think you have a work/life balance?
Sometimes! There are periods where work or life can definitely take over. At the moment, our pace of life has slowed so I’m enjoying spending time watching box sets as a family or going for beautiful walks in the Kent countryside!
What a gorgeous place to be! What words do you live by?
“This too shall pass.”
Such a classic! What’s next for Votary?
We have just revamped our much-loved Toning Serum. Brightening Hyaluronic Serum is an illuminating blend of narcissus and AHA - it’s just what our skin needs right now as we are all working from home still. We have a few more exciting launches planned this year, which we cannot wait to share!