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Beauty

‘We Launched A Beauty Brand In A Pandemic’

This brother-sister team had 80,000 products ready to go. Then coronavirus struck


By Anna Saunders

Presented in partnership with Alkira, which is offering PRIMER readers 20% of all products with the code primer20.

Simon O’Connor and Alison Goodger had spent an entire year pouring their energy into creating a new beauty brand – one that was natural, vegan and made with Australian botanical ingredients.

They’d planned their launch strategy for the brand – called Alkira – signed the lease on a new office, devised a range of in-store promotions and persuaded hundreds of retailers to come on board.

By March they were almost ready to launch. And then Covid-19 hit. “At first we were optimistic,” says Simon. “We thought it might come and go pretty quickly. But then, you know, those news bulletins just kept appearing…”

On a Monday in early April, the first batch of 80,000 cleansers, moisturisers and face masks had arrived at their warehouse. The following day, retailers started cancelling their orders. “Buyers started to phone us to say: ‘Now’s not the right time,” says Alison.

 

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Alkira Radiant Facial Cleanser with Finger Lime Caviar, Kakadu Plum PHOTO: Alkira

In hindsight, the pair – who are brother and sister – agree that launching a brand in store wouldn’t have succeeded. “People weren’t exactly walking into pharmacies and browsing the aisles for new skincare brands,” quips Simon. But it was still a blow.

Fortunately, this isn’t their first foray into beauty.

The pair are the co-founders of Sukin, one of Australia’s most successful skincare brands, which they sold for $57 million in 2015. They knew it was essential to act decisively, so they pivoted to a digital strategy, sending products to influencers and building an online community.

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Alkira Founders and brother and sister Simon O'Conner and Alison Goodger

Since then, Alkira has almost sold out of one of its hero products – the Vitamin C + Facial Oil – with influencers such as Lyndi Kennedy and Isabelle Grace singing its praises on social media.

“We’ve never come up against a bigger challenge than launching a brand during Covid-19,” says Simon, who readily admits that their experience lies in bricks and mortar retail, not online sales. “There were fleeting moments when we thought ‘Let’s just forget about this for a while’. But that’s not really the way Alison and I work. We’re pretty optimistic.”

That optimism has served them well so far.

The birth of a new beauty brand

When Simon and Alison launched Sukin in 2007, the natural skincare category barely existed in Australia. “We had to explain to customers what it meant to be natural,” says Alison.

The pair built the business into Australia’s number one natural skincare brand before buyers began circling, and they exited in 2015. The next few years were turbulent; shortly after giving birth to her third daughter, Alison was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment. It was then that her thoughts returned to skincare.

“After going through that hideous journey, I told Simon, ‘I need a long-term proposition again. I need to have something so I can feel like I’m living again.”

Since leaving Sukin, the pair had begun discovering an array of little-known Australian native ingredients, such as Davidson Plum, which is packed with phyto-active compounds and Emu Apple, which contains up to 10 times more antioxidants than blueberries. “Suppliers had been working on the ‘standard’ Australian natives like Kakadu Plum or Macadamia Oil that had broad reach, but they just hadn’t started extracting these other products before.”

They just hadn’t extracting these products before

This time around, the pair wanted to create a natural skincare brand that was defined not only by the ingredients it didn’t contain – such as sulphates, parabens and synthetic fragrances – but by those it did.

“I really think that Australian brands can own the [clean, green] space, and that we can offer the clean, green brands that I think the world needs at the moment,” says Alison, who has used natural products since her early 20s and is committed to a vegan, cruelty-free and carbon-neutral ethos.

Today, Alkira offers five ranges – Hydrating, Hydra+, Brightening, Detoxifying and Refining – and its ingredients include everything the Vitamin C-rich Finger Lime Caviar to antioxidant-packed Emu Apple.

Alison describes the Antioxidant Night Cream as “probably my favourite skincare product that I’ve made to date during my career”, describing it as a “really multifunctional, rich night cream that just makes your skin feel amazing”.

The pair are characteristically optimistic about what the rest of 2020 will bring. “It’s been a challenge,” laughs Simon. “And we’re piecing everything together in a hurry now. But we’re going to be in a good place when we can launch in stores.”

Our picks

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Alkira products. Here are some of our favourites…

Presented in association with Alkira, which is natural, vegan, cruelty-free and carbon-neutral and made without synthetic fragrances, animal derivatives, harsh detergents, propylene glycol, MEA/DEA/TEA, petroleum, mineral oils, phthalates, sulphates, parabens, silicones, ETDA, triclosan. To find out more about their Australian botanical ingredients visit their website

Alkira  is offering PRIMER readers 20% off all products on their website and free shipping with the code: primer20

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BY Anna Saunders

Anna is the co-founder of PRIMER

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