Posted: Mon 22nd Jan 2024
After having launched the dermaplaning, hair removal and exfoliation tool company in 2017, Amy reflects on the valuable lessons she has learnt on her business journey so far. However, her mastery comes from the fact that she managed to successfully leverage her television appearances on the news, QVC UK and The Apprentice into long-standing press coverage.
Watch Amy’s panel – Make me famous: How to get your brand out there – from the StartUp Show Keynote Stage recordings. Watch now!
You started your career as an actress and producer, but was starting a business always on the cards?
Not at all. My father was an art teacher and my mother was a music teacher.
But when you're an actor, you are a business. You're an entrepreneur as you have to do everything yourself. You have to hustle and find the opportunities, be proactive, search for auditions, representation and become as skilful as possible.
These traits applied to my entrepreneurial journey because one of the biggest issues we have is staying proactive and not letting the negatives get you down. You're constantly kicked but you have to keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off.
When did you know the Browzer was a viable business idea?
When I moved to the UK in 2009, I was acting and subsequently moved into producing theatre, where you have no real income until you start selling tickets. So, I started to be a guest presenter on QVC UK.
I was presenting beauty products and was the UK brand ambassador for the No!No! hair removal system. Women seemed to love the idea of being hair-free, especially on the face and I sold millions of units.
However, there was a very high return rate, not because I was a bad salesperson, but because there were a lot of negatives. You had to consistently use it three times a week. It was expensive and time-consuming, it hurt and was not for every skin type.
This got me thinking about the dermaplaning tool that I had to bring over from America to the UK because I could never find it here. I realised this is what people wanted; they wanted quick, easy, pain-free hair removal at a low price. It was easy to do at home and caused no redness.
It ticked all the boxes and I started to look into bringing the concept to the UK. It was my light bulb moment.
Did you see bringing a new concept to market as a challenge or advantage?
There were ups and downs with getting the product and the brand out there. I introduced the concept to the distributor of No!No! hair removal system as he said that we could work on the release together. I trusted that would happen and he stole it!
These are some of the hard lessons you learn along the way – how do you protect yourself?
I was devasted and went to a lawyer as I knew this was my big chance and the lawyer gave me some free advice. He said:
“It's not a patented product yet so you can do it yourself. Do it better and blow them out of the water.”
And that's what I did, that’s the beginning of the Hollywood Browzer.
The stats are something like three million or some crazy number of searches on TikTok. It's the most-viewed beauty trend/treatment now. But back then, people were very critical, so it started with me having to educate the market. I enjoy teaching but there were downsides to dealing with the naysayers and trying to convince them of the science behind it.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Even though the market is crowded, we are still the leaders. People sometimes say that they can buy 10 for £5 at TK Maxx, but they eventually come back because of the quality and reputation of the product.
A recent challenge has been a former partner, who represented the brand by selling us to various retailers, trademarked the name of one of my products, blocking me from selling my product on Amazon.
I would say my biggest issue has been bad people trying to do bad things to jeopardise your success.
As a small business owner, who doesn’t have the deepest pockets, what do you do when you are faced with a situation like this?
There's always free legal advice to a certain extent and you have to find ways to protect yourself as best you can.
Take advantage of your support networks and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no stupid questions. The worst they can say is no. Someone recently best put it that you have to have rhino skin to be in business.
How did you leverage an appearance on The Apprentice to create more PR opportunities?
It is about turning tiny wins into press coverage. We have so much control now because of social media. No one can predict when something will go viral, but you can put it out there.
When it was just me, I used to call editors. One of my firsts was calling Woman & Home Feel Good You and the editor answered. I just pitched and she did an article on the Browzer.
Press coverage is not so hard to get, it just takes time. You’ve got to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks and then look for other media opportunities.
I'm lucky enough to sell my products on TV shopping and I’ve worked hard to get there. But that is not enough, I take that footage and put it on social media.
You've got to take that little nugget and push it out to all channels. You never know if a buyer or the press is going to pick it up.
You have used influencer marketing to advertise the Hollywood Browzer. How did you decide which method would work best for the product?
Years ago, when I first started the brand, influencer marketing was new. It wasn't exorbitantly priced. It was reasonable, affordable and with most spends, you would get a good ROI.
We were doing really well. People were keen on working with us and then it spun out of control. People got very greedy. I will never forget this influencer from Love Island, who wanted £5,000 or £6,000 for a 24-hour Insta story and she had millions of followers, but she sold 111 units. For me, this was the end of influencer collabs.
We have now switched to micro-influencers and TikTok affiliates. We have our ambassador programme, where you don’t have to shell out so much and it works on commission. We recently had a micro-influencer who sold £100,000 worth of product and overnight made £5,000, which justifies the spend.
I do think the influencer collab days are over. I don’t believe them anymore, I know they're being paid a lot of money.
What does success for the brand look like?
We just made a massive strategic decision recently. When I first started the brand, I wanted to be everywhere, but what I discovered, because we were in so many retailers, is that you lose control of the DNA of the brand. The worst thing is you lose control of pricing.
We've changed our strategy and now only pursue profitable ventures where we have control over the DNA of the brand. We would also like to have a direct relationship with our customers, so email marketing and direct-to-consumer are huge for us.
The second massive piece of the pie is Amazon. Everyone loves Prime and it pays within a few days of the sales, whereas as with many retailers, you have to wait 30, 60 or 90 days. When you're running a small business, cash flow is key, and you can't run on fumes.
I still love QVC. Being on air, I get to educate and tell my story about the brand and the benefits of the products. We're also in the Middle East with a distributor and selling to an Amazon US seller.
Funnily, we've grown, but at the same time we've scaled it back, so we have more control.
What is the best piece of advice you live by?
As an entrepreneur, there's so much newness that you'll never know everything. So never be afraid to just ask questions, the worst that can happen is that they'll say no. This is not rocket science, all you want to do is run a successful business, and to do that you need to learn every day. I am still learning.
Why did you decide to speak at StartUp Show?
I am most excited to share my journey and help others. It’s my way of giving back. I have always loved going to shows like this. I still go to many roundtables as peer-to-peer learning is the best, whether you're on the same level or not, it doesn't matter. Always be learning!