Member of the Month: Isobel Perl

Member of the Month: Isobel Perl
Isobel PerlPERL Cosmetics

Posted: Fri 29th Dec 2023

Congratulations to our Member of the Month for December, Isobel Perl, founder of the natural, British skincare company, PERL Cosmetics.

A project manager before the pandemic, Isobel had no idea she would be founding the viral skincare business, PERL Cosmetics, at 25.

After losing her job during the pandemic, she launched the business from her kitchen, using her biology degree to formulate and make the products at her home lab. PERL is a natural, British skincare company that prides itself on customisable, waterless formulas.

She says:

"After scaling to a six-figure business, I'm now looking to grow to the next step by upping manufacturing capacity and looking to be stocked in retail stores around the UK."

How did the idea for the businesses come about? 

I wouldn't say I grew up wanting to start a business but the idea sparked in 2019. I was simply inspired after reading a news article about two guys who started a skincare business in Australia selling pink clay masks. I heard loads about pink clay masks but they always seemed to be Australian brands. That got me thinking why isn't there a British version?

When the pandemic hit, I lost my job. I was living in London at the time but moved back home to my parents' house and decided to start working on the idea as I had nothing else to do with my time. I knew what product I wanted to make and that social media was how I was going to market it.

At the time, I thought I wouldn't be able to create a skincare brand from my kitchen because I needed a manufacturing partner and loads of money upfront. Although my sister suggested I make it at home, I assumed people wouldn't think it was legit.

I began to research which businesses started making products from their kitchens, and there are so many like Joe Malone, Liz Earle and Herbivore, all started from the kitchen. I got on Google, did loads of research and launched the business with one product.

It was a very slow first six months and took a long time before I felt like it turned into anything of noteworthy value.


Perl range 

Looking back, would you do anything differently?

I would do so many things differently. For starters, I would create a more gender-neutral brand. PERL is geared towards the feminine side; that's not to say that we don't have men who use our products. But as a brand, it is very female-centric and if I were to start a business again, I would lean more into gender-neutral colour palettes and products.

There is a huge market for skincare for both men and women and maybe that could be a new subsection, PERL Skin.

Secondly, at the start, I would have been more business-focused. I was very clear on what I wanted the product to look like, my socials and the marketing side, but I was less clear on the business details my mission statement and vision. At the time, I was doing it to keep busy but that's not why I'm doing it anymore.

I would have fleshed out those things a bit more carefully from the start. However, equally, it's not done me any harm learning it all along the way.

My own experience of skincare was from being a user of it. I was just very naïve and didn't know what I was getting myself into. I didn't even think about the fact that the skincare market was saturated. There is nothing major I would do differently other than just wishing I had a bit more knowledge about what I was doing.


@perlcosmetics Reply to @xxxizzy_foreverxxx does it cover your entire face? Yes, yes it does ✔️ #claymask #skintok #pinkclaymask ♬ All My Friends (feat. Tinashe & Chance the Rapper) (Sped Up Version) - Snakehips


What were some of the challenges you've faced?

Looking back, I question whether that was even a challenge or just hard at the time. The first six months were slow, but equally, I just had no idea what I was doing.

The first year was strong because we started on TikTok and everyone was rallying behind small businesses. We had a captive market online who were stuck at home with loads of disposable income and happy to support fledgling businesses, which was great for us. However, one challenge was not running with that momentum.

After a successful first year, keeping up that momentum was tough. Things started to slow down in February or March 2022 and one of my challenges was just not changing to keep up with the world.

There was one piece of advice that stuck with me from a business coach. We were discussing the drop in sales and he asked what I was doing differently. I had changed absolutely nothing; to which he questioned, how could I expect things to continue to go well if I didn't change anything.

He said: "You can't just assume that whatever worked a month ago is going to work now."

And that was my lightbulb moment. It has been a huge challenge to continue to grow a business when the world is constantly changing.

Another challenge is to do with bringing out products. As we formulate everything in-house, I create all the products, so there is this pressure to continue to create products that are good and everyone loves.

What’s next for the business?

Definitely, launching new products in 2024. Last year, we launched one product and hopefully will do a few more soon. I never want to launch too many products; I only ever want to do a maximum of three a year, anything more is overconsumption.

I also want to try and break into the wholesale market. At the moment, we are predominantly an online business, so I would love to be stocked with some local retailers and more well-known retailers.

What has been your proudest achievement so far? 

With PERL, it would be creating a recognisable brand. It's crazy to think that someone in a room of a hundred people might have heard of PERL.

Being able to share my story, talk on panels and go back to my old university to talk to their business students are all personal achievements I am really proud of.


Isobel Perl, founder of PERL Cosmetics, outside her pop-up shop 

When did you first come across Enterprise Nation?

It has been quite a while since I first came across the platform through social media or a Google search. I've been involved with Enterprise Nation through the Help to Grow programme. My mentor was from Enterprise Nation and I also entered a few competitions.

I won the Adobe Express one. It was awesome having a pop-up on Oxford Street. That was a proud moment too.

What's been the best piece of advice you've got?

It is something I am trying to embody this year no one cares. No one cares if your Instagram post is late or you forgot to change something on your website.

It's not the end of the world, and I am trying to lean into this notion of not taking it so seriously.

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Isobel PerlPERL Cosmetics
I have a first-class honours degree in Biology and a professional background in Project Management.  After losing my job at the start of the pandemic, I decided to combine my passion for science and love for skincare to create PERL Cosmetics. PERL is a natrual, British skincare company that prides itself on customisable, waterless formulas. Using my degree, I formulate and make the products at my home lab. After scaling to a a 6-figure business, I'm now looking to grow to the next step with upping manufacturing capacity and looking to be stocked in retail stores around the UK.

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