Wexford skincare firm’s holistic approach helping it enter new markets

Inside Track: Holos Skincare founder Niamh Hogan is launching new product range this year

Holos Skincare manufactures, distributes and markets its own brand of plant-based skincare with a holistic approach that embraces skin health, wellbeing, ethics and sustainability in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. The company was founded by Niamh Hogan in 2014 and employs six people with markets online and across pharmacies, health stores and clinics in Ireland. Holos is available online in the UK and exports to Hong Kong.

What sets your business apart from the competition?

Our holistic approach enables us to merge the modern consumer’s need for clean, ethical and sustainable products with mainstream skincare concerns like anti-ageing, skin health and nutrition. We give the consumer a product range that they can adapt to their own lives.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

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A friend, who is also in business, asked herself this question every day and, until recently, when I was managing sales, marketing, accounts and everything in between on a daily basis, I would also ask myself: “Is what I am doing now driving sales?”

If the answer was no, I needed to stop what I was doing and get back to driving sales. It really works when you are at the stage where you are doing the job of six people in your company.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?

Not hiring fast enough and trying to do everything myself. It literally stunts your growth.

And your major success to date?

Being listed in McCauley Health and Beauty pharmacies in Ireland and exporting to Hong Kong. We are on the verge of some major deals which I cannot talk about just yet but opening up new markets is definitely where our success lies.

Who do you most admire in business and why?

As I'm in the Irish beauty industry, I have to admire Marissa Carter of Cocoa Brown and more recently Carter Beauty. She has built a beauty empire by being tremendously intelligent when it comes to connecting with the consumer and leading change in the market. She is also very kind and was one of the first people in the industry to show her support for me and Holos.

Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?

I haven't approached the banks as we have self-funded through sales along with Enterprise Ireland and a small private investor. However my experience with my bank is that they would be open to working with us should we need it. My only concern is that even though we are a limited company, a personal guarantee is usually needed to secure a loan which in a sense makes the "limited" part of Holos Ltd null and void.

What one piece of advice would you give to the Government to help stimulate the economy?

Start to support small businesses in the expansion phase, whether it be with investment, tax breaks or funding. The support available to entrepreneurs at start-up phase is excellent, as long as you fit the remit which is manufacturing, export and employment, but as you grow, it gets very limited and harder to acquire. Entrepreneurs and small businesses helped lift Ireland out of recession and provided much-needed employment. We should be supported for this.

Many founders of small businesses in Ireland take less salaries than their teams or even less than they might get on social welfare. This for keeping others out of the welfare system? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?

There have been many challenges at different stages. I have gotten to a place where we have a really strong team so my time has become better spent on strategising for growth. The challenge now is funding that growth.

How do you see the short term future for your business?

We will continue to grow our listings here in Ireland as well as to invest in our online market which is a huge growth area. We have a new range of products launching this year and we have a number of other projects which I have to remain quiet about for now but they will be major growth factors for us.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?

This is a question I will only answer to someone who has an interest in making an offer. The business is already worth seven figures but can be worth a lot more with the right investment, as this would enable us to implement our strategies for growth.