Sonia Deasy On Setting Up A Successful Skincare Brand
Pestle & Mortar is an innovative skincare company, set up by Sonia Deasy, that has a highly effective range of serums and oils that have garnered the attention of Vogue, Vanity Fair and the New York Times.
Founder, Sonia Deasy tells us what it takes to set-up a such a successful brand.
Was there anything in your background that led you to have an entrepreneurial spirit?
Probably everything in my background shaped my entrepreneurial spirit! My father had a drapery store in the town and I worked there a lot. I was given huge responsibility from an early age and all of us – my five siblings and I – were very aware of what it means to work for yourself. All six of us are now self-employed, so yes, I would definitely say there was something in the water!
Do you think it is something people can learn
Truthfully, I don’t. Studies have indicated that there may be an “entrepreneur gene” or at least that people with certain characteristics and personality traits are more likely to be successful entrepreneurs than others. I think it’s like musicality or athleticism – you can become better at it, but I think you’re born with the basics.
What did your early career in business look like?
Before Pestle & Mortar, I worked with my husband in his portrait photography studio, and before that, I was buying director for my family’s fashion wholesale business. One thing I know is that whilst business evolves constantly, the same basic rules always apply. You can’t take your eye off the ball and you need to take risks. Despite experience, you will make mistakes. Success is not final and failure is not fatal.
How did you come to start a career in cosmetics?
Primarily out of frustration! Whilst working alongside my husband in his portrait photography business, I noticed how dry and dull a lot of the subjects’ skin looked close up. I was also travelling a lot at the time, and I was frustrated that there didn’t seem to be a simple and effective skincare range on the market. Coming from 7 generations of Indian Herbalists, the obvious solution for me was to research and develop my own brand of skincare. Hence Pestle & Mortar!
How did you know where to begin?
I knew that I wanted to start with a Hyaluronic Serum. I wanted the serum to have an absorbent and non-tacky consistency, high efficacy & no skincare nasties. I wanted a multi-tasking product that could become a skincare routine essential. My sister holds a degree in biochemistry and a masters in some science or other and she helped me initially. My heritage in natural healing guided me also. I researched, travelled, sourced, tested and pulled my hair out for 18 months and that’s how I started!
Did you attend any courses?
No. Just the course of Life!
You had a young family at the time, was it daunting and how did you manage that?
I have a great husband! This is crucial, as we have the same goals for the business and for the family. Also, I don’t work from home – when I’m home, I’m home.
Do you have a daily routine that kept you focused?
My days are very varied but I do have a morning routine and I keep very regular mealtimes even when I am travelling. I think most working Mums develop the ability to focus on varied tasks from minute to minute – we have to.
Do you have any role models that you look up to?
I have many but one that stands out is my Father. He started and ran a business in a foreign country in internet-less times whilst educating and guiding six children. He lives in accordance with ancient Ayurvedic philosophies, but sub-consciously. In the West, we have to name everything and pay for everything. In the East, they just live it.
How do you stay motivated?
I don’t even call it into question! Being motivated is a natural state for me.
What were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
Just keeping all the balls in the air! There’s so much to co-ordinate and think about, from product formulation through to packaging, branding, marketing, sales and logistics. Luckily, I have built a strong and dedicated team who support me, understand the goals and work accordingly.
Your product has been hugely successful. Why do you think this is?
I think it is because our product is practical, effective, clearly explained, affordable and cushioned within a brand story that people can relate to.
Was there a moment when you knew you had made it?
Not really, no. As I said previously, success is not final!
What is it about the product that makes it so effective?
The ingredients and the formulations. Our products contain high quality key actives nestled into friendly and nourishing bases. Every ingredient we use in our formulations is present for the benefit of your skin. Also, every product in the range delivers its own key benefit. Consistent use will produce results.
What's next for Pestle and Mortar?
You asked about focus earlier. This is the one question that causes me to lose focus because the sky is the limit and my head is literally bursting with ideas! For now, we are constantly working on new and innovative products, expanding distribution and researching new markets…