Founders of natural beauty and skincare brand Balance Me, sisters Rebecca and Clare Hopkins left their respective corporate careers back in 2002 when they put their heads together and came up with 'Balance Being', a business that offered holistic and beauty therapies to corporate clients with the aid of aroma therapy products they'd blend in their own kitchen - a move that paid off when they received a call from a major high street retailer who was interested in purchasing the products...
You both left successful corporate careers to start Balance Me, at which moment did you decide to press the reset button on your work life? And what motivated you both to make the switch?
Clare and my wellness journey began when I was working for a beauty giant in their luxury products division and Clare was a management consultant. We were both incredibly stressed, travelling regularly for work and our work/life balance was completely out of kilter. The turning point came when Clare suffered a blood clot and decided to quit her job to study yoga with a series of renowned teachers around the globe via a five month contract with a mobile startup. While she was away I discovered reflexology to help with my stress levels and through studying at weekends and in my spare time, qualified as a practitioner and started to build up a private client base.
When Clare returned in early 2002 we decided that we wanted to address the lack of wellbeing we’d experienced in the work place. We wanted to capitalise on all the corporate experience we’d gained in our twenties and embrace our new found skills. We founded our first business, 'Balance Being' which essentially offered holistic and beauty therapies to the corporate sector and we built up a team of independent therapists and practitioners to widen our offering. As part of our services we would blend aroma therapy products in our kitchen so clients could take ‘a slice of our wellbeing’ away with them to allow their wellbeing experience to linger. This led to a call from a major high street retailer who was interested in purchasing these products. It gave us the confidence to find a UK manufacturer and within a year we’d been given a pop up shop on London’s Oxford Street and our aptly named range, ‘Balance Me’ was born.
Changing your career path is a scary prospect, how did you support each other at the beginning?
Clare wasn’t on the property ladder at this stage so moved in with me while she saved up for her own place. We worked collectively and independently to build the brand and realise our vision. We divided up the tasks according to our skill set and then poured all our collective energy, along with reflexology and yoga earnings into building the business. We funded our first production run for John Lewis, when we launched there in October 2006 with profits from our first company, Balance Being.
Having joined forces as sisters, what have you learnt from working with family?
We share the same values and trust each other implicitly which is fundamental in business. We also have very complementary skills. Clare is operational and commercial; I am creative with a marketing and PR background. We come from a family of entrepreneurs so it’s always seemed like a natural progression to build our own business. We hope to inspire our own children as well, if it is the right path for them one day!
Describe how your approach to beauty has evolved since starting your own brand?
Over the years we’ve been able to push the boundaries on what is possible in natural beauty innovation and thanks to growing demand in the UK and overseas, there is a host of really interesting natural actives and extracts available to offer outstanding results without compromising on our Balance Me Promise (no parabens, sulphates etc.) Our philosophy has always been to create a range that we’re proud to put on our own skin and that of our family and friends.
As founders we are now 10+ years older than we were when we started so our skin needs have changed, as have those of our growing family. My thirteen year old daughter is using our Combination range and is a great ambassador for teenage skin!
How do you achieve balance in your everyday life?
Having children has given ‘balance’ a whole new dimension. Life is a juggle and each day is different. Being organised with our time is paramount.
To keep life balanced it’s important is to have quality family time; carve out some ‘me time’ each week (such as yoga, swimming or running) and devote sufficient energies into the business, our team and growing the brand. We both ride scooters and have done for years. It is the most efficient way of getting from A to B and beating the London traffic.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned along the way?
How supportive our peers have been in the beauty industry. We have a really strong network of fellow beauty entrepreneurs, beauty press, influencers and leaders of big beauty brands. They want us to succeed, despite some of us being leaders of competing brands. We share common experiences and agree there are highs and lows of running a successful business in the 21st century!
What’s your ‘pinch me, I must be dreaming’ moment?
When we were awarded ‘Best British Brand’ in 2013 by Cosmetics Executive Women UK, an industry body of over 1000 independently voting members. And our first skincare order from Waitrose when we launched in 200 of their stores.
What advice would you give to someone starting out a career in beauty?
Make sure you are following a passion and you can make money. Cash is king. Get help and support from your family and friends. Play to your own strengths and surround yourself with people who have complimentary skills.
Who or what inspires you?
Other female entrepreneurs.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Surround yourself with a positive and complementary team who have a different skill set and understand where you are in your business journey as it takes time to establish a brand. And celebrate success.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t be scared to take risks. Keep your heads and believe in where you’re heading.
What did you want to be growing up?
I was fascinated by law – our paternal grandmother was Sheffield’s first female barrister – and wanted to follow in her footsteps. I was then given the opportunity to work for a beauty giant in Paris during my French degree and my passion for beauty was born. I have never looked back.
When are you happiest?
When I’m with my family, in good weather on a beach!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being an entrepreneur and a mother of two. No two days are the same. I can use a whole variety of skills and meet the most amazing people. I am never bored.
And what would you like to achieve next?
We have ambitions to continue to grow our UK distribution yet further and also increase the reach of our own website, and pursue more business overseas.
When was the last time you laughed out loud?
This morning my 5 year old son discovered ‘Happy Socks’ and has been wearing them all week until today, when he announced he would wear something else as it's ‘too tiring’ to be happy again today at school!
At hush we value female friendships - what qualities do all your friends share?
Integrity, compassion, trust and a good sense of humour.
What’s the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
We’re from Sheffield and have a third sister – she’s the eldest and is a Dentist in Singapore.
What are you reading/watching at the moment?
I’ve just finished the third series of The Bridge and awaiting for Series 4 with impatience… I have also just finished reading the Elena Ferrante quartet and planning a trip to Naples as a result.
What’s your top tip to unwind?
Spending quality outdoor time with our wider family. We’re about to head to Cornwall for a big Hopkins family get-together. North Cornwall is our spiritual home!
Over or under dressed?
Rebecca - Over . I love a heel.
Clare - Under. I prefer smart casual.
Summer or winter?
Most definitely summer. We struggle with the long winter months.
Over or under packer?
Over. Clare cannot pack lightly!
Ultimate beauty trick?
Dry body brushing – use two brushes it’s quicker. It is a great way to keep cellulite at bay and combined with a strong massage with our Super Toning Body Oil, which I first created aged 18 and features juniper, geranium, lavender and bergamot essential oils.
Skincare saviour you swear by?
Rebecca - Our Radiance Face Oil
Clare - Our Wonder Eye Cream.
Desert island beauty product (we’ll give you sunscreen)?
Our Stellar Beauty Balm. It’s multi-tasking.
Be yourself. You’re the one who takes you from dusk until dawn!
Can’t live without…
Our family. They keep us real.
To see Rebecca and Clare's natural beauty and skincare range visit BalanceMe.co.uk!