Naomi Whitfeld, founder of natural skincare brand iKOU tells Professional Beauty the secret to running a successful beauty business.
Naomi Whitfeld founded organic beauty brand iKOU with her husband Paul in 2007. Since then iKOU has grown to three stores, two located in Leura, NSW, and one in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney – there is also a Melbourne store set to open in the New Year. iKOU products are also found in world-leading hotels and spas in Australia and across Asia.
Here are Naomi’s top tips to running a thriving beauty business.
Why did you decide to start an organic brand?
“My partner Paul & I were severe eczema sufferers, Paul was born with it, mine hit in my teens. During my 20s I suffered from social phobia, and had eczema all over my face. I felt stressed by my conditions all the time, and finally when I hit 30 decided it was time to create the life I loved. In 2007 I felt an overwhelming desire to start my own business that shared the lifestyle that made my own life so great.”
What aspects of having your own business do you most enjoy?
“I really wanted to create a business that wasn’t just about the benefits to its self, I wanted my business to benefit all and give back down the line with a triple bottom line approach to environmental awareness, social responsibility, animal-friendly practice. [I am also interested in] supporting Australian growers and fair trade co-operatives around the globe.”
What’s special about iKOU?
“iKOU is based on passion, purity and integrity. We are a shining example of a successful business that believes profit is a direct result of doing great things and not sacrificing anything for the bottom line. I honestly believe generosity comes back to you and makes you feel great as an added bonus. I choose the best quality ingredients, never based on price. I want people to feel results in their skin and their stress levels really quickly, and this intention goes in to everything we do. We also aim to make business with us fun and supportive. My goal is for wow-factor in all we do!”
What are some of the leading spas we will find iKOU?
“We created our ranges because of my love of the global spa industry, so spas and luxury resorts are our specialty. Some of our spa partners include Park Hyatt Sydney (Awarded Best Day Spa Australasia last year), The Byron at Byron, Pullman Vie Spa Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Bunker Bay, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley and Six Senses Maldives.”
Which iKOU products are top sellers?
“I worked in retail since I was 19 and I wanted to prove that it was possible to create an entire range of best-sellers. I used to feel frustrated that so many brands I worked with had one or two key products that performed really well, while the rest just sat on the shelf. I personally develop all of our ranges to ensure they pay for their shelf space, which at the end of the day is what business is all about!”
What has been your most challenging moment so far?
“Keeping up with the growth! iKOU has been so successful, that our growth has happened organically and extremely fast. Being based in a regional area it’s often difficult to find staff and large enough facilities for our ever growing production. We’ve been incredibly lucky though and I always find whenever I really need something, it lands at my feet just at the right time.”
What are your top tips for making life less stressful?
“Taking time for self every day is the key to living a balanced life. I had the privilege of attending the classes of an incredible yoga teacher in the Maldives at the gorgeous Six Senses Spa (one of our iKOU stockists!) a couple of years ago. She talked about the fact that nothing stays the same; for good and for bad everything changes, everyday. Her wise words have always stuck with me, and I have realised that often life balance slips away from you without you realising it. Since then, I like to ask myself at some point during each day “How are you feeling, and how would you like to be feeling?”. This simple question helps you shift behaviours or thought patterns to create a life that feeds your soul and makes the most of everyday.”
You recently won the NSW Entrepreneur Award in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. What does this mean to you?
“I am so incredibly proud to have received this honour, and it reinforces my trust in my own instincts for my business model, that I am on the right path in my focus. The awards have made me reflect right back to the beginning when it all began with nothing more than a dream to share with the world the things that I loved in my own life. The awards have made me reflect back to how far I’ve come in such a short time. I am especially proud because I don’t fit the traditional business mood. I left school on my 15th birthday, have never done any formal business studies, and I started my business with no money behind me. I truly hope this inspires other women… If I can do it, anyone can!”
What are your top tips for women wanting to start their own business?
“Ensure you are ready for the journey; it’s a long term commitment.Trust your instincts and ignore the doubters; if you believe you can do it, you have the power to achieve anything you want. Also know your target market – who your customers are and also who they aren’t, and stay true to this. Getting the right people who support your vision, is crucial, then get your systems right. Even the best systems will fail with the wrong people. Remember to celebrate your achievements along the way. And finally, the philosophy of “rest, relax. restore” will keep you motivated and everything in perspective. If ever it feels too much, you possibly just need a hot bath and a good night’s sleep!”
If you would like to get in touch with Naomi Whitfeld at iKOU, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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