Aussie Beauty Heroes: Launching a skincare brand mid-pandemic with the Founder of The Raw Vedic

In this inaugural article in the Aussie Beauty Heroes Series, Professional Beauty talks to the Founder of a skincare brand that was created during the pandemic and finds itself still pre-launch and plunged back into lockdown. Rupa Chopra is Founder of The Raw Vedic, an Australian made, gender-neutral skincare brand powered by Ayurveda. It’s underpinned by 4 core pillars: raw Indian botanicals, sustainability (the packaging is 100% plastic free), radical transparency and and empowerment to feel confident in your own skin. The brand reflects Rupa’s Indian roots through the ingredients used and her European upbringing to be vibrant and bold. These two cultural influences are complemented by Rupa’s exposure to nature living in Australia, driving the brand’s sustainability agenda. Every single element of The Raw Vedic is very personal to her and even though the brand is pre-launch, it’s piqued the interest of serious beauty investors and funds already.

PB: How has this lockdown been different, if at all, from the other ones?

“The latest lockdown in Sydney is the hardest yet, day-to-day life was almost back to normal, our launch plans had been realigned and gaining momentum. Then it hit. It’s especially harder given that other countries are opening and reducing border restrictions whilst Australia has taken a cautious step backwards once again.”

PB: How are you surviving financially, if you don’t mind us asking? Is the government aid helping? Is there something else you wish was provided?

“To fuel The Raw Vedic we have been fully bootstrapped, relying on personal savings to keep pushing on with our launch which has been really tough with funds tied up and no revenue from the business to cover costs. Whilst we are part of start-up communities such as Blackbird VC ‘Giants’, and have various industry leading mentors, we have consistently been told that obtaining funding pre-launch as a beauty start-up would be near impossible (combined with the fact that it is founded by a woman of colour). We are considering grants, but beauty brands are often overlooked vs. new tech start-ups despite there being some amazing global success stories for brands in the skincare and wellness space.

There are a lot more beauty specific investment funds in the U.S vs. Australia that can provide operational expertise, knowledge and networks to drive growth and profitability for newcomers and existing brands. To encourage success stories to come out of the Australian start-up ecosystem, we need more support specific to the beauty, wellness and personal care space. We need investors who truly understand the ins and outs of the industry and can help make informed decisions to drive global reach.”  

PB: How has your business been affected?

“We have had to further delay the finalisation and launch of our products. With strict lockdowns, we have not been able to meet with our manufacturers, prospective distributors/retailers, PR agencies, obtain certain raw materials (since our actives are Indian botanicals) and generally network to get our brand story and products out there. Connecting with communities and people is what we need to drive the business forward and showcase our amazing products and brand.”

PB: How do you see our industry coming out of this? Better, worse, the same? And why?

“There will be a period of repair but generally for those that have been agile and forward thinking they will come out on the other side better than before. Unfortunately, there will also be many smaller/new brands that will have sunk before we are out of this because let’s face it, times and tough and this isn’t an easy situation to navigate.”

PB: Do you think the multi-billion-dollar beauty industry has been given proper consideration through this pandemic? Yes or no and why/why not?

“Not really. The media has portrayed the industry as one of the winners from the pandemic i.e. a general increase in online beauty purchases based on data from the world’s beauty giants. This is quite a tunnel vision view of the industry and doesn’t take into consideration new brands starting out as well as those that only have local physical presence.”

PB: How are you working on your business while you can’t work with clients?

“Zoom is our best friend right now because it’s the only option however it isn’t quite the same. The Raw Vedic has a compelling founder story that would be better told face to face and in forums where human interaction is key. Networking and brand awareness is super important at the current stage we are at and simply cannot be done as effectively over email/online meetings.”

PB: What revenue streams have you been able to develop that you hadn’t really relied upon before?

“We are pre-launch so it’s all cost at the moment and $0 revenue. The more we are delayed to launch, the harder it will be to keep funding the business.” 

PB: In what ways do you think our industry has fared compared to others?

“On the whole, the industry has adapted as much as it can through fast tracking digitalisation, but this was only possible for businesses that had the resources to do so. It doesn’t represent the smaller, independent beauty and wellness brands that have been left to ride the wave and ‘fend’ for themselves. Consumer demand in general increased in the new digital world because home self-care became a necessity and a mechanism to stay positive.

Industries such as hospitality and travel have suffered hugely due the nature of their businesses so in some senses, the beauty industry dodged a bullet due to the change in consumer spending habits and pre-covid shifts towards digital platforms and social media.”

PB: What are your plans for safeguarding your business when the pandemic ends?

“From an operational point of view, diversifying our channels of distribution and geographic reach will be key. In addition, building a strong online presence and digital platform with a loyal community is something that we at The Raw Vedic will continue to place huge importance on.

From a resource point of view, building a team that is resilient and agile will also be fundamental to business continuity planning as well as strong cash flow.”

Find out more about The Raw Vedic on their website, Instagram, Facebook and Vimeo.

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