IF you suffer from allergies or sensitive skin, you could spend a lifetime poring over the small print on packets of food and household goods.
But wouldn’t it be great if you could enter a place where everything you touch is kind to your skin? Rachael Dunseath plans to create that space. Her business has been built around her own experience as a mother who wanted to protect her child’s health.
She’s the founder and formulator of the award-winning Myroo Skincare, which describes itself as the UK’s first ‘free-from’ skincare brand. Myroo’s products are made from natural, vegan and organic ingredients which are also free from gluten, nut and dairy products.
So far, Myroo has been a roaring success. It’s secured a contract to supply the new John Lewis store in Leeds and also scooped the Best Micro Business title at the 2016 Great British Entrepreneur awards. The business, which was started by Ms Dunseath and her husband Phil on a kitchen table in Harrogate, is poised to enter a larger market after gaining a manufacturer, Orean, which is based in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire.
Her career as an entrepreneur began seven years ago, when Ms Dunseath discovered that her daughter, Freya, had childhood eczema.
She recalled: “When I started looking at the products that were out there, and the ingredients, I realised we were eating really well. But the things we were putting on our skin were maybe not right for her. I started looking at making my own products for her; balms, lotions and mixing things up on the kitchen table at home. And they really helped her eczema. I realised they were really great for my sensitive skin and we all started to use them as a family.”
Ms Dunseath realised that there was potentially a very large market for natural skincare products. Myroo, which takes its name from Ms Dunseath’s nickname, Roo, signed up for the Entrepreneurial Spark Powered By NatWest Business Accelerator programme, to help it reach a wider audience.
The programme offers free office space at a ‘hatchery’ off the Headrow in Leeds for early stage and growing businesses who are looking for support from a network of mentors and fellow businesses. Myroo’s products are now sold in Hong Kong as the potential market for ethical skincare takes off.
“Clean beauty is huge now,” Ms Dunseath said. “It’s thrilled me that the industry has grown so massively. The bigger it gets, the more consumers learn about what ingredients are in their skin care. It’s educating people.”
Tucking into some gluten free pasta in a Leeds restaurant, she told me that she wouldn’t have considered letting go of the manufacturing process a few years ago.
“But the business has grown so much that we can’t keep up,” she said. “We want to be able to offer products that people can’t get, like a body wash.
“About 20 per cent of the population have a fragrance allergy. We know there is a demand out there, because people are asking us for it.
“We don’t have the capability in our workshops to make those sorts of products. It’s great to be partnering with a company like Orean that understands our values. Their values match ours. We’re really excited that this is the next step up in growth.
“Two and a half years ago, I developed a nut allergy overnight. I realised there was nobody really ‘owning’ the allergy and sensitive skin space.
“It needs someone who really understands what allergy sufferers are going through. That was when I had the light bulb moment of completely changing Myroo and overhauling it.
“We’re running it to make money, but it comes from a source of passion and experience and knowledge of what our customers are going through.
“Kindness is our core value. We’re kind to our skin, we’re kind to each other and we’re kind to the planet. That’s the basis of all of our decision making. That said, we’re from a corporate background and we understand business, and I do think this has the potential to grow into a really recognisable brand in the skin care space.”
Her ultimate goal is to establish a Myroo spa; a wellbeing space where people can enjoy an allergy friendly environment with a yoga studio, a cafe and a treatment centre.
She said: “It will be amazing to think that might be in place in five years’ time. Part of the Myroo proposition is that we will always stick to the values of vegan, organic, gluten free, nut free and dairy free. As someone who spends their life reading labels, I wanted Myroo to be a completely safe space.”
She added: “I’d love Myroo to be considered part of the first wave that triggered a change in skin care. Look at where food has gone in the last few years. You couldn’t just go to the supermarket and get a bag of gluten free pasta. You had to get it on prescription. I’m just sitting here, and I’ve got some gluten free pasta. That wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.
“We go up to Northumberland every year with the family, and me and my little girls have gluten free fish and chips. That change took time.”
Today, the Myroo team is still made up of Ms Dunseath and her husband, who work with a growing number of Yorkshire-based freelances.
The turnover is around £90,000 this year and this figure is set to grow as the new manufacturing operation swings into action.
Ms Dunseath hopes to be remembered as the leader of a gentle revolution that transformed skincare forever.
She added: “It would be lovely if labelling became clearer on skincare products and consumers had more of an understanding of what was in their skincare.
“To be considered one of the brands that made that change start to happen would be amazing.”
ame: Rachael Dunseath
Title: Founder and director of Myroo
Date of birth: March 10, 1975
Education: Degree Level – I studied American Studies in London & New York
First job: Babysitting
Last book read: The Night Manager – John Le Carre
Favourite song: Circle of Friends – Edie Brickell
Favourite holiday destination: Northumberland – unspoiled, quiet beaches and really patchy wifi. Car driven: Audi – a Harrogate cliché I’m afraid
What is the thing you are most proud of: I can touch my toes. Oh, not what you mean? My family then.