Rodial skincare founder’s tips for growing a successful business

We spoke to Maria Hatzistefanis about how she grew her business from a small company to one of the leading skincare brands despite a worldwide recession

Maria Hatzistefanis founded Rodial in 1999. The skincare company has now grown into a global brand – on sale in 35 countries and worn by celebrity fans including Lady Gaga. We spoke to Hatzistefanis about how she grew her business despite a worldwide recession.

You started as a beauty journalist – what made you decide to launch your own skincare range?
 
‘My job as a beauty writer was my first exposure to beauty and skincare. Many years later, I saw a gap in the market for a serious skincare range that identifies specific skincare problems of the face and body, and comes up with specific treatments for every problem. So rather than being a generic moisturiser or body cream, it’s all about identifying the problems, whether this is wrinkles, age spots, cellulite, flabby arms, and coming up with a target treatment.’
 
How did you come up with the products and get the ingredients?
 
‘The first year before I launched the range I travelled a lot, and went to trade shows and factories. The key thing for me was to find the lab that I could work with. I would always come up with a marketing angle and the end result, and the lab would come up with formulas for me. Over the last thirteen years since I’ve started, I have become very aware of the ingredients myself so when I brief for a new product I have the knowledge to say, ‘Let’s use this ingredient that we’ve used before.’

How did you grow the business so big from starting small?
 
‘Well I think a thing that’s really important in business is not to depend on one customer and one country. I started looking into international expansion very early on – I went to the US, travelled a bit, found some retailers there, then went to Europe and Asia. Your business becomes a lot more stable if you have quite a few clients all across the world.

I think also the fact that some of our products are a little bit controversial in terms of their names, it’s kind of a ‘you love them or you hate them’ reaction. We create very strong reactions with our products. That way you can take the good, the bad, the other reactions as well on board. I think the names that we’ve picked and the marketing campaigns have created a lot of buzz that has given us the brand recognition without necessarily having the advertising budget that some of the other companies do.’
 
So do you think it’s quite word of mouth then, people being loyal and then recommending it?
 
‘Definitely, it’s word of mouth, it’s buzz, it’s constant launching of new products, there’s always something new we talk about. We’ve been very lucky with the support of the celebrities. In 2005 we were asked to do the goody bags for one of the Oscars after-parties. At that party there were people like Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston, so we got a lot of celebrities to get their hands on our products.’

Why do you think it’s become so successful, especially with this recession and difficult markets?
 
‘I think that the constant product innovation keeps our customers excited and intrigued by new products. Doing this, even throughout the recession is very important, because our customers have a certain disposable income to spend on skincare, and they want to buy the latest. So we constantly renovate and kind of come up with new products. Of course we discontinue the products that don’t do well.’

What’s the inspiration behind your products?
 
‘I’m always looking for a product that’s missing from the market, and every year we probably come up with twenty product ideas, and we only launch about five. It’s all about, ‘What is there in the market that doesn’t exist?’ It could be a personal need, sometimes it will be in feedback from the sales team, so they could be saying, ‘We’re missing a product for dark spots,’ and I start looking for a dark spot corrector, and I come up with a product. It’s all consumer driven.

You’ve got two children. How do you manage looking after kids and running a business?

‘I try to manage my time. The kids are eight and 10, which makes it easier as they’re at school all day. I try to see them for half an hour in the morning, and then half an hour in the evening, and we spend all of the weekends and holidays together.’
 
Do you have any other business women that you admire or aim to be like?
 
‘I think that there’s so many successful business women. Natalie Massenet created this amazing brand. Diane Von Furstenberg in the US too, she created a great brand and empire.’

Finally, do you have any tips for women that are just starting up their own business?
 
‘I think it’s really important to get the team right. Sometimes I’ve found that I need to get people to work with me that are better than me, and have very complementary skills. I think it’s really important to get the right people in place, and the right team will take you to where you want to be. You cannot do this alone, and I cannot claim I did this alone, I had people around me.’

Rodial: Top 3 buys

BB venom skin tint
£35.00

Used by two of the Spice Girls to keep their skin looking radiant at the Olympics Closing Ceremony, this blends easily into skin for a flawless complexion. Available in three tropical sounding shades: Capri, Hamptons and St Barts.

Glamtox night
£90.00

This vitamin C based night moisturiser helps give the skin a radiant and youthful glow after only a few days’ use. You can also use it to reduce sun damage and clear up spots and blemishes.

Glamoxy snake mask
£68.00

For fans of a quick face pick me up, this mask is great, drawing out impurities in only 15 minutes. The mask peels off to reveal a brighter skin tone and reduces the appearance of pores straight away.

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