UpCircle’s Q&A For International Women’s Day By ANNA: CO-FOUNDER

UpCircle’s Q&A For International Women’s Day By ANNA: CO-FOUNDER

If Will is all about numbers, Anna is all about words. Going to an event? She’ll be on the panel. Visiting a show? She’ll say Hi first! Reading an article? Chances are, Anna wrote it.

FAVE PRODUCT: The Moisturiser – I LIVE for its texture.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT? Growing our team is such a rewarding process. With each new hire we have a new wave of excitement, energy and personality. We hired our first ever staff member in 2019, and then in 2020 we grew from three to eight, now there’s 16 of us. Crazy!

Why did you want to become a part of the skincare industry? 

There were two main things about the beauty industry that irritated me before launching my brand. Firstly, the expense of products whose values were in alignment with my own and secondly the fact that products were marketed by people who looked nothing like me. I wanted to create a brand that did neither of the above. 

 I was only 22 when I launched UpCircle, so it was one of my non-negotiables that we would always make products that I would’ve bought myself at the age that I launched the brand. Price point shouldn’t be a barrier to planet-friendly purchasing and sustainability should not be an elite privilege. Ethical, sustainable, fair-trade ingredients cost more, but we’re committed to remaining a brand accessible for all. That’s why we’ve secured listings with the likes of Sainsbury’s. 

As mentioned, I also feel passionately about being a “beauty” brand that doesn’t actually make people feel worse about themselves. The beauty industry I DON’T want to be a part of can make people feel inferior. I want my brand to inspire confidence. We’re body positive, gender neutral, represent all ages and encourage diversity. Our products are modelled by real customers, family and friends and I’m passionate about using authentic visuals that are never photoshopped. We stand for authentic, real beauty in its many forms.  

What inspired you to use repurposed ingredients in skincare, are they just as effective as other skincare ingredients?  

Yes, if not more so. There’s no point in us going to all of this effort to rescue ingredients if they have no benefit for your skin. The efficacy of the products has to come first, this is always our main priority. For example, research has shown that the level of antioxidants in coffee actually increase as it’s brewed. Antioxidants fight free radicals which contribute to the signs of aging. So, it can be argued that the coffee brewing process makes the coffee even better for your skin. The performance of the ingredients within our skincare formulations is essential. No amount of pretty packaging or clever marketing can make up for a product that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do! 

If we can provide competitively priced, high performing products from upcycled ingredients then we are demonstrating that the beauty industry can become a lot less wasteful – it is an innovative approach and a fresh perspective. 

What have the highlights and challenges of being a Business Founder in the Beauty Industry?  

For me, I cherish the little things the most – they are my highlights. When customers take the time to email or even send letters, showing before and afters of their skin and letting us know how much they love UpCircle – those sorts of things that make me most proud. Knowing that I create products that make people feel good about themselves is the best and most inspiring feeling in the world. 

Growing our team is also something that excites me greatly. With each new member we have a new wave of excitement, passion and personality. We hired our first ever staff member in 2019, in 2020 we grew to a team of eight and less than a year later we’re up to fifteen! 

With regards to challenges, we face new challenges each and every day. That said, it’s crazy to think that in just six short years we’ve created a range that repurposes FIFTEEN by-product ingredients from varied industries, including the argan, tea, juice, date, olive and wood industries. 

Being a disruptor brand means that the path that you forge will always be bumpy. Our business is centred on innovation, our tagline is “Pioneering skincare. Regenerative by design.” So, more often than not, we’re the first beauty brand to be working with these ingredients at scale – so we’ve had to figure out our supply chain, manufacturing and general operational hurdles ourselves. 

Whichever manufacturer we work with needs to be totally behind our circular economy ethos. This is important because there has been a LOT of trial and error. We’ve faced a lot of hurdles and had to start over on numerous occasions, there have been highs but there have also been lots of lows! The most important thing is that we kept going and found solutions that work 

As a founder you set the tone for your whole team, so there can be a fair bit of putting on a brave face! My resilience is helped by my ability to find humour in any situation – when the world is crashing down what else can you do but laugh?! Then, just roll your sleeves up and get it sorted! 

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to have their own business?  

Ironically, my advice is to not feel obliged to take onboard everyone’s advice. No one knows your business, your personality or your life like you do, so trust your instinct. There’s no harm in listening, but you don’t have to take everyone’s advice and run with it! 

I have come to believe that absorbing as much advice as possible at the start of my brand journey was in fact distracting, and only served to water down my ideas through fear of offending or minimising my audience. I now think you risk being pulled in too many different directions at once if you take on too many opinions. We underwent a rebrand two years into our brand journey to undo all the advice we received from people we thought knew better than us. Turns out they didn’t! Instead, be bold, have conviction and don’t be afraid to be the first to do something.  

The pioneering nature of what we do at UpCircle is illustrated by the extent of the opposition to our idea at the start, mentors and investors alike told us that the industry was not ready, that tackling issues of waste in the “shallow” beauty industry would not work. Our rapid growth has proven that not only is it possible, it’s in fact extremely popular. 

What impact do you want to have on the World or what change do you want to see happen?   

Knowing that I create products that make people feel good about themselves is the best and most inspiring feeling in the world. When customers take the time to email or even send letters, showing before and afters of their skin and letting us know how much they love UpCircle – those sorts of things that make me most proud. 

A change I’d like to see happen would be more and more mainstream brands incorporating circular ingredients into both new and existing product formulations. We’ve been featured in more 2022 Trend Prediction posts than ever before, so hopefully more brand will hop on board the “by-product beauty” boat! 

What exciting opportunities to do you see for the future of the Beauty Industry and UpCircle?  

New opportunities land into our inboxes every day! Our product launches for next year include an ocean-friendly SPF, Hand Cream, Lip Balm and a bath range. The repurposed ingredients for those include seaweed extract and discarded flower petals from florists and wedding venues! We also released five new products just before Christmas.  It’s still early days and we’re eager to be able to offer a full skincare offering, to cater to whatever skincare concern you may have, so new product development is a big focus for us. We’re highly motivated to continue sourcing varied ingredients that are ending up being thrown away prematurely. 

Last year we even took the step to make our packaging circular with the launch of our Return, Refill, Reuse scheme. Circular ingredients, circular use of packaging. It just makes sense! I think more brands will try to incorporate packaging returns schemes in the months ahead, it’s hard work behind the scenes, but absolutely worth it. 

Which other female leaders do you admire and why? 

Oh, so many! Viola Davis, Dolly Parton, Michelle Obama, Jameela Jamil, Grace Tame, Dolly Alderton, Stacey Dooley, Grace Tame, Rihanna, Beyonce, my Mum, my sister, my sister-in-law – the list goes on!