PODCAST: Business woman and new mum sees sales soar after dazzling TV dragons

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

PODCAST: Business woman and new mum sees sales soar after dazzling TV dragons

Related tags botanical extracts Saw palmetto Botanical supplements skin health vegan plant based acne start-up

A botanical supplement startup founder has seen business explode after impressing TV show ‘dragon’ investors with her scientific and personal knowledge of how hormones impact the skin.

The recent episode of the BBC business investment programme Dragons' Den, saw entrepreneur Caroline Sims captivating the attention of investors with her pitch, ultimately receiving four competitive offers, and securing a £60,000 investment for her business, Botanycl. 

Sims shared her story with the five high-profile capital investors: In response to frustrations with her own skin problems, Botanycl, the plant-based capsule supplement designed for skin health, was founded in 2018.

Finding that the market offered no solution to effectively treat her skin issues, Sims began researching the underlying cause of her acne, leading her to discover that androgen hormonal imbalance was the root cause. 

Studies have shown ​that higher levels of androgen hormones in women can increase the size of sebaceous glands in skin, leading to overproduction of sebum. An excess can combine with dead skin cells and block pores, providing an environment for bacteria to grow, causing cystic hormonal acne and oily skin.

Through her frustrations, Sims discovered that saw palmetto berry extract is sometimes utilised for hormonal balance, and some research suggests​ that saw palmetto fatty acids inhibit the enzyme that converts testosterone. Further research​ led her to discover the benefits for skin. 

After incorporating saw palmetto extract as well as other botanicals into her diet, Sims saw her skin improve dramatically, stating: “It changed my life.”

Seeing an opportunity to assist other women in similar circumstances she launched her own brand with the inaugural product, SkinClear Elixir.

The now-patented SkinClear Elixir contains: Saw palmetto berry extract, with the aim of providing hormone balance​ to help balance oil production and reduce blemishes; coconut oil, for its anti-bacterial lauric acid,​ anti-oxidant properties, and omega fatty acids; acerola cherries​, a source of vitamin C for its contribution to collagen formation; high oleic sunflower seed oil, the variety of which is high in omega 9​ fatty acid and high in anti-oxidants; and carotenoids​ to provide a source of vitamin A.

Botanycl’s range now also includes a plant-based vitamin C supplement derived from camu-camu berries, acerola cherries, rosehips, and black elderberry, as well as a vegan vitamin D3 supplement derived from lichen.

Reception

Since the launch, Botanycl has seen a near 400% increase in revenue with major UK retailers such as Superdrug and Holland and Barrett picking up the products.

Nearly all the TV Dragons, impressed by Sims’ pitch, were spurred to make compelling investment offers. But it was Peter Jones, who offered to open doors to retailers and help with e-commerce, and Steven Bartlett, with his wealth of marketing experience that Sims accepted, securing £60,000 for a shared 25% of the business, with a reduction to 20% if the Dragon duo get their money back in 18 months.

Marketing

Sims’ decision to partner with Jones and Bartlett was propelled by a need for their expertise in marketing. Her business has seen a reduced net profit in the last couple of years, an issue she puts down to changes in Facebook advertising. 

She states: “I think a lot of businesses will have felt the impact of the iOS 14 updates on their Facebook ads. I used to be able to run Facebook ads smoothly and get profitable results. 

“Since people can opt out of being tracked, which has its benefits, but in terms of small businesses, they're not able to target relevant audiences in the way that they were used to.”

Sims also became aware of other issues in ‘The Den’, as Deborah Meaden, was the only investor not to offer investment. 

Meaden criticised the communication on the supplement packaging during the show. She stated: “I get so many samples of things I should take to make my life better, and there’s nothing on this bottle that tells me you have got a completely different approach.” 

Sims now states she’s taking that feedback seriously, with comment that her USP needs to be more obvious when approaching various retailers. She considers: “It needs to be clearer on the bottle itself when people pick it up on the shelves.”

She notes that work has already begun, stating: “I am currently working with Steven’s team to come up with a marketing plan. The first step is building a strategy.”

What’s next?

Sims assures that things are kicking off with the Dragons' investment. While much of it went into building stock, Botanycl sold out of all products after the episode aired, a surprise for Sims as a one-woman-show and new mother, who is juggling all aspects of the business. 

But expansion plans remain, with ideas to release a male skin supplement and a hair growth formula by the end of 2023.

As the success of her TV appearance and the investment take shape, Sims reflects on her time in the Den (which was filmed a year ago).

On her key takeaways from the experience, Sims concludes that she believes that passion for your product is crucial, stating: “My passion is what got me the investment.

“It's important to have a strong sense of why you've started it and what it has done to help you or help somebody else. I think that if you have the passion, then you're bound to drive the business forward in the right way.”

She advises start-ups: “Try to have a unique point of different differentiation and a purpose. There's a lot of supplements that just jump on bandwagons, and so much competition out there that I feel like it's good to have a USP, something that makes you different and sets you apart from the rest.”

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