Dr Claire Jamieson: Be efficient. Time is money, don’t waste it.

Dr Claire Jamieson is a well-known South African doctor, who pioneered the Well Woman Care programme in South Africa. Her popular weekly appearances on "Woman's Hour" addressing a broad range of health issues, and her more recent involvement in aesthetic medicine, give Claire unique insight into what we all need to care for our skin - and this is what Ordinary Skincare Co provide. She shares lessons she's learned along the way in her entrepreneurial journey.

Tell us a bit about your business and what motivated you to start?

Ordinary Skincare is an affordable, healthy, simple skincare range made from natural ingredients. It is manufactured in Cape Town and our main ingredients are sustainable and sourced from South Africa. We do not focus on “anti ageing” but on healthy skin. Our range is focused and easy to use. And it is safe for use on all, even the most sensitive skin.

My daughter developed skin challenges and with my background in women’s health I started to look at what we put on our skin. I was shocked by my four page list of chemicals I put on my skin in one day! So what started as research to help my daughter became my business.

Of course, business - like medicine - is all about people and not just about money.

How did you raise your start up money?

We are “silver entrepreneurs”, retired from long careers, and used our savings and pensions. Sounds crazy but we felt we were way too young to give up!

Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?

Yes, we spent a lot of time writing and refining our business plan. After many years in medical practice it excited me to learn about business. It has needed to be tweaked here and there, but the basic goal has remained the same. Refreshing the plan reminds us of how far we have come! I think a robust business plan serves as to contain a developing business and helps to minimize risky decisions.

Who did you hire to help you with your business - bookkeeper, an accountant, lawyer …? Would you suggest others do the same?

We used an accounting firm at first. It is not a cheap option but in the long run it increased efficiency and also importantly freed up our time to get on with building the business. Now we have appointed our own accountant and it is very efficient for us. The next step is to source much needed office help.

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? And has that worked for your business?

Our basic business model is all about outsourcing! We outsource the manufacturing, ingredient procurement, design, packaging, warehousing and fulfillment, and website development and PR. It gives us flexibility and adaptability and by supporting local businesses we keep people employed. We could not give the same employment security if we tried to do it all ourselves.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

We started by formulating the best moisturisers we could, from the best quality ingredients. We invested in world class design and a world class website that is compatible with tablets and phones. We use great containers that are recyclable (eco award winning) and technology that allowed us to minimize preservatives, that deliver every last drop of product and are safe and easy to pack for travel.

Being very rigorous in meeting our goals has paid off. We won a Green Apple award in London last year for best environmental manufacturing practice and have just won another Green Apple for 2017. We also are very proud of Editors Choice best new SA product from the Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Review 2015.

Professional PR is essential. We do rely on word of mouth but the visibility of being in print media and a presence in social media is invaluable in growing the brand.

Last by most important is that we have kept our range focused and not been tempted into product proliferation. As my business partner keeps saying: Focus, focus, focus.

How do you effectively manage the finances of your company?
We maintain a very tight control on spending, and we have not taken a cent out of the business, we plough it all back into business development. It requires great discipline but it works.

Do you have rainy-day savings for your business?

We have kept a small amount of our initial investment in an investment account, and have resolved to only use it in dire need.

What's a financial mistake you made as a business owner in the beginning? And how did you bounce from it?

Our biggest mistake was to invest in a launch function that turned out to be a hugely expensive waste of time. We are able to measure the effect of our various PR initiatives by Google analytics and it was so disappointing. The loss meant we had to hold on a manufacturing run. We just had to manage by trimming all other costs. We put it down to experience.

With the current economy slump, what cost saving tips would you share with new entrepreneurs?

Be efficient. Time is money, don’t waste it. Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to do everything yourself. Spend wisely and resist the temptation to take too much money out of the business.

What advice can you offer female business owners on making sure they're being compensated fairly for their work?

I don’t think female business owners are not savvy enough to price their services properly. I think it is female employees who need coaching or advice on how to ensure they receive fair compensation. I hear all the time about gender discrimination in the workplace. I have two professionally employed daughters and there is no doubt that men still hold an advantage with regard to pay and promotion. My best advice is to stay unemotional, look squarely at what you want and keep focused.

Do you have business mentors, and if so, how have they helped you develop as an entrepreneur?

I have been so lucky to have my business mentor backing me as a full partner in the business.

How do you stay motivated during difficult times?

I am naturally optimistic and I really believe in our products. So it is easy to stay motivated. Healthy skin is a basic requirement.

What have you learned from starting your company that might be useful to would-be entrepreneurs?

I have a 5 point plan:
  • Don’t just dream. Take action. Thinking about something is not enough to make it happen. 
  • Start small, keep an open mind, be reactive and never stop listening and learning. 
  • Watch the numbers. Cash is king!
  • Be prepared to take knocks and make mistakes. That is the quickest way to learn how to do better.
  • A great company is measured not by how it functions when things are going well but how it responds when there is a problem.
You can follow Ordinary Skin on Twitter and Facebook

Win an Ordinary Skincare hamper