Skincare scientist Pippa Harman (ex-Beauty Pie / Boots) and her award-winning data scientist co-founder Catherine Nisson, are the impressive duo behind Renude Skincare: a new professionally curated service, combining clinical expertise and computer vision to empower smarter consumer purchasing.
As skincare global sales shift online and facial appointments still not allowed in the UK, Renude, is targeting a rapidly growing market segment. It already boasts 9k sign-ups and a 93% audience interest in follow-ups since its soft launch in May.
Renude combines facial skincare advice to offer a new approach to online skincare shopping. As cosmetic testers are removed from stores in a post Covid-19 era and the internet is full of overwhelming & conflicting information, shopping for skincare has become really confusing.
The process is simplified by connecting you with a licensed aesthetician who builds a personal routine to suit your needs, budget & lifestyle. The initial skin-check in service is £20 and comprises a 20-minute video call with your assigned expert to discuss skin history, current routine and lifestyle, before creating your personalised plan.
Tell us a little bit more about your roles within the company and why you came up with the idea of Renude
PH: Our roles are super broad as we are still a super small team. I am always scouting for the best products on the market to add to our edit, speaking with brands and customers and making sure people are happy with the service. I came up with the idea after many years of sharing ad hoc skincare recommendations whilst working in the industry. I was always the go-to for friends, colleagues and family when they needed advice. Word spread and I found myself creating skincare plans for people I’d never met. It seemed a very obvious gap in the market so I decided to work on building it.
CN: My focus is on product, roadmap and vision – particularly I help build out the product with our dev team and iterate on it to improve user experience and work towards our long term goals. Pippa and I arrived at the company concept separately. For me, the idea came after a personal experience when a close friend with acne rosacea had trouble accessing dermatologists, he was feeling depressed and stuck – it was affecting everything. We started looking for solutions on social media and I saw how many 100,000’s of people were in his same shoes, I knew tech could help!
Why is skincare an important market?
PH: My skincare routine is a ritual for me, it’s a relaxing time that I take for myself twice a day without fail, and I love it. It really is a moment of self-care and time to spend looking after yourself, which most of us don’t make time for otherwise. Beyond that, it’s really about confidence and feeling like your best self, so you can go out and conquer your goals. Research shows that 70% of those with acne suffer anxiety, and considering that 90% of people will experience acne at some point in their lives, that’s a lot of anxious thoughts.
CN: While makeup conceals, skincare empowers. In the past 10 years, OTC skincare has come a long way and can cheaply treat a variety of common concerns. It’s fun to learn about ingredients and how they impact the skin, there is a whole science behind it. Through finding skincare products that work well for my skin, I feel more confident without makeup and that confidence impacts other areas of my life. It’s liberating really.
What is your main consumer demographic and how do they find you?
PH: We are starting with women, and our typical user is between 20-40. At the moment we are connecting through social, and have a referral scheme for users to share with their friends. Beauty is such a peer-to-peer industry and we want our users to love our service so much that they’re telling everyone they know.
What do you predict for wellness in 2020?
PH: More of a focus on energy and balance, and a rise in interest in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.
CN: Spending more time with loved ones.
What is your background and how did you come to enter the world of business?
PH: My background is in skincare. I trained as a Cosmetic Scientist, then spent the early days of my career in R&D working for large FMCG companies. From there, I moved to the commercial side of product development and joined a beauty startup called Beauty Pie in 2016. I was the 4th employee and the energy of that first year was incredible – it really gave me the startup bug. I was also working alongside my all-time industry hero and learning so much from her and the team gave me the conviction to try it for myself.
CN: My background is in data science, I’ve worked across academia, startups and consulting. I’ve worked with topics ranging from – identifying the spread of misinformation in social media, sustainability and best water/energy practices as well as neuroscience research and applications. In all of my past roles, I tend towards taking a creative lead in development. I love product and once I had the vision for what I wanted to build, there was no stopping it.
Did you fundraise for your business?
PH: We are working out of the Founders Factory accelerator at the moment. Cate had already been accepted into the programme before we met so I can’t say much about that process.
CN: Yes, you have to prepare yourself mentally. Know that you are going to win, truly believe there’s no other outcome and go for it without fear. You got this!
What difficulties have you faced and how did you get around them?
PH: So many. Every day presents a new challenge. But with each victory you grow and learn, and are more prepared to take on the next one.
CN: It’s a never-ending balancing act of challenges! Maintaining a positive perspective, unwavering focus and absolute determination get me through.
What social challenges have arisen?
PH: We launched in March so having little social interactions has been a challenge! We were always designed to have a remote team of experts, and ourselves adapted very easily. But not being able to go for a drink after work or grab lunch with the team has been tricky.
CN: I do miss the team. Founders Factory also had a great office vibe, which I hate to miss out on.
What’s the smallest change that’s given the biggest return?
PH: Launching consultation bundles. It was a no-brainer as skincare is a journey, and there has been a lot of demand for committing to a course of appointments up front.
CN: Working with Pip! We were both looking all across the world for a Co-Founder with the other’s skillset, little did we know we lived 10 minutes from one another.
What motivates you?
PH: When we received a message from a user saying their skin is the best it’s ever been, and hearing how happy that makes them – that is what it is all about.
CN: The vision of what we’re building – we have an opportunity to revolutionize the skincare discovery experience, make expertise available to everyone and create a skin positive community.
What’s been your biggest achievement in life thus far?
PH: Apart from launching Renude, my partner and I opened a nursery in Kolkata to provide education to 3-6 year old children who otherwise would not have access. We did a huge fundraiser with all of our friends, who were so incredibly generous, so it was really cool to be able to create something meaningful as a collective.
CN: Meeting Madeleine Albright, she’s an incredible human. I will forever aspire to be as impactful as that woman.
And biggest lesson / failure?
PH: That you can’t please everyone and you can’t control how people respond to your actions. You can only try to do what you think is right, and everything else is beyond your control.
CN: Don’t be afraid of big institutional names, don’t let where you come from define you.
What you know, or who you know?
PH: I’d love to say what you know, and hope as a society we are making progress toward this. Unfortunately in most cases it’s still who you know (and what they know!)
CN: What you know. Who you know is not predetermined and is within your power to change. What you know is largely a product of intrinsic motivation and if you don’t have that from the start then you’re not going to succeed. As long as you have ‘what you know’ you can develop ‘who you know’. Ideally you have both from the beginning, but for most of us that’s not the case.
How do you deal with burnout?
PH: I have a dog called Loki who is the ultimate stress-buster. She gets me out every morning for fresh air and nature before the day begins, which keeps me mentally in check.
CN: Relaxing with my SO.
Do you have a mentor or people you ask for advice?
PH: One of my best friends is an entrepreneur herself, and my go-to for advice on just about everything. She used to write as an agony aunt, and has this incredible ability to ask questions until the answer becomes obvious to you, without ever giving an opinion.
CN: Yes, a lot! When presented with a difficult decision I get as many perspectives as possible. Seeing the problem through many different lenses provides new context, makes it seem less overwhelming and gets me closer to the right decision.
What is your favourite interview question and how would you answer it?
PH: Tough one! Who would I like to play me in a film? And I’d have to go with Rebel Wilson – I wish I was that funny!
CN: Can’t say I’ve been interviewed enough
What percentage of your time do you keep unscheduled?
PH: We try to keep Fridays’ meeting free but we’re not too strict about it.
If you weren’t running Renude, what would you be doing?
PH: Something in skincare, probably still creating skincare products somewhere – I just love it.
CN: Hopefully an entrepreneur. Otherwise I would be doing something data science or machine learning related and I’d have to be building an interesting product with high-impact.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
PH: I think I have a lot of patience and I want to see people succeed, so I hope that helps when running a team. I have a bunch of weaknesses though
CN: Determination, creativity, passion. I can get hyper-focused and neglect areas of my life that I should give more attention to.
How has what you do changed you as a person?
PH: As an entrepreneur? Probably heightened my imposter syndrome! I do feel the more we try to achieve, the more we question ourselves. I recently read a book called ‘The Idiot Brain’ and it references that Einstein felt the same, so I try to just remember that and mostly ignore that inner critic.
CN: It’s forced me to be braver and welcome criticism. Criticism doesn’t need to be taken personally and it usually will help you improve.
If time and money were no object – what would be on your to do / to see list?
PH: So many things!
- open a wellness centre somewhere sunny – treatments, yoga, nutrition, painting, nature
- rescue a few more dogs (possibly open a dog-rescue/wellness centre??)
- Iguazu falls
- Northern lights
- Second Startup
- Help rebuild native american communities
- Bring opportunities to learn to code to kids that don’t have this opportunity
- South America (as much as possible)