Archeus, an artisan, natural skin care company from Hawke’s Bay, has been named a finalist in international beauty awards. Find out how it has successfully overcome the challenges of setting up a new business with a focus on authenticity.
Founded by Georgina Langdale, formerly of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and the United Nations, Archeus handcrafts plant-based skin care products from sustainably sourced ingredients, the majority of which are certified organic. Even though Archeus currently only sells in New Zealand, it has been recognised for innovation and efficacy by being shortlisted as a finalist for Best New Natural Product in the UK-based 2015 Pure Beauty Awards.
The Archeus philosophy is simple: to work with nature, rather than against it, and to do this in a way that honours a long tradition of plant wisdom and artisan craftsmanship.
Despite Georgina’s senior level experience with Kew and the United Nations she says that establishing a company from scratch is still daunting at times.
“You really do become master of your own destiny. You have to understand and run every aspect of the business and the buck literally stops with you.”
“When you’re setting up a business you’re keen and you want to go for it, but it takes time to build a brand. You can’t go from zero to 200 miles per hour in no time on a small budget. That’s challenging but working with that energy can also be part of the fun.”
The genesis for Archeus came when Georgina was living in London and missing the connection with nature her rural upbringing in New Zealand had provided. The sentiment, connecting with nature, is one that she wants her consumers to experience.
Over many years Georgina studied and researched how plants are used in health and beauty. In the planning phase of the business she studied EU cosmetic legislation which proved invaluable as it helped her in setting up production systems, getting formulas assessed by cosmetic scientists and increasing knowledge of what is required when exporting to other markets.
“This is not like making a chair or a piece of software; people are putting my products on their skin and many use them to help with skin problems, so I really owe it to them to be formulating and producing those products in the best way I can,” she says.
Working at Kew and on the UN’s influential study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity made her convinced she could create a business that celebrated nature and walked the talk of sustainability.
“I guess you could say it was a meeting of private passion, entrepreneurial drive and a desire to return to NZ to put down some roots,” she says.
One aspect of providing consumers with a connection to nature means that conservation is at the heart of Archeus. Georgina developed the company so a percentage of every sale goes to a conservation fund to support conservation and ecological restoration of the Raukawa and endemic Kowhai trees in Hawke’s Bay.
Conservation, sustainable sourcing of materials and products, and small-scale production all contribute to costs and maintaining the bottom line. Getting the pricing right is often a delicate balance.
“This is tricky, since pricing is a big issue for an emerging brand,” Georgina says. “Small-scale can actually cost more because you’re not working in volumes that give you the advantage of bulk purchasing. But you’ve still got to be competitive in a market dominated by mass manufacture.”
Georgina spent a lot of time testing the market to see where products could and should sit. “I’m not prepared to cut corners to make products cheaper. I want Archeus to develop as a high quality artisan brand – a bit like a wonderful boutique winery or exquisite atelier that makes amazing products but has limits placed on production. For me a model based on unlimited growth does not seem ecologically sustainable.”
“I’m also a bit old fashioned and I like to feel that I am helping meet a need in modern living, yet working in the flow of the history and traditions of herbalism and environmental stewardship through the ages; so it’s a personal ethic that I’m not skimping on quality, nor am I making these products to charge like a wounded bull. I want them to be at price points where they’re affordable for people to buy.”