Five Dot Botanics began after founders Zaffrin and Brian O’Sullivan were confused by the complexity and sheer number of ingredients listed in skincare products. Focusing on creating products with fewer and better ingredients, and providing their customers with a real choice about what they put on their skin, Five Dot Botanics is leading the way in the skincare minimalist revolution. From their ingredients to their packaging, Five Dots Botanics focus is on sustainability, transparency and minimalism. We talked to Zaffrin and Brian about being beauty outsiders, their Do More with Less campaign and how they’ve worked together to build an award-winning minimal, gender-neutral brand with a purpose.
Can you tell us a little about your journey and how you met?
Brian and I are married and we have three kids together. We set up the business in 2017 when our kids were four and two. We launched the brand when I was pregnant with our third baby. I was in hospital being induced when I took the call to say we had secured investment. It’s been a journey. High, lows and everything in between.
Brian and I never discussed running a business together, but when we had the idea for Five Dot Botanics we believed in the concept and could see the potential and one day we just started working together on the business idea and plan. We didn’t really discuss that we were launching a business together. We were both excited and the ideas and energy flowed naturally.
Where did the idea for starting Five Dot Botanics come from? Who suggested it?
We had the idea for Five Dot Botanics, minimal ingredient vegan skincare, in 2017 but we didn’t launch until 2019. I am a beekeeper and originally was really interested in honey and beeswax related skincare. I basically thought I was going to be the British Burt’s Bees. However, minimal ingredients and radical transparency and trust in personal cosmetics is what we were really interested in. Also creating a healthy association with skincare. Sitting outside the beauty industry we wanted to sell the idea of healthy skin not perfect skin. Finally minimalism in formulation means we are conscious about resource efficiency. Minimalist skincare is better for your skin and the planet. We spent two years developing the products and designing the brand and website alongside our day jobs. We had our first manufacturing run in 2019 and launched the brand in July 2019 and got our first retailers.
How do you find working as business partners? Do you always agree, or do you have different ways of thinking and working?
We don’t always agree, however we agree that discourse is healthy and we are always open to having our view changed by the other one. There are core things we are completely aligned on in terms of integrity, principles, values. These are the big things that underpin what we want for the business. We are completely different in personality. We also think differently and have completely different skill sets , however we complement each other and so there is always a good dynamic. Each of us on our own could not have done this business, being in a diverse team is important. One thing we have in common is we are extremely hard workers and we are both pretty nocturnal.
We love your Do More with Less concept. It’s simple, powerful and memorable. Exactly what consumers want. What came first, your interest in skin care or minimalism?
I think conscious consumption has always been important to me and so has skincare. I was hugely influenced by Anita Roddick who founded The Body Shop growing up. I absolutely believe business can be a force for good. Minimalism is about thoughtful choice, I think that came first but I think skincare was always ripe for disruption and that excited me. The beauty industry is not one I grew up liking very much. It didn’t feel like it was for people like me. However skincare that is linked to good health, strong skin, inclusivity and just what you need in a formulation is exciting as is a celebration of plant ingredients.
You’re also very transparent about how your products are made with all of them vegan, made in Britain and gender neutral. Was this a conscious decision from the start?
Yes, being a British brand and formulating and manufacturing in the UK was important to us. We wanted to create employment, and we have done, in the UK, and we wanted to back other British businesses. We wanted to have everything close to home.
Gender neutral was key. We were never interested in binary beauty and wanted to create inclusive products that span all categories not just gender but also age, race and ability. We are beauty outsiders and this is all about challenging the status quo.
How have you managed with the impact of Covid? Has it been a positive or negative experience?
Personally it has been tough managing home schooling for example. Business wise we have been ok. We were small and growing and have been hiring and building a values based business for long term growth.
Congratulations on winning the Worth Capital Start-Up Series competition. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to launch a product or scale their business? What lessons have you learnt along the way?
You need to have clarity of vision and why you are doing what you are doing. You need to have an idea of what your goals are, and the key lesson for me has been you need to build the right team. We work with incredible people, and we are obsessive about finding and working with the right talent. We would not be here without the people we work with, and a lot of them took a chance on us when we were just starting out. For anyone wanting to launch a business, you need to be prepared to work hard, be resilient and pick yourself up. Take feedback, learn fast, not take it personally, have courage and you always need optimism. You need to have relentless focus and drive, you need to want it.
What have you found to be the most effective way of marketing Five Dot Botanics?
Content has always been good for us as well as things that involve us and our story. We are actually quite shy people so it is a balance of being the founders of the brand and the brand having space to be itself too. The products are the best advert. Once someone tries they usually come back and we ask them to tell their friends!
What’s next for you?
We have a huge retail launch coming up with a new partner and we also have international launch plans on the horizon!