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Sara Douglas from Australia and Kristina Velkova from Bulgaria met while working for fashion content powerhouse Indigital Group in London when the concept of Vitaclean was born.
The pair began discussing the effect hard water has on hair and skin. After scouring the internet researching water softening systems, they came to the conclusion that most were expensive, hard to install and cumbersome.
They both agreed that there had to be a better, easier solution and therefore created a simple, relatively portable, filtered shower head, which has seen the company increase its growth over the last few months.
BLM caught up with Sara and Kristina to talk about the business, how the idea came about and the struggles they’ve faced since starting up.
What inspired you to go into business in the first place?
Sara said: “We are both extremely driven and we have always wanted to create something we believe in. When we met we knew that we can really make a difference together as a lot of our goals and ambitions aligned.
“What I realised when I entered the job market after University was the lack of job security and transient nature of the millennial generation. I began working in marketing and PR firms when I was 21 and I noticed how much large companies were taking advantage of unpaid or expenses paid interns and how not many companies were willing to invest time in educating interns. They would use interns for more administrative work so our skill set would not really develop unless we educated ourselves independently. It was this experience that really got me thinking about trying to find stability in creating my own business.”
Kristina added: “I’ve been self-employed for most of my working life. When I started modeling at 16 I had to quickly learn how to negotiate, read and understand contracts.
“Since my family and I immigrated to the US in early 2000 and my parents didn’t speak much English, so I had to figure it out on my own. That independence helped me excel when I turned 18 I was filing my own taxes, signing off international modeling contracts, negotiating rates, traveling to various cities and countries alone and all together building and marketing my modeling career. I knew I’d have my own business one day.”
How did the idea for Vitaclean come about?
Kristina said: “Sara and I were both born in cities that have great water for skin and hair, therefore our benchmark was predominately set. After spending most of our early 20s traveling in different countries we noticed variety of results from the difference in water quality. London’s hard water has had drying effects on both of our hairs and scalp, causing us to lose the naturally healthy feel to it. We were also spending a lot more money on products and hair treatments to try to preserve our hair. After understanding the core problem, chlorinated hard water – we were set to find a solution.”
Is international expansion on the horizon?
Sara said: “Yes, we’ve grown slowly in the UK market recently which has allowed us to iron out kinks and really focus on customer satisfaction and improvement. The US is a huge consumer market and we have slowly begun to launch their and seen high growth from it.”
How important is the role marketing and PR play to your business success over the years?
Sara explained: “Today’s marketplace is oversaturated with so many different concepts and businesses. Having a unique product and service, good branding and strong marketing is essential to survival. We have been so lucky to launch our business in a generational period where people spend a lot of their time on social media.
“Utilising these channels has given us the fast route to reaching international recognition in a year of being in business. We have customers worldwide: from Europe to USA, Canada and all the way to Hong Kong and the Philippines. This international recognition has brought us opportunities that have taken our business to the next level.”
What does it take to be a success?
Kristina said: “Sara and I would both strongly agree that life is a game of sheer luck. But if we were to define success it would be: the ability to create a functional ‘system’ that provides a solution to a problem and creates a lifestyle that people aspire to be a part of. System in this case meant working with great people, which took us a bit of time to find and many headaches. This is where you must persevere.”
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced in business over the years, and how did you overcome it?
Sara said: “We face hurdles all the time. It’s all part of the game! We try to remain calm and find a solution to whatever challenge we are dealing with. This goes from moving stock between countries from having people really try and pull the wool over your eyes with large and unfair bills. Mostly we have seen these with PR companies. To any entrepreneurs starting out I would advise new companies to be very wary and try and work with a freelancer who believes in your product over large agencies with lock in contracts and hidden charges.”
What has been behind the success of you in business?
Kristina commented: “It has been the synchronicity between our thinking and vision. Our complementary skills sets contributed to quickly advancing our business. Persistence again is so important, starting a business can be very emotional and sometimes you lose sight of the end goal so having people you trust to support you is a huge advantage.”
How do you see the business landscape changing and evolving over time?
Sara explained: “The business landscape is quickly changing, especially due to the rapid progress of technology. We think that consumer globalisation will soon dissolve international borders and allow for easier transactions, imports and exports. We understanding the importance of online presence, but we are not disregarding the value of the traditional brick and mortar shopping experience.
“A healthy global mix of both is a sustainable plan for our company’s growth. We will continue to work on international expansion, because great healthy skin and hair has no borders. We will also create an interactive experience with pop up installations and maybe even a Vitaclean store”