We interviewed Laura Burget, of NIU BODY, to see how nature and science were combined to bring a new skincare range to market
What’s your name, your background and what business do you run?
My name is Laura Burget, I’m the co-founder of NIU BODY – a line of affordable natural skincare products. I studied Chemical Engineering at University but have always had an entrepreneurial streak! I remember starting businesses back in elementary school selling handmade jewelry and snacks on the school playground.
Is there anything in your past that led to opening the business?
NIU BODY was born really out of the frustrations that I experienced as a consumer. During my final year of school, I started to get really into natural skincare – I remember trying every product I could get my hands on and also experimenting with making my own natural products in my kitchen. However, I was really frustrated with how expensive natural skincare products were. As I student I really couldn’t justify spending $60+ on just one product and thought that there had to be a better way.
My chemical engineering degree definitely helped me gain the base level knowledge in feeling comfortable with formulating and working with chemists. I also ran two businesses while in school (a retail book store and a house painting franchise) which taught me the fundamentals of how to sell, scale, hire, fire and track financials.
Ultimately though, I think that being a business owner has always been in my DNA! It’s a different way of viewing the world where you’re constantly thinking about the problems you experience, how to solve them and how a business would work around that solution.
” As a student, I really couldn’t justify spending $60+ on just one product and thought that there had to be a better way”
What was the process of designing, manufacturing and bringing your first product or service to market?
It was lots of trial and error! My co-founder and I launched this brand off of a shoe-string budget of just $4,000. The initial product was a line of natural coconut oil base makeup removers which I figured out how to formulate and manufacture in our own condos.
At first, we offered this product in a wipe format and then a few months later expanded to a liquid version. We actually had to discontinue the wipe SKUs around a year ago as we couldn’t find someone to manufacture them for us at scale! They performed well though and we still get customers asking for them – hopefully we’ll be able to find a way to manufacture them in the future.
Then it came down to designing the packaging, finding suppliers for all of our raw materials, getting our Shopify store up and running and setting up our social channels.
Google was definitely our best friend at the start since it was just the two of us doing literally everything! From start to finish, it took us around 3 months to soft-launch the brand.
” Google was definitely our best friend at the start since it was just the two of us doing literally everything!”
Most of our suppliers I found initially through Google. Where possible, I knew that it was important to source from local companies as this would give us greater control over our supply chain.
We got our Shopify store up and running ourselves, it was pretty simple! There’s so much info online that it’s really just about getting started and slowly improving the site over time.
The soft launch was slow at first, as we were bootstrapped and didn’t have any money to spend on marketing. Initial sales were of course friends and family. We also did a lot of Instagram hustling where we would DM people who had followed us and offer to give them a skin care consultation/recommend products to them. This was how we garnered our first sales!
What platform, tools or software do you use for your business?
Shopify is our saviour – I truly can’t imagine our business without it. Gmail business suite is also hugely important for our team communication/document sharing, same with Slack.
Currently our team is myself, my co-founder, a marketing manager and two fulfilment staff. Learning how each person likes to communicate has been key as well as automating as much as we can. There are integrations between Slack and Shopify which help when it comes to communicating with our warehouse team.
(Editor – if you’re looking for more great Ecommerce resources, then check this out)
What does the next 12 months look like for your business, and for yourself, professionally?
We’re super focused on new product launches right now and have 8 new products slated for launch in the next 16 months! We’re also going to be expanding our team and are looking for a Growth Marketer to really help blow up our e-commerce channel (Editor – interested parties can apply directly to firstname.lastname@example.org).
We’re also super focused on expanding the number of retail stores that we are in and hope to be in over 500 stores within the next 12 months.
This is with a mixture of chains and independents. We didn’t have any contacts when we launched the brand so have had to grow all of these from scratch. My co-founder leads our retail partnerships and has done an amazing job of hustling to get in front of buyers (sending cold e-mails, calling stores or basically doing whatever it takes). Tradeshows like Indie Beauty Expo have also been hugely helpful for us and we have landed a number of our accounts from those shows.
What have you learned through this process that you didn’t know or think was important beforehand?
The biggest lesson for me has been knowing when to move fast and when to move slow. There are certain things (like product development and hiring) that you want to make sure that you take your time with as a founder, as mistakes can be super costly. Whereas other things (like marketing strategies) you want to test out/fail fast on.
This is a balance that I have started to get better with that I definitely didn’t think about at the start! I have a tendency to just want to dive right in and go quickly on everything project, which isn’t always the right play.
“There are certain things like product development and hiring) that you want to make sure that you take time with as a founder, as mistakes can be super costly”
What resources would you recommend for others looking to start a business?
Podcasts are always my go-to source of knowledge! Current faves are the ‘How I Built This’ podcast (interviews with founders of massive companies about how they got started and scaled) and also the MFCEO podcast (blend of business advice and motivation, not for the faint of heart!)
Do you have any words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own ecommerce business?
It’s not as easy as all of these “gurus” make it out to be. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing people who have been convinced to pour thousands of dollars into a dropshipping course. If you really want to have a sustainable business which stands the tests of time, it’s best to find a way to make sure that what you have is defensible (build a brand, design your own product or setup exclusivity somehow).
Also, having a co-founder is a huge asset – they’ll help to balance out your weaknesses and having a level of camaraderie is so key to keep your head in the game.