We catch up with young skincare specialist and business owner Rose Brown and talk chemical fall out, the importance of a happy workforce and going global
Rose Brown is a bundle of energy. Super chatty and enthusiastic, she apologises numerous times for talking too much during our interview, but actually it’s refreshing and her energy is infectious. While her peers were contemplating what to do with their adult lives, Rose channelled her energy into setting up a small skincare business in Birmingham that is now gaining global appeal.
At the age of 18, Rose launched PHB (Pure, Health and Beauty) in 2010, importing a range of natural skincare products and selling them through a small store at Pavilions Shopping Centre, Birmingham. She verges on the obsessive about natural ingredients. As a vegetarian about to embark on veganism, she is against animal testing and avoids all the derivatives too. “The response was great and after a while I thought ‘why sell somebody else’s products when I could make and sell my own?’,” she says.
Not one to stand still Rose set about developing her own range. She spent 18 months in a lab with a cosmetic chemist, striving for the highest level of purity including achieving halal certification. “There isn’t enough evidence yet to prove the effects of regularly rubbing chemicals into your skin. They only became main stream in the ‘50s, so we’re yet to see the fallout,” she says.
Rose is hands on in every stage of the business from developing products to designing packaging. “The brand is my baby and I’m involved at every stage. I’m very protective,” she says.
Rose managed to tap into a market that is increasingly concerned about what effect chemicals in their daily skincare regimes are having and as a result the flagship Pavilions store has built up a loyal customer base. You might say ‘right place, right time’ and there’s probably a small element of that, but the driving force behind PHB’s success is Rose’s passion and the happy team she has built.
She had the foresight to approach Birmingham City College about apprenticeships. “I employed Isbri, an apprentice from Birmingham City College, who has absolutely flourished with us. We’re about to take on another apprentice this year who Isbri will train up. She’s so excited. Customer service is key to my business. If you go into Boots there is no chance a member of staff will be able to chat you through the ingredients and provenance of their products. Every member of my team can do that,” she says proudly.
Rose’s age hasn’t held her back. Far from it. It’s allowed her to be fearless when somebody older and with more commitments might be inclined to over think things. “Also there are enough family members around me to bring me back down to earth if I get carried away,” she says.
Not content with one thriving store, Rose has opened a second in Cheltenham, has a consignment in Fenwicks in Leicester and is stocked by the nationwide Nutricentre outlets. One of the most exciting developments of all is her franchise option in Asia. Rose explains, “I tentatively mentioned franchise opportunities on Facebook and I was inundated. Because I’m so particular about the brand most of the people interested didn’t fit the bill, however one opportunity in Brunei caught my eye.”
Rose’s preferred duo, Kian Han Ang and Susan Lo of MJG Cosmetics opened their PHB Boutique in Brunei last year making Rose, now aged 22, one of the youngest franchisors in the world. MJG have had such success in Brunei they plan to open stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. “The biggest competition in this region is Bodyshop. Although Bodyshop has ethical roots and branding, the company is owned by L’Oreal whose products contain animal derived ingredients and chemicals. So once we’ve got our message across in this region particularly the halal certification PHB should flourish,” she says.