We’ve managed to ask the two entrepreneurial Founders of Optiat a few insightful questions about their journey towards creating a successful startup. An exclusive Q&A here with Start Smarter!
Read on to find out what’s so special about Optiat, which led to William leaving his lucrative investment banking job, and his sister Anna, leaving her impressive leadership role in retail.
From employed to self-employed; impressively, Optiat’s products are now available in UK listings with the likes of Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Fenwicks Bond Street, Topshop, As Nature Intended and distributed in 7 countries across Europe.
What does Optiat do?
Natural, sustainable and handmade in the UK, Optiat creates skincare products from quality ingredients that would otherwise be discarded. We provide ethical alternatives to toxic beauty staples, such as microbeads, by using coffee grounds and other natural by-products otherwise sent to landfill.
Be sure to tell us what questions you would like us to ask the next startup Founders we interview – you can do this in the comments section underneath this article. Without further ado, here is Co-Founder of Optiat, Anna Brightman’s answers to the questions we asked.
1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Optiat gets me out of bed in the morning, bright and early, seven days a week! It has been an absolute whirlwind, both exciting and exhausting, but it’s certainly fair to say that the business has taken over both my brother William and I’s lives since the start – and shows no signs of letting up!
2. Did you always know you wanted to be self-employed?
Not necessarily. I knew I wanted to have the freedom to make my own decisions and to work in an environment where I had autonomy. If I could find a company to work for who shared my values as a person and who trusted me to do my job then I would be content, and I have had success with this previously. But now that I am self-employed I think I would struggle to return!
1. How are things going at the moment for Optiat?
Things are going fantastically. We are really excited for our year ahead and have had a very strong start to 2018. We launched our crowdfunding campaign this week which is an exciting step for us to help take Optiat to the next level. Not only this but our scrubs launched into Topshop stores across the country this month too. Having such a famous fashion retailer as one of our stockists is a great achievement for us and will help us to reach a new, wider audience. We’ve got another couple of new stockists to reveal very soon too, so lots going on!
2. What is the best thing about Optiat and what is the USP?
For those who don’t know, our brand name Optiat is an acronym for “One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure”.
Our ethos is to use ingredients that would otherwise be discarded.
We aim to show people that these ingredients still have a huge amount to offer us. It is our focus on sustainability and making something out of nothing that we feel really sets us apart from the rest. It is the best thing about us and what makes us who we are. We aim to show people that these unloved ingredients still have a huge amount to offer us. If we can produce high quality, effective skincare products by promoting sustainability as our core message, our hope is to demonstrate that we can all be more resourceful, that we can promote a circular economy and to inspire the beauty industry as a whole to be less wasteful.
3. Where do you see the business in 5 years?
There are so many wonderful natural ingredients which are unfortunately going unused. We are keen to rescue these unloved, unwanted ingredients and continue to develop more skincare products from them. With the money raised from our current crowdfunding campaign, we will be able to scale up our production runs and reach a wider audience. We will have a more established team who will help us to achieve our ambition of making Optiat the go-to brand for ethical and sustainable skin care. We will soon be releasing a new range of products made from brewed chai spices and we also currently have two other skincare products in the early stages of development, so new product development is something that keeps us excited and looking to the future.
4. What are the main risks facing the business?
The main risks are staying ahead of our competition and maintaining an excellent cash flow profile.
1. What would you say to somebody who is thinking to go self-employed but isn’t sure?
Be sure. It’s natural to have fears and to be nervous as it’s a big step, but you need to plan and put everything that you possibly can in place to give yourself and your business venture a strong chance. If you can do as much of this as possible whilst still being employed then that can also help in the very early days.
2. What’s the first bit of advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking of starting their own business?
My first bit of advice is to not feel like you must take on board everyone’s advice – Trust your instinct! There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions and many of those opinions will be conflicting. It can be difficult when people tell you what they think you should do differently, or changes you should make to your business, but none of those people will know your business like you do, so make sure you’re not swayed off course or pulled in different directions. There’s no harm in listening, but you don’t have to take everyone’s advice and run with it!
3. What characteristics does a startup entrepreneur require to succeed?
Grit, determination and the ability to self-motivate. It can feel like you’re fighting against the tide, with repeated setbacks and challenges. You have to be someone who is able to just absorb those setbacks, re-think and move forward. More than anything you just need an unwavering will to succeed.
4. How crucial is it to have a website designed well and its accompanying online presence?
It depends on where you see your business. If you want to have a strong B2C side, then it’s absolutely critical. If you’re primarily operating B2B, it’s perhaps slightly less important. Either way, if you’re an online-only business, it’s your shop-front, and you want it to work as painlessly as possible for your customers.
5. Is the risk of starting your own business worth it–no matter the outcome?
I would have to say yes. I think the answer to this has to be yes or else you wouldn’t be able to enable yourself to really take the plunge in the first place. High-risk high reward… Hopefully!
6. What’s an unexpected way to grow your clientele?
Trade shows – we meet lots of people who we’re able to explain to face-to-face about our brand and what we stand for. They become passionate brand ambassadors and spread the word on our behalf!