Women of Wonder Interview with Lush’s Co-Founder & Inventor, Rowena Bird
Women have made an undeniable impact on the world, paving the way for future generations to break barriers and shatter stereotypes. Often in the face of discrimination and adversity, women have trail blazed by building brands and achieving greatness through innovation, leadership and inspiration.
We celebrate Women's History Month by featuring the remarkable female founders whose brands you can find at SHOWFIELDS. Tune in as we interview our Women of Wonder!
What inspired you to start your own business?
RB: As a group of 6 we had worked together for many years and we realized that we were actually unemployable by anybody else! We also knew that we shared the same passion for quality skin care and for fighting against animal testing, so it was obvious to us that what we needed to do was move back into the building we had worked in for the past 20 years and start over, this time with less packaging but with all the passion that we had (and still have) for cosmetics.
What makes LUSH so unique?
RB: At the risk of throwing shade, we do not greenwash!! Everything we say we do, we actually do.
We do not test on animals and neither do we buy ingredients from companies that do. It is not just about the ingredient we buy from them, it is about them testing at all. No profit from our purchases should ever go toward animal testing. We source many ingredients directly from farmers and producers, thus supporting the people who so often do not receive a fair price for their work. We use recycled and recyclable packaging when we cannot make a product solid and therefore naked. We are now finding ways to remove synthetic preservatives from our products to make especially skin care even more beneficial to our skin’s natural biome. By lowering or eliminating water content, along with using natural preservatives like salt, honey and clays, we have been able to not only create intriguing and inventive formulas but also ones that are much more environmentally friendly and regenerative for the planet.
We use essential oils that have beneficial effects on the hair, skin or mind, which also delicately fragrances the products. We also employ amazing people! We like to think that our stores are an oasis on highstreets and in malls around the world where customers can go for a warm welcome, good advice on skin and hair care and potentially learn something new. We are a campaigning brand, so will often have an ethical campaign in our store windows where we’re working with a grassroot organization to highlight a little known issue in some way. If we hear about something that doesn’t sit well with us, we can’t just stay quiet and will find a way to campaign against it!
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
RB: I have no idea. I am happy with all the decisions I have made. It hasn’t always been easy but it has been interesting, and the challenges are good for me. Life is what you make it, I tend not to look back. As advice to others going into business, do not give shares in your business away; you might be friends now, but it is going to cost you when a partner wants to leave. Grow organically so you can be in control and not have to borrow too much. Accepting investment to grow rapidly may make shallow roots, which can be a worry! Work with people who are better than you at what they do. Work with the best and price your product/service right for profit margins. All these things would be on my list to be careful with.
What have you enjoyed most about starting your own brand?
RB: It gives me the space to indulge in many passions and learn to be passionate about things I didn’t know I cared about. Take plastic for example. Plastic in itself is not evil, it is the way we as humans exploit it and disregard it so readily that needs sorting out. We have used recycled (clear) plastic bottles since 2006 and soon they will change to being made from POP (Prevented Ocean Plastic) - we will do this in the UK first and then hope to roll out across all our markets.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
RB: Don’t limit yourself with a job title, be a part of everything you can be, be adaptable, say YES a lot and see what happens. Work hard, play hard and be kind.
What tips do you have for other women who would like to start their own businesses?
RB: Have passion in everything you do and don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. If you think it is just a get rich quick scheme, good luck to you. Starting your own business takes time, commitment and a fierce will to succeed, but it is worth it.
If someone is new to your brand, what is the first product they should try?
RB: The first thing someone should do is come into a store when they have 20 minutes and have a consultation with one of our shop associates to find the right product for their needs. The customer not only gets exactly what they need, but it’s also the most environmentally and cost friendly thing for them, as there will be no waste.