In conversation with: Elsie Rutterford – co founder of BYBI Beauty
I can’t tell you how excited I was when the wonderful Elsie agreed to this interview because I have admired BYBI beauty since the first time I saw the products in Oliver Bonas. After having interviewed Elsie I can only say my admiration has grown for her brand and her accomplishments. The positive movement brands like Clean Beauty Co are directing in the beauty industry is SO essential and I can only hope they flourish.
How did you get the idea to start Clean Beauty Co and BYBI Beauty?
Clean Beauty Co is a documentation of our journey into natural beauty and the idea came from a collision of our interest in wellness and beauty. We were taking the time to scrutinize the food
we ate but had never stopped to understand our beauty labels. After a little research,
we felt totally dissatisfied with what was currently on offer from the mainstream
beauty industry: blanket formulations across many brands, lots of water and
synthetic fillers padding out our products, very little of the good stuff and a whole lot
of marketing fluff. Our answer was to have a go at making beauty products ourselves
and through sharing our DIY beauty experiments across our blog, Clean Beauty Co
was born! BYBI came around 18 months later after we’d had time to build up our
understanding of the natural beauty industry and was our answer to what we truly
believed it was missing: ethically effective skincare that spoke to us as hardcore
How did you start to formulate the first of your products?
The BYBI product range is
a actually a very developed version of some of our earliest CBCo recipes – so Babe
Balm for example came from a recipe in our book called Fuss Free that was basically
a very simple multipurpose balm. We loved the idea of it but wanted to make it a real
standout product so worked with our chemist to develop the original formulation into
an innovative, real high performance balm. Dominika and I are both trained skincare
formulators so still do the base of all NPD, then work with our in-house chemist and
the BYBI team to develop ideas. It’s a highly collaborative process and a real diverse
range of people are involved which means our products end up answering the needs
What did you find the most useful assets in building your company from having a
It’s great to have a community who have watched us and our journey, so really
understand what we’re about and what we’re trying to achieve. This community has
been hugely useful in shaping BYBI product development by giving us their thoughts
on what they want from their beauty products, as well as providing us with support
and encouragement. Running a blog also meant that we were able to get to know
the industry really well before making the jump to starting a brand. It’s a good way
to build things up without having to initially invest much financially and test the
market to see if there is consumer appetite for your idea.
How did you pitch your business so that you were able to win Richard
Branson’s not-for-profit Virgin Start-up? And how did you invest the £50,000
winnings in the right way?
The Virgin Start-Up Loan is a loan awarded to small
businesses that we applied for and were rewarded off the back of a detailed business
plan. It was a great way for us to kick start the brand and we used the money to help launch BYBI – from our branding and design to formulating the range! It also meant
we had the pleasure of meeting Sir Richard himself and interviewed him on stage!
What do you think the is major appeal of Clean Beauty?
I personally prefer clean beauty as I believe it’s superior terms of efficacy – formulations with generally less water and high quantities of actives lead to products that perform better. For me, clean also means better for the health of my skin and better for the environment.
One might think writing all your skincare recipes into a book for anyone and
everyone to access might be detrimental to your business? But it didn’t exactly turn
out that way – did you predict this and what made you want to be so transparent
with your customer?
The Clean Beauty Co blog and book is all about accessible DIY
beauty, using ingredients from your kitchen cupboards or fridge, so the offering is
actually quite different to the BYBI range. The idea with the book and our recipes is
that you might use up an avocado as a one time face mask or take a drop of apple
cider vinegar that you already have in your cupboard to make a hair rinse. Our
products on the other hand are innovative, high performance formulations made
with unique ingredients! So they don’t really compete in that sense, as they cater to
fairly different beauty needs. Plus not everyone can be bothered to make their own.
Having said that, we’re all about transparency at BYBI and are very open about the
ingredients we use and why, so if you really wanted to make one of our products you
could (you just might struggle to source some of the more obscure ingredients)!
What did you do before starting your own company?
Both Dominika and I are from
marketing and advertising backgrounds and that’s actually how we met. I worked at
Apple and Facebook before quitting to pursue Clean Beauty Co full time in Sept 2016.
When did you know it was the right time to invest everything into your own
business and how did you go about such a big change?
We spent about 18 months
running both Clean Beauty Co (this was pre-BYBI) alongside working in full time roles.
The tipping point was when CBCo was really starting to take off and we found we
were cramming every minute of spare time into running workshops, hosting events,
writing our book, sharing content etc and there weren’t enough hours in the day to
do this effectively whilst also giving our day jobs 100%. We ended up doing a bad job
of both! It was clear that CBCo was beginning to take off and we knew that if we
didn’t both take the leap to pursue it full time, we might lose the momentum we’d
gained. It was a tough decision but one that was well thought out and planned for;
we saved enough financially to feel comfortable and were at a point in our careers
where it was very ‘now or never’. Needless to say we’ve not once looked back since.
I’ve heard you talk previously of big multi-national beauty corporations having
male bosses and so understand their consumer less. How do you think being
female has helped you to develop better products for women?
It’s kind of odd when
you look into who heads up some of the larger beauty brands and their target
audiences. We met with an investor recently who said she only invests in brands run
by founders who are target audience and that makes total sense. There’s no better way to know what your consumer wants than if you’re one of them! Dominika and I
formulate products first and foremost for us – we know the type of product we want
to fit into our lifestyle, the ingredients we like, the benefits we’re looking for, which
means this is often the same for our consumer. It makes perfect sense but is
surprisingly still quite uncommon in beauty.
Have you seen a lot of positive change for women in the beauty industry?
The industry has come a long way in the last couple of years, it’s a hugely
exciting time as we see disruptor brands challenge the way things have been done for
so long. For women as consumers this means brands are more relatable, more
trustworthy, more authentic. We’re seeing a wave of realistic images portrayed with
diversity at their core and I think this is hugely positive for women and their
relationship with beauty.
Where do you think your brand will be in 10 years (I bet you get asked this a lot!)
We want to be the world’s biggest natural beauty brand, making effective and ethical beauty accessible to all.