FoundHer: Georgie Cleeve, OSKIA Skincare
Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Many founders will say that they came upon their business idea "by accident", but for Georgie Cleeve of top British skincare brand OSKIA, this is - quite literally - true. After suffering a skiing accident, Georgie was convinced by her father to try a joint supplement called MSM, a natural form of organic sulphur that he had introduced to the market to treat racehorses. Being the 'guinea pig' paid off in more ways than Georgie could have imagined: the MSM not only repaired the damaged cartilage, it cured her eczema and acne, gave her glowing skin and made her hair and nails thicker than ever before. The seed was sown to put this wondrous ingredient into beauty products, and OSKIA Skincare was launched in 2009. OSKIA's pure nutritional formulations are designed by Georgie and a team of experts, and they're all manufactured in OSKIA's own factory and lab in Monmouth, Wales. The company is stocked in all major beauty retailers including Space NK and Barney's New York, has won over 100 awards to date and is privately owned and run by Georgie and her husband, George Gordon.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m not sure any day is really the same when you have a noisy young family and a business to run. But what is always the same is the school run - always in a rush! My husband and I run OSKIA together and we are very lucky that our office is very close to one of the children’s schools. We are unlucky in that they all go to different schools (not very well planned). After the school run, I am either found in London at the office, at meetings (which I always plan for the mornings) or down in our factory in Wales, which I try and get to once a week to spend the day formulating with our wonderful and very talented team. I will always be home for homework, children’s tea and bath time, which I am fortunate to be able to do.
What is/are your biggest success/es to date?
To be honest, I think it’s bringing up three very happy children and having a very close-knit family, without losing my marbles. My brain feels like a hive of bees most of the time, so it always amazes me. On a business front, I am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and the awards we’ve won (over 100 to date), but there is always tomorrow to push for and so much more to do. I know it’s a fault of many founders that you don’t celebrate the successes, but I do try. We recently won Best Global Brand and my new anti-pollution booster was hailed as the most exciting technological advancement at a huge global cosmetic trade show last month.
Which tools can't you live without?
I’m afraid I am not the biggest fan of the digital age. Having grown up without the internet, or social media or gaming, I worry enormously about the negative effects it has on children. So we try and keep the house as free of this as possible, and I don’t have any apps apart from Instagram. When I am stressed or overworked, a good book or a walk is my tool to escape and calm down. I was brought up on a farm in Wales and I love the outside with a passion - the wilder the weather the better it grounds me and clears my mind. And wine!
Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years time?
I would love to feel that I have achieved my business plans in 5 years time. Maybe I will have another brand to my name (there are many new ideas bubbling).
What would you tell your younger self at the beginning of your career?
That’s tricky. On a business front, it would be to raise money at the start. We built OSKIA the grassroots way - without a penny of external investment and we still own 100% today. However, if I was to start another brand today I would look to raise money and start off with a bang. On a personal front, I don’t think I would change anything. I was pregnant with my first child when we launched but I would never have put off motherhood over business. There is never the perfect time to do both and women are amazing at juggling and just getting on with it. It is vital to accept any help though that comes your way and you must realise that asking for help is not a weakness but a sign of strength. We are not letting down the ‘sisterhood’ by asking for help. We are not invincible!
Is there anything you’ve had to sacrifice for your career?
Sadly I think it is my social life, but I believe anyone at the stage of my career and at my age will say the same. Everyone is in the same boat and hopefully, we will all come out the other side and do it all over again. I know all my friends are also in the midst so I hope I am not missing out on too much.
What are the biggest surprises you’ve experienced in motherhood?
I think the lack of independence was the biggest shock after the first one. Due to numerous feeding issues (tongue tie, reflux, lack of latching), I only managed to get out of the house for 20 minutes each afternoon. It wasn’t really until after this period though that I felt or realised it. But by the time number 2 and 3 came along, it’s all just crazy and you don’t notice it. I think the biggest change in myself though, has been to become incredibly cautious and ‘safety-first’. I look for danger everywhere (which is really annoying to be honest). I haven’t climbed a mountain for years - though I hope this will change when the children are a little bigger and we can go on lots of adventures together.
Do you have any tips for new founders?
Having a business partner is really important, or if not, someone who you can speak to regularly as a sounding board. It can be extremely lonely if not, and your employees will see you as the boss however well you get on. I am extremely lucky that my husband is my business partner, which was a risk but it’s worked incredibly well and we are still very happily married! Many ideas fail but many succeed. You have to know your stuff and believe 100% in what you want to do. You need to infect everyone else with this positivity. You need to listen to as many people as you can (everyone gives conflicting advice) but always go with your gut instinct. But it is also luck. If you look at the huge success stories out there - Fevertree, Sipsmith - they were really paving a new way. They were leaders and the timing was right. There is no place for impersonators now. You need to be different, better and new.
Finally, what quote do you live by?
“Onwards and Upwards!” In my ‘dream life’ I am an explorer. I wish! I adore adventure travel and this quote is from Ernest Shackleton, the epic and tragic explorer who when faced with some serious uncertainty on his ill-fated Antarctic Endurance Expedition still remained positive. I am a huge optimist and always look on the bright side of everything, as there is absolutely no point not to! In business, it relates to “OK, I’ve made a mistake - learn from it and get on with it.” Always positive.