A business idea inspired by mental health struggles
The backstory – Bare Biology
One day back in 2012, Melanie Lawson woke up and decided to start a fish oil business. Her friends and family raised their eyebrows and smiled. Omega-3 had been a life saver to her as a mother of three young children, and she was a complete convert. But she was tired of trying to hunt down a supplement that was strong enough to work, fresh enough to taste good, in a form she could absorb, and with clear proof of being 100% pure. She couldn’t find one, so she decided to make it herself.
Omega-3 is the super oil known for many powerful health benefits. From fighting inflammation and autoimmune diseases to improving joint health, health-conscious consumers are realising the importance of omega-3 in maintaining optimal physical and mental health.
However, a good-quality omega-3 supplement has been hard to come by in the UK – until now. Mum of three, Melanie Lawson, was left feeling frustrated when trying to source a product to supplement her family’s diet. So, identifying this gap in the market, she decided to start her own fish oil business.
In this Q&A, Melanie talks about balancing being a mum to three young children with running Bare Biology, a luxury omega-3 health supplement brand, which has seen order volumes double in just 18 months.
Was it always your plan to become your own boss?
After having my children and spending seven years looking after them at home, the thought of going back into the corporate world and working for someone else didn’t appeal. I always had thoughts of starting my own business, but I had no clear idea of what I would sell.
I’m very open about the fact that I’ve had OCD most of my life and that I suffer from anxiety and sometimes depression. After the birth of my second child, postnatal depression kicked in and this was the turning point for getting help. It was a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes, talking therapy, and broadening my mummy friends’ network that really helped me pull through.
It was only then I realised the health benefits of these fatty acids were far-reaching but, surprisingly, it was extremely difficult to buy a highly concentrated and pure fish oil supplement in the UK.
Having gone through this difficult experience, I also focused a lot of my attention on better understanding the benefits of omega-3 and the negative impact deficiencies can have on women’s mental health.- Melanie Lawson
It sounds like a real lightbulb moment when Bare Biology was born…
It certainly was. We launched in August 2013 with just one product, our Life & Soul Liquid (previously Lion Heart liquid). If you want your fish oil supplement to benefit you, it must contain enough EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are the two most important omegas. One 5ml teaspoon of our Life & Soul Liquid has 3,500mg of omega-3, including 2,000mg of EPA, 1,000mg of DHA plus 500mg of other omega-3s, making it one of the strongest concentrated fish oils you can buy.
You clearly knew your product inside and out. Did you need to call on others to help get it off the ground and into the hands of customers?
As I had no previous experience of dealing with different elements of supply chains, I found it a real challenge. In all honesty I’m not great at asking for help either, so couldn’t shortcut any learning. Instead, patience and learning from my mistakes was how I developed new skills.
I used Shopify from the beginning and was one of the first UK businesses to use the platform. At the time, there weren’t many web designers who knew it and I attempted to design it myself. I eventually found a freelancer who helped me put together our first site.
For the first year, I did all of my own PR, sending samples out to key journalists and influencers. I was slow to use social media because I wasn’t comfortable with it. Getting the product stocked in Liberty London gave us a good PR boost and credibility.
In those early days, how challenging did you find running your own business?
For the first year, our order volumes were manageable, which meant I could do everything myself. But, as word spread, the orders increased, which started to place more pressure on me. As our brand reputation grew it was incredibly exciting, but it put greater stress on me to ensure the packing and distribution were done quickly and professionally.
My husband was helping me at this point as he was on gardening leave; fulfilling the orders had become this all-consuming task which meant I had no time to focus on marketing or growing the business.
How is your business faring given the difficult times we’ve faced, and continue to face?
April 2020, the month after the first UK lockdown, was actually our best month ever. We’re obviously a health product so demand has increased. Our retail sales decreased slightly, which was to be expected with many retailers forced to close as a result of Covid-19.
But our online sales are going from strength to strength. Given that we’re a business focused on mental health and wellbeing, which have become front and centre for people now, we are still fortunate enough to be operational and our team is growing.
We can’t predict how things will go over the next few months or years, but what plans do you have for Bare Biology?
We are currently in the middle of a large rebrand and are rolling out new packaging for all of our products, which now includes Skinful Marine Collagen Powder alongside our wider omega-3 range. We also want to develop more environmentally friendly packaging and will be working on this in the near future.
In 2020 we rebranded our entire range and rolled out new packaging for all of our products. We also launched a new Skinful Marine Collagen Powder with Vitamin C, which sits alongside our best-selling Skinful Marine Collagen Powder and our wider omega-3 range. In 2021 we are exploring developing some new products using only the highest quality ingredients, as well as developing more environmentally friendly packaging.
James and James Fulfilment
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own.
We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.
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