Anne Beauty

“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend James and James. Their level of service, advice and professionalism has been outstanding – it’s taken away many of the issues and risks of scaling our business.”

Shareen Akhtar, Founder, Anne Beauty

A photograph of a woman with glossy hair, having used Anne Beauty's oils

Anne Beauty came into being in summer 2015, when make-up artist and dietitian, Shareen Akhtar, made 20 bottles of hair oil to sell at a charity event. Shareen’s secret, all-natural formula was an instant hit – the bottles sold out in a matter of hours and she was asked to make more for those who missed out. Through her Facebook profile, Shareen quickly started to sell 20-30 bottles each week.

Professionalising Anne Beauty’s hair oil production

“We used to make the oil at home on a Sunday afternoon,” she says. “We’d spend a few hours getting raw materials from high-street shops, then blending, pouring and labeling it. The business took off though, when we started employing agents, both nationally and internationally. We couldn’t produce enough at home – we couldn’t source the raw materials.”

Anne Beauty found a blending company near home in Nottinghamshire, UK, which started to make batches of 1,000 bottles. They also ensured their oils were certified to comply with European Union (EU) regulations.

An illustration of the ingredients that go into Anne Beauty's hair oils

Promoting their products through influencers

With their production growing, Shareen took to Instagram and started to send samples of Anne’s oils to influencers.

“We’d approach bloggers and vloggers, asking them to give us an honest review in return for a nominal sum,” Shareen says. “It’s a lot easier to market a product when everyone loves it – we got so many genuine, spontaneous reviews.”

With Shareen’s Instagram following growing organically towards half a million people, Anne Beauty’s sales skyrocketed. And just as they’d decided to professionalize their production, Anne Beauty decided to professionalize their eCommerce and fulfilLment too.

Processing orders at home reaches breaking point

“We didn’t have a website,” explains Shareen. “All of our marketing and sales was done through Facebook and Instagram. Customers would direct message (DM) us their order, and we’d share our bank details or PayPal account to take payment.

“My husband would get home from work at seven o’clock at night and we’d work through to 11 o’clock packing orders. I’d then go to the Post Office every day, with hundreds of bottles. That’s when we had the conversation about outsourcing our fulfillment. We really needed to get our life back and the time to focus on scaling up the business.”

Choosing James and James and Shopify

In early 2017, Anne Beauty started researching fulfillment providers online and came across James and James.

“I liked the clarity of the website and the story behind the brand – these two guys who innovated and solved a problem,” says Shareen. “Then we came down to the fulfillment center and were in awe of the set up – the level of automation and the quality of the ControlPort software.”

While talking to James and James’s Fulfillment Consultants, Anne Beauty realized that they’d also need to set up an online store, to take orders and automatically send them to the fulfillment center for processing. James and James recommended using Shopify and Little Vitamin – a web design agency – to create their new site.

Bottles of Anne Beauty's day and night hair oils

A photograph of a woman with glossy hair, having used Anne Beauty's oils

Bottles of Anne Beauty's conditioner and shampoo

Seeking professional advice to scale up

“When you’re growing a business, it’s really important to seek specialist advice,” explains Shareen. “There’s no substitute for going to a manufacturer or to James and James or to Little Vitamin.

“If you’re working online, you need to match the level of service that other, bigger brands are providing. We weren’t doing that before, but now our operations are far more professional. The API link between Shopify and James and James enables us to automate everything – when an order comes in, it triggers emails and our customers can track their items every step of the way.”

Going from strength to strength

Since going live with their new site and fulfillment in July 2017, Anne Beauty have gone from strength to strength, doubling their turnover in under a year. They also estimate that the move has reduced the time they spend processing orders by 75%.

So what have they done with the time they’ve reclaimed?

“Our success depends on us being able to engage with customers who come to us with questions about how our products can help them,” says Shareen. “Outsourcing has enabled us to press ahead with marketing and promotions, while still having contact with our customers. It means we haven’t had to hire a customer support team.

“We also spent the last six months developing new, complementary products. We have shampoos, conditioners and beard oils all launching soon.”

Re-finding a work-life balance

Another benefit that James and James’s cloud-based order management system has brought is work-life balance.

“Back in 2016, we went on holiday. We had to make 1,000 bottles before we went and then process all of the orders when we came back. The whole holiday was ruined by the stress. Now, we can go on holiday and run the entire business from a phone, wherever in the world we are.”

So what’s Shareen’s advice to other founders who are considering outsourced fulfillment?

“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend James and James. Their level of service, advice and professionalism has been outstanding – it’s taken away many of the issues and risks of scaling our business.”

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