Secrets of Success: Zaffrin O’Sullivan, Five Dot Botanics

As the world becomes more conscious and aware, Zaffrin O’Sullivan fills a niche …

Five Dot Botanics formulate and manufacture natural plant-based vegan-certified skincare with an emphasis on minimal ingredients, five to be precise. Business Matters goes behind the scenes to find out more …

What type of businesses do you work with?

We formulate and manufacture our skincare in the UK and we retail primarily in the UK and Ireland. This means we work with a formulation lab and manufacturing facility to produce our skincare. We also work with ingredient suppliers, packaging manufacturers, label and carton printers and container suppliers.

We have our own direct to consumer website and we also have an omni-channel distribution strategy. Which means we also sell wholesale and we are listed with third party retailers like Lookfantastic, FeelUnique and Holland & Barrett. We are also available on marketplaces, like Amazon and third-party retailers.

What problem does your company solve?

Five Dot Botanics started with a question. Why are there so many synthetic ingredients in skincare products? Which lead to another. What happens if we only have five natural ingredients? Not 20, not 30, certainly not 100. Just 5. This led us to create a plant-based skincare brand based around using concentrated plant ingredients focused on skin health. We only use 5 ingredients; we offer radical transparency and our range is gender neutral.

What is your USP?

Five Dot Botanics makes high performance skincare using ingredients from plants, our USP is that we only ever have 5 ingredients in any product, meaning it is great for your skin and only contains the good stuff!
What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so how have you dealt with it?

Our company lives by simple principles – do the right thing, treat people with respect, be kind. We haven’t really had them challenged because these values aren’t particularly lofty. They speak to the heart of what people want for themselves and for society.

We try to do the right thing in terms of how we manufacture and retail our products and we always treat our customers and our employees with respect. We are always open to feedback for how we can do things better and we have an open, honest and inclusive way of working. The values we live by as a company are the values we live by as founders, as people with a duty to contribute towards making things betters for people and planet.

How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?

Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do at Five Dot Botanics. We wanted to make sure the company is really open and flexible. All roles are offered on a flexible basis to ensure participation and equal opportunities at all levels.

We hire inclusively and have a mix of ages, genders, races, ethnicity, and religions working for us. We have 50% BAME representation on the board of Directors. Our marketing shows a range of ethnicities, genders, and ages.

We are committed to helping reduce the proportion of youth not in employment or training. We had three jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds (through the UK Kickstart scheme) throughout 2021 and they came from a range of backgrounds.

Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?

We are agnostic about where people work from. We have always thought like that even before Covid. As a result, we have been able to work with talented people from all over the country. Not everyone wants to live in London. At the moment, everyone works primarily at home but we are definitely open to a hybrid working model as the business grows and COVID (hopefully) subsides. We often meet in a co-working space which we find gives the team a boost and promotes the sense of community that we’ve all been lacking.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?

Treat your customers and suppliers with respect. Treat people fairly and do the right thing. When Covid struck we had really good relationships with our suppliers and customers and because of that we were able to weather a lot as a business. We spend a lot of time nurturing our relationships with suppliers and customers.

Our personal connections are what helped us to launch Five Dot Botanics, against the odds. We found people wanted to help our business. Decency and courtesy as a business owner are critical. Having patience and taking time to look beyond the transaction really matter. Never lose your integrity, always deal honestly with everyone.

Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?

Don’t waste money, measure the return on your marketing spend and keep an eye on your cash flow.

If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses what would it be?

Smaller businesses need help navigating the complex mess of export in a post Brexit world. There is a real opportunity for British brands to be hugely successful abroad but the red tape, complexity and general lack of clarity make it difficult. Government needs to support smaller businesses to grow and export.

What is your attitude towards your competitors?

We are an independent British skincare brand. We are a niche within a very large industry that has been dominated by global multinationals. We are hugely supportive of other independent skincare brands; especially as smaller companies are leading the charge in thinking about social and environmental issues. Founder led businesses often have a personal touch. We love to see other businesses thrive in the natural skincare space. As consumer attitudes change, we are part of a growing movement advocating for a different approach to skincare. Competition is great, we want to offer the power of choice, to move away from big brands and to get results from smaller brands offering something different.

Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?

We want to be the most loved plant-based skincare brand for all genders. We have been on an incredible journey since launching. Our mission is to keep growing in the UK and to grow more internationally. Brexit has made it quite hard however we will soon be on-boarding with Amazon in the EU to help with our fulfilment and logistics so this will be a great help having a warehouse hub in the EU. We also have a few new products coming out and our first scalp product launching. We are also about to do another fundraise to help fund our growth.

Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.



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