ENVIRONMENTALIST and mum of two Joanne Reilly (44) struggled for years to find ethically produced skincare that made her skin feel comfortable. In 2011 she decided to take matters into her own hands. Her company Kinvara Skincare, named after the Galway town where she lives, produces plant-based, environmentally sound skin treatments that are making beauty experts sit up and pay attention.
"The idea came from a simple need. There are so many skincare products aimed at anti-ageing, but I couldn't find anything that fit three essential criteria: natural, comfortable and easy. I started working on the business in 2011 and launched at the end of 2012 at the RDS in Dublin. We sell just three products, a capsule collection – a cleansing oil, a serum and a day cream. I wanted to keep things straightforward; these are the three things most people really need. We are looking at other products though – I'm working on an eye cream.
"The products are very science-based – I have a PhD in science – but they are built using natural, plant-based ingredients rather than synthetics. The building blocks are plant oils, vitamins, antioxidants and essential oils, no alcohol, no mineral oil, no parabens. The human body, after all, has evolved to thrive on plants. 90pc of the ingredients can also be used as a food source.
"They are also produced in an environmentally friendly manner.
"I have a background in ecological conservation, including a stint working with elephants in Sumatra before I moved back to Ireland to have my family, so this is really important to me. We have to source a lot of the ingredients from abroad because Ireland just doesn't have the climate to grow a lot of them – but there's a lack of sustainability among farmers here which is also a deterrent to sourcing domestically. Lots of the plant oils we use, for example, are extracted by carbon dioxide, because this is a much more effective and environmentally friendly method, but not everyone offers that.
"We're starting to get a lot of recognition among professional bodies and beauty bloggers, who put us in the same category as very well established ethical British brands like Trilogy, Liz Earle and Neal's Yard. The cleansing oil and serum were recently shortlisted for the influential Free From skincare awards.
"The business has come so far in just two years; we expect revenues to hit about €150,000 this year, and that's a conservative estimate. We've been profitable for a long time now. Having started from scratch in 2012 the products are now available in about 80 Irish outlets, a mix of health shops and pharmacies, as well as through our website.
"It now employs three people part-time, all working mums. We're also searching for someone to handles sales and marketing, and an intern. I really want to let people know that starting a business and raising a young family can be done, they're not mutually exclusive. It is, admittedly, a struggle – I am always thinking about the company – but I can make cupcakes while doing that. It's manageable."