Voya, the spectacular evolution of an Irish organic beauty brand – exclusive CEO interview

CPP-LUXURY.COM has interviewed exclusively, Mark Walton, the Founder and CEO of Irish based VOYA organic beauty brand, on his most inspiring entrepreneurial approach.

How did you come up with the idea of setting up a beauty brand with a focus on organic ingredients?

My father was one of the founders of the organic movement in Ireland, so it was really a logical progression for us. Also obviously as the origins of the brand is seaweed baths, which is a very raw natural experience it would have seem disingenuous not to certify or products organic. Personally, when my wife and I were launching the brand, after research into the area, we found that there were many ingredients being used which consumers, would not be happy with. It’s been some time since we started and it seems this intuition would appear to have been quite astute, with the growth in “free from” products.

Some argue that cosmetology beauty products are still more effective than natural/organic based products, i.e. anti-aging. What is your view?

Bit of a sweeping statement really. I’m not avoiding the question, but it depends what you mean by effective. As a good cosmetic should perform a number of functions and sometimes we are led down the path of 3% or 5% of X ingredient, therefore one is “better” than the other. The marketers really are not giving all the information, like sometimes there is a diminishing return when an ingredient is used above 1.5%, so it’s a waste, but it appeals to some consumers. Or for example when we use 2 ingredients they can actually work against each other rather than complement each other. Ultimately every products is different. What I would say is certified organic (its key that we are talking about certified organic here) require a minimum of 70% active/organic ingredients to be used in each formulation. Most conventional products will use a few active ingredients rarely above 2%. Of course I am being sweeping, but it would be fairly active for the most parts. Also we have seen a massive growth in green chemistry.

Many of the functional active ingredients found in cosmetology products, are derived from natural ingredients, they are just optimized for their delivery, but ultimately they are also economically efficient as well. As we are using these ingredients at 70% of formulation content, there may often be more active elements in the 70% of the formulation, than the 2-6% of the conventional product. But there are a lot of other beneficial compounds. However on top of this there really has been some amazing advances in green chemistry and going to toe in limited “measurement” of pure isolated functionality, we are eroding the gap and surpassing conventional. For example we are using organic seaweed extracts now which outperform Hyaluronic acid.

What are the biggest challenges in growing your business? (i.e. distribution, Spa presence etc)

Managing growth, as a business we have had to deliberately slow our growth. There has been such a major demand for our product and brand that we are declining as many customers as excepting. I hate doing it, but there is only so many years you can sustain a 100% growth, we limiting growth to 40% a year now. Needless to say the spa industry is fragmented and supplying some “new” mares can logistically challenge, but so far we have always managed to do it. The only good thing about this is that most of the time the spa director is equally aware of the challenges and we develop a closer relationship, as it’s a shared problem as such. We are a family owned business so we don’t have the pressures of other brands to take over the world, I like that I still know my customers and enjoy the personal relationships we have with them.

How do your products relate to lifestyle?

With every product we create, we think about the customer first – What they need, what they want and what fits into their sometime hectic lifestyles. The customer has to be at the centre of product development if you want your product to sell after wards. With this in mind we’ve created Travel Sets for skincare on the go and airplane friendly sized products that our customers can bring with their carry-on luggage as well so their skin doesn’t have to go without while abroad. We also encourage our customers to continue the spa experience in their own homes – enjoy a seaweed bath in a luxury hotel and then take our seaweed bath in a box home to continue the detox.

Your products are featured at several luxury Spa. Would you consider your positioning as luxury?

Of course that is the brand perception, though it was not necessarily our intention. We wanted to make beautiful, quality and unique products and I suppose in the world of mass production, that makes us luxury. We have limited distribution, so again that creates demand as well.

What is your competitive set?

We are a genuinely organic, high quality, environmentally responsible, results driven range of products. Supported and delivered by a team of professionals all over the world. We bring with us over a 100years of family tradition and integrity.

What has been the most effective awareness and communications tool for your brand?

I’ll be honest client referral has been the best thing for generating new business for us. We use traditional PR for the brand which has been very effective along with more modern social media tools.

Do you plan to expand outside Europe?

We already supply over 20 countries outside of Europe. Largest markets are, US, UAE, Africa, South East Asia.

Are you considering launching other organic based beauty product such as make-up or fragrances?

We always say, make your main thing, the main thing you do. We would love to get into other products, but I think we have a lot more development in our core products set, so I don’t allow us to get sidetracked. The only thing we are considering is further research into some of the active compounds we have discovered in our seaweed extracts. Of course this research was designed purely for cosmetic application, but many of the benefits/properties also have medical application, we are looking at patent protection available before proceeding. Of course this is somewhat overlapping.

Mark and Kira Walton, VOYA Beauty