Creating an inclusive, botanical skincare

Founded in 2018 by husband-and-wife team, Patrick and Gomolemo Shirley, Sens8ate is a London based skincare brand of premium and natural, vegan-friendly products blended with the finest botanical ingredients and superfood oils that are crafted to nourish, hydrate and revive the skin.

Seeing a gap in the market

Sens8ate was born from the search of a product to treat Patrick’s skin inflammation of breakouts and extreme eczema. Gomolemo says “We just didn’t know what it was. And then we started researching the ingredients the products we were using. I tried different natural products in the market but none of them were okay for me, let alone for my partner.”

After discovering the skincare products the couple were using were to blame (packed with parabens, sulphates, and formaldehyde), the two entrepreneurs set off on an endeavour to create and help others avoid the woeful side effects of many well-known brand names and off-the-shelf skincare products.

Gomolemo wanted to create an inclusive brand, not discriminatory to any race, gender or anything – it’s for all skin types. “I’m trying to change the narrative of exclusivity, it’s not just for this group or that group, we’re looking at all human beings.”

Overall, the brand wants to promote good skin health and wellness. “We are looking at holistic healing of the skin whilst also focusing on encouraging inner beauty, which is why our ingredients are things that you can eat such as fruits and vegetables.”

Key challenge for the business

Gomoleno explains “the number one challenge a lot of small businesses face is finance. We’ve been bootstrapping, we still are. The biggest challenge for us is being able to fulfil our ideas and ambition, we have to juggle two or three other jobs, so our resources are stretched to a point where you don’t have a life”.

Support and advice from the London Business Hub

The business found the London Business Hub by accident.I sent an email to our local councillor at the time to say I needed support with funding. I ended up being connected with business adviser Vivienne Scantlebury at the London Business Hub”

Gomolemo’s initial conversation with Vivienne allowed her to understand alternative approaches to running certain elements of her business and test new ideas. Vivienne was able to “place everything right in front of me and I realised that other than funding, I needed to make my business work in other areas such as marketing.”

With Vivienne’s support, the company went back to basics and created strategies which helped to lay a very solid foundation for the business to grow.

“We looked at a marketing strategy on how we were going to sell the products”. Vivenne gave the business such fantastic feedback on the products on their website. Also, ideas of other retailers the products will fit into well such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and John Lewis, and other routes to market

“Vivienne taught me to be patient and trust what you’re doing. Every session I had with her, I was growing in confidence”.

“As with a lot of entrepreneurs we are dreamers and are optimistic and we want to hit our goals. You don’t want to see anything else in between. With Vivienne’s help, we have been able to map out a clear path to our goals which has been fantastic.”

Without Vivienne’s support and mentorship, “I don’t think we would have achieved the amount of things we’ve achieved in short space of time. She has become a friend now and I can talk to her about family, about me. I trust her with everything that I do and I always value her opinion.”

Impact of the London Business Hub and Adviser Support

For Gomolemo personally, the business wouldn’t be where it is today without business adviser Vivienne and the London Business Hub.

Vivienne “listens and is direct in a way that validates your thoughts and personality, and that is a great gift that many people don’t have. Vivienne has a way of really appreciating the work and the artistry and she believes your vision and builds confidence”.

Gomolemo continues to say “This kind of support, you can’t put a price on it. Whatever I have learnt and Vivienne has instilled in me, it will go with me for life.”

Advice for other entrepreneurs

Gomolemo encourages other business owners to “take advice” and “that’s the one thing I think that has saved our business, just being able to listen more and speak less.”

London Business Hub “is a great platform where you will not only get information, you will also receive business and emotional support” and “be able to guide you in the right direction to get relevant information”.

Future plans

The assistance from the London Business Hub has given the company the appetite to further their growth ambitions. The current projects for the business include revamping the brand, a six-week product showcase at the Wandsworth Southside Shopping Centre and launching the products on Amazon via the Launchpad Sustainability Accelerator that supports businesses building products designed with an environmental impact.

The company is really focusing on sustainability. Whilst all ingredients are created in the UK, the packaging was originally sourced from China however with the added shipping costs and emissions, Sens8ate is now in the process of trying to source everything from the UK and reduce plastic consumption.

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