Frustrated by not being able to find skincare products that ticked all the boxes in terms of health, wellbeing, sustainability and eco-friendly production with a minimal impact on the environment, South African entrepreneur, Jesslynn Schlamm, was inspired to create her own from her small kitchen. Today, her Lulu & Marula skincare range is testimony to that original passion and dedication.
Lionesses of Africa met the wonderfully enthusiastic, product-passionate entrepreneur, Jesslynn Schlamm, at the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair in Johannesburg recently and spoke to her about her skincare product brand building journey so far.
What inspired the name of your business, Lulu & Marula?
Actually, Lulu is the name of my pet dog, a giant Schnauzer who I love and who is an amazing part of my life and a constant source of inspiration; and Marula because I use Marula oil throughout my whole range of skincare products. I love it because it is a very universal oil, it is good for all skin types and it is very high in vitamin E and contains a natural preservative, which ultimately all means that my products are 100% natural.
"I am aiming my products at all those customers who have a fresh approach to skincare and lifestyle and are looking for something a little different. I find that a lot of people are attracted to my brand initially though the packaging and the product ethos."
Tell us more about your business and how you started.
I didn't set out to start my own business, it just kind of happened. Growing up, my mom had always made her own skincare products, from body soaps to moisturisers, using all natural ingredients. At the time I thought it was a bit strange, but over the years I got into the whole natural approach to living and became very aware of what I was putting into my body and onto my skin. Ultimately, the skin absorbs what you put onto it and there are chemicals used in skincare products that have been linked to negative health effects. I kept reading lots of articles about face oils, I think there was a huge trend at one point for people to use face oils to treat their highly blemished skin and I personally really struggled with skin breakouts along my jaw line, and no matter what I did to try and treat it, I just couldn't get rid of it. I was also fed up with putting harsh chemicals on my skin which just made it dry and itchy, so I started mixing my own face oils in the first instance to solve the problem. From there, I went on to create my own cleansing balms, body balms and hand/feet balms, initially just for use by myself, and also as gifts for my friends and family.
The word soon got around and I started to get requests from people to make products for them, and then a friend of mine who I worked with in graphic design offered to create a whole corporate identity and design package for my products. She did an amazing job designing what became the Lulu & Marula brand package, and in turn, has become hugely successful in her own right as a graphic designer. So, with my new brand design in place, I launched the business as an online store and the majority of my business today is still done online. I never really set out to open my own retail store, but instead prefer to do business in the online retail environment. This also allows me to collaborate with other retailers who have a similar eco-vision and brand personality to myself. I like to be showcased alongside other South African local designers and feel that this is the perfect environment to promote my Lulu & Marula products and brand. The business has been going now for over a year, so I am still a genuine start-up story.
What have been the main challenges you have encountered so far?
My main challenge has been finding retailers that fit my brand personality and my brand values. Even though my products are all 100% natural, I don't really want to sell them through health shops because you are grouped in a certain way and I am aiming my products at younger customers who have a fresh approach to skincare and lifestyle and are looking for something a little different. I find that a lot of younger people are attracted to my brand initially though the packaging and the product ethos, so I would rather be selling and promoting my brand and products somewhere with a little more personality, particularly smaller independent retail stores. I am currently also retailing my products in a few niche locations overseas, in the US, in France, and I am receiving new enquiries all the time. Actually one of the key challenges is in exporting and complying with all the certifications required for cosmetic and skincare products, all of which takes a lot of time and effort. This is one area that I will be spending more time on going forward, working out the practicalities of exporting my brand and products further. It is part of my growth strategy for Lulu and Marula.
What has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I think that exhibiting at the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair in Johannesburg, South Africa, and promoting my brand and products was a high point of the last year. I have been following the event closely and the calibre of designers represent some of the biggest and best names in design, food and wine from South Africa. So, for me to participate was a real privilege and I am delighted I had the opportunity to launch Lulu & Marula to the public in this way. It was a real coming out for me as an entrepreneur and a new brand.
"I launched the business as an online store and the majority of my business today is still done online. I never really set out to open my own retail store, but instead prefer to do business in the online retail environment. This also allows me to collaborate with other retailers who have a similar eco-vision and brand personality to myself."
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Don’t overthink it, just do it. If you are sitting there, mulling over the idea of starting up a new business, and you are stressing about all the small details, you are probably never going to do it because you are hindered by fear. The best thing you can do is to say to yourself, “If I fail I fail, if I succeed I succeed, recognising that even if you fail, there are so many lessons to be learned for next time. So, just go and do it and don’t over think it.
Contact of follow Lulu & Marula:
Why LoA loves it….
Meeting Jesslynn Schlamm and testing for ourselves the wonderful Lulu & Marula natural skincare range of products, we can honestly say that this is a entrepreneur with a passionate commitment to sustainable beauty and the creation of world-class natural products that are also beautifully packaged. We love Jesslynn’s commitment to handcrafting skincare products with a conscience, and ones that support the local farmers who produce the natural ingredients that go into making each product in her Lulu & Marula range. This is a truly inspirational South African entrepreneur who is making a real difference in the world of sustainable beauty and wellbeing and we think will go far - look out for more news about Jesslyn and her Lulu & Marula skincare range. --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief