From kitchen table to the world’s largest manufacturer of camel milk-based skincare products, Stevi shares top tips for successful business venture.
Stevi Lowmass, founder of UAE founded company The Camel Soap Factory has taken her business from her kitchen table to the world’s largest manufacturer of camel milk-based skincare products – selling over 1 million bars of soap globally. Pivoting her customer base through the pandemic, Stevi shares her insight into growing a skincare start-up in the UAE to a growing, global business.
Known for its entrepreneurial spirit, the UAE is famously home to many unique start-ups. It’s also a sad fact that many new businesses fail to see beyond the first two years. Start- up success followed by sustainable growth is no mean feat.
“For me, as the founder of The Camel Soap Factory (TCSF), and now in our 11th year of business, we have formed a very loyal client base and gone on to achieve a global reputation for our unique products. Creating natural skincare cosmetics, made from local camel milk has enabled us to bring the benefits of our soaps and products to a wider audience, whilst showcasing a very niche, ‘only in the Middle East’ proposition and brand story,” reckons Stevi.
From humble beginnings in 2011, TCSH is now the world’s largest manufacturer of natural skincare cosmetics made with camel milk, with sales of more than 1 million bars of soap over the last eight years. This business growth has not come easy and a lot of lessons learned along the way.
Here are Stevi’s top six tips for growing a business start-up into a successful venture, not forgetting the importance of agility and perseverance.
Do your research
It sounds obvious, but trying to launch a new business with limited research on your target market and the product/service you plan to offer is like playing a game of chess with no real knowledge on how to win. Luck may play a part, but your chances of success are slashed. The most successful entrepreneurs work backward, by first identifying what is missing in the market they are targeting. When you have your idea or ‘passion’ , it’s vital to survey potential customers, in order to gain insights into not only how their target market thinks but also to find out why they might be interested in a new particular product/service. What seems like a great idea to you, your close friends, or family and what can constitute a sustainable, profit-making business can often be very different.
In addition to research, finding a product or service that isn’t currently available or is in low supply should be your next objective. Not only does this invite your target market to test you out over competition (because there aren’t many alternatives), but it also increases the likelihood of customer brand loyalty to you as a start-up / SME. Many consumers seek out unusual or new-to-the-market products which are uncommon amongst global brands, so this psychology can be used to your advantage.
Find a manufacturer for your product
Find a reliable manufacturer who can provide high-standard products based on your concept and formulation. Ten years ago we couldn’t find a company to manufacture our unique products so we had no alternative but to open a factory. Nowadays we offer contract manufacturing to enable skincare startups to control their budget while guaranteeing great outcomes.
Carefully consider customer feedback
Achieving profitability is one thing, but actually taking time to listen to live customer feedback on goods and services is essential for long-term success. Maintaining a consistently positive reputation in UAE and beyond is key to both attracting new customers but also ensuring that loyal ones return to you over the competition.
Gradually scale up
The Camel Soap Factory was not an overnight success story. We began as a start-up and it has taken several years to scale up to where we are today. A successful business takes commitment and hard work in order to see the best possible results following investment, carefully selected suppliers, and strategic scaling up and expansion.
Prepare and adapt to external challenges
Some external challenges just cannot be foreseen. The pandemic shook many sectors while others enjoyed positive impacts to their bottom lines. The key learning for most leaders has really been to ensure that their businesses remain adaptable to these external changes, many of which have had to invest into further digitization of the sales process, for example. The Camel Soap Factory had to adapt by changing its business strategy to target a wider audience. Pre-covid our typical customer profile was the UAE tourist where we’d gained a reputable reputation amongst customers, but this had to shift in order to remain competitive. With the move to the Dubai Silicon Oasis factory in 2019, our strategy became more about international market expansion.