Having taken the leap to launch her own range of beauty products, Dartmoor Skincare, Tara Leader creates award winning beautifully natural products that are made in the heart of Devon and one of the most popular ranges to sell at Insideout.
Tell me a bit about your life before Dartmoor Skincare?
Before Dartmoor Skincare I was working as a self employed beauty therapist on Dartmoor, something which I still do part time. After finishing a degree at Plymouth University in Psychology I trained as a Reflexologist and later as a beauty therapist where I developed a passion for skincare.
What is Dartmoor Skincare?
Dartmoor Skincare is a small business based on Dartmoor. It consists of an award winning range of natural skincare. The launch range had five products and this has grown to 14 over the past four years. Dartmoor Skincare has a cleanser, toner and moisturiser, so people can start with my three-step skincare routine. There is also an eye cream, hand cream and body cream. We also have a range of natural, plastic free soap and hair bars.
In the first lockdown we developed a hand sanitiser with a refill. I wanted to make a hand sanitiser effective against coronavirus and bacteria, but something that was also gentle on your skin and moisturising too. So after lots of testing, development and compliance with WHO guidelines, we now have a fresh smelling sanitiser that is also kind to your skin.
What makes Dartmoor Skincare so special?
The skin is extraordinarily resilient, but it needs to be treated with tender loving care and pampered with sympathetic ingredients such as natural oils and butters, not with products containing harsh additives that can irritate the skin.
We are deeply committed to being as environmentally friendly as possible. When we started out 100% of our products were in plastic. Now our range is 60% zero waste. The last four products we have launched have been zero waste bars; soap, shampoo bars and conditioner bars. Every day we are working towards reducing our plastic. We used to mail our all our internet orders in boxes wrapped in plastic, now we use only cardboard and paper wrapping. The plastic we do use is 100% recyclable, but even so, we are working towards reducing it further. For a small business like us though, this takes time. It is expensive to repackage our products and any mistakes will cost us dearly, so we have to go slowly and carefully. The range is officially certified as cruelty free with leaping bunny and is vegan friendly.
What inspired you to start the business and why?
The wild, natural beauty of Dartmoor has always had a very special place in my heart and has provided the inspiration for my range of skincare products based on natural ingredients. I am very aware of skin sensitivity as both my children suffered from eczema when they were little. I started researching the ingredients in baby care products and discovered that if I avoided sulphates, their flare-ups would disappear. This is how my passion for skincare originally began. I wanted to create a really effective skincare range that was kind and nurturing to your skin.
How did you first go about setting up and what was your plan to start with?
I started with a launch range of five products, products I could use in my treatment room when doing facials. There was months of work behind the scenes before reaching this stage. Lots of trial and error creating recipes, literally at my kitchen sink! Then a nail biting six weeks waiting for lab tests to be done on the products. There is a huge amount of legal compliance to adhere to and learn about when creating cosmetics. My plan was to use my products in my treatment room and also to have a website selling them online.
How has the business grown since the beginning - tell us a bit about the journey you have been on.
It has been a huge learning curve! The business has grown over the last four years, with a bigger range and a growing customer base. It has been an enormous amount of work, from getting the products just right, to passing all the lab tests and then working on the branding and labels, something I get expert help on from local designer Sara Venner (Kimono Design). Over the years we've won some very prestigious awards, including medals at the European Skincare Awards. Dartmoor Skincare won two awards at the Free From Skincare Awards. Our Naturally Nourishing Hand Cream and Lavender & Rose Geranium Soap were both awarded bronze medals. Our Naturally Purifying Cream Cleanser was shortlisted, and we were also shortlisted in the Free From Brand category, which was such an honour and privilege for a young kitchen start-up business. The Awards were founded to encourage and reward manufacturers of skincare products that are ‘free from’ many of the allergens, chemicals, additives and fragrances associated with skin sensitivities, allergies, and ethical, environmental and health concerns. With allergies on the rise, free from skincare is becoming more and more important.
How did you find approaching retailers to stock your products?
I started out selling my products in my treatment room and online but soon was approached by small shops and farm shops who were interested in stocking my products.
What lessons did you learn in the process?
That the brand and ethos behind the business is so important. The shops we supply really appreciate that we are a small family business and that we focus on the quality of our products, using top quality ingredients while also focusing on our environmental impact. We have also had to scale up our production along the way.
What would your advice be to small businesses wanting to take that next step?
Make sure you have the capacity to be able to deliver the larger amounts of stock that shops need and also have your packaging and labelling done professionally.
What made you choose Insideout as one of your retailers?
Our family are long time admirers and shoppers at Insideout in Tavistock. Dartmoor Skincare products fit perfectly with the Insideout family who really appreciate handmade artisan products made with top quality ingredients.
What are your own favourite three products and why?
I love the Naturally Nurturing Moisturiser as it sinks in beautifully without leaving the sticky feeling like some moisturisers do. Makeup just glides onto your skin afterwards.
The Naturally Nurturing Hand Cream is a permanent fixture on my bedside table. I just apply it once a day at bedtime and it sorts my dry hands out every time! The sweet almond oil in the hand cream has made my nails really strong and healthy.
The hand sanitiser - I know it's 100% effective as I've had all the appropriate lab tests done on it, but it's also great smelling and not sticky at all.
The product contains 71% alcohol which exceeds compliance levels to kill coronavirus. As well as all the usual laboratory tests our products, and all cosmetics have to undergo, we have also had the hand sanitiser biocide tested which means it is effective at killing 99.999% of bacteria. The high alcohol content makes this a liquid product that dries really quickly and doesn’t leave a residue. The spray pump delivers just what you need without overloading your hands with product. I have added glycerin and aloe vera to give the sanitiser moisturising properties that are good for your skin. Essential oils of lemon and rosemary give the product and uplifting and citrusy scent. Such a different experience to the sticky hand gels with an artificial smell!
The hand sanitiser comes in a glass bottle to be more eco-friendly than plastic. The spray pump is plastic, although you can reuse this time and time again if you buy the refill hand sanitiser too. Also in a glass bottle, the refill version will fill your spray pump bottle over three times.
As with all our products, our hand sanitiser is vegan friendly and cruelty free.
What's it been like running the business through Covid?
It has been a challenge as all the shops we supply had to close, so we lost so much business overnight. The website kept the business ticking over and the extra time gave me space to create new products.
What's the future for Dartmoor Skincare?
We have a range of natural plant based candles launching very soon! Another lockdown project coming to life.