A new online platform is aiming to transform the beauty market after launching with the help of a business support programme at the University of Warwick Science Park.
Counter Culture is working with independent beauty entrepreneurs and boutique brands to offer consumers sustainable and ethical products from a single web platform.
The business, which is run by fellow directors Mark Wisniewski and Wendy Martin, was launched this summer after support from the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme with 22 brands already selling close to 180 different products on the site.
Business Ready is a programme that delivers support to expanding businesses which is managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
Mark, who has a technical IT background, was introduced to Wendy, who has nearly 30 years’ experience in sales, marketing and e-commerce, by Business Ready adviser Gaynor Matthews when it was clear that their combined skills and experience would help grow the business quickly.
Mark said: “My background is in renewable energy and software development. Sustainability has always been important to me, as has making a positive impact on the world. Between Gaynor, Wendy and myself, we’ve all got different backgrounds and brought different skills and experiences to the table.
“It was a real meeting of minds around this opportunity to create something that offers beauty entrepreneurs and boutique brands – particularly those established by women – to sell their ethical and sustainable products to a market that has a real appetite for products that are good for them and the planet.”
Business Ready adviser Gaynor Matthews had been supporting Mark through the programme, initially for another business.
Mark then helped Gaynor with her own business WOW HOW – a makeup app – from a technical perspective and this sparked his interest in the beauty space from a clean and sustainable perspective.
He came up with the idea of creating a niche market place after his research identified that his target audience wanted to buy ethically and this was then key to his business strategy.
Gaynor said: “I was able to offer advice and support as well as being a sounding board for Mark – especially for the areas of the business that were outside his comfort zone.
“I then introduced him to Wendy who is an expert in the field of marketing and how you build an e-commerce brand and a customer-base, so it was the perfect fit.”
The Counter Culture platform has been designed to help sellers benefit from the brand and sell more of their products. With research showing that 88 per cent of consumers want brands to help them shop more ethically and sustainably and 41 per cent of consumers feeling guilty about the environmental impact of their beauty products, the company is responding to this rise in ‘conscious consumers’.
The company is also utilising the stories behind those businesses to build interest and loyalty in Counter Culture.
Wendy said: “There is not an exact definition for sustainable and ethical beauty. At Counter Culture, we focus on boutique brands that create high-performing beauty formulated to be kind to people and the planet.
“Brands that are striving to do the right thing in terms of the products they create and the business practices they adopt. It’s very much a journey not a destination.
“There is an individual story behind our brands and we want to be a champion for each of them. People are keen to hear about founders and what’s inspired them as well as learning about the product itself so we want to tell those stories – particularly where we are working with female entrepreneurs – so that we can become a network for our sellers as well as a platform for them to sell from.
“We are delighted that Business Ready helped to connect us altogether and, by combining our skills and experience, we are much stronger for it.”
Notes to editors:
The CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale project is receiving up to £2.6m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding