We caught up with the fabulous Tracey Ryan, the great mind behind Bia Beauty, who has just been nominated for an IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year 2014 Award. She tells us about being nominated, juggling family life, Countess Markievicz and splashing out on pure rose essential oil.
What inspired you to set up Bia Beauty?
I set up Bia Beauty as a college project during my final year of a degree in Herbal Science. We were tasked with creating a natural product and marketing it. I was thrilled as I was already making all our skin care products at home. My husband has really sensitive skin and I had just had a baby so I was really concerned about what we were putting into our bodies and on our skin. I had an idea that if you could not eat an ingredient then you shouldn’t put it onto your skin. So I began making skincare products with only food grade ingredients. I was literally feeding our skin and so the idea for Bia Beauty was born!
Describe your average working day.
I get up at around 6am to get two hours’ work done before my little boy wakes up. I answer emails, plan the day’s work and schedule all my social media posts. Then once Feidhlim wakes up it’s all about him, I hang out with him until he goes off to playschool. From there I head over to our manufacturing unit to join my husband Gav and the other staff. They work in production while I keep the office running, taking orders, answering enquiries etc. Once or twice a week I’m out on the road though, visiting stockists, attending trade shows or meeting buyers.
What advice would you have for someone else interested in the same type of career?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work! It’s really exciting running your own business, no two days are ever the same, but it’s very demanding. My advice would be to do something you love, work in the areas of the business that you love and that you are passionate about. And once you can afford to do it, find people to work in the areas that don’t inspire you.
You do so much, how do you juggle it all and stay sane?
I make sure to take time off for myself and my family. At the start I would work constantly, weekends, late nights etc. but I’ve realized that it’s not healthy and that the work you do when you are tired and stressed is not top quality. I’m also really lucky as my husband is a great support, he works full time in the business too. And both of our parents have been brilliant helping us out with childcare.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
A business mentor right at the start of Bia Beauty told me that I had a quality product but customers would need to see quality as soon as they looked at the product. So from the very beginning I’ve aimed for the best packaging, photography, website etc. that I could get. It’s really hard starting out with a shoestring budget but I’ve always prioritized packaging and branding.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered with your business?
I literally started Bia Beauty with zero budget! Building a brand with no money has always been my biggest challenge. We’ve been smart though I think. We’ve used social media especially Facebook to tell the story of our brand and we’ve jumped at every opportunity to get publicity.
Your number 1 inspiration?
I’m inspired by women like Countess Markievicz, she was a suffragette and a revolutionary who fought in the 1916 Rising. She was fearless, which is a trait I really admire in people. She battle against convention and stood up for what she believed in.
Have you got a life philosophy?
Absolutely, I follow my own path, I do things that I love, I don’t force myself to do things because it’s the thing to do or it’s expected of me and I’m never afraid to be the odd one out.
Have you got a quote to live by/favourite quote?
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Ghandi
Favourite beauty brand
Apart from Bia Beauty I love Neal’s Yard. They use great ingredients and their apothecary style bottles are beautiful. I also love Benefit, the packaging is fun and quirky and the staff are always so helpful on their stands.
Biggest ever splurge
I don’t splurge too often but I would very willingly hand over silly amounts of money for pure rose essential oil.
What most people don’t know about you
I have a secret addiction to The X Factor. We don’t have a TV at home and I usually don’t like reality shows but I have a bit of a thing for The X Factor and follow it religiously. It drives my husband mad.
When you’re not working where would we most likely find you?
In my garden or out walking in the fields foraging for wild food and herbs.
The best thing about my work is…
Developing new products. I love tinkering around with the ingredients, dreaming up new formulations and trying them out on my friends and family. I love that I get to work with such amazing ingredients.
How do you feel being shortlisted for a BWOTYA?
I feel really honoured to be included with such inspiring women. It’s like a real clap on the back, to be acknowledged for all the hard work and late nights.
Check out the other brilliant women who have been short listed, and get your tickets to the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards here.
Hannah Popham @HannahPopham