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Q&A: NZ ‘The Apprentice’ star Erna Basson on her stylish and affordable new skincare line

By Megan Bedford

Q&A: NZ ‘The Apprentice’ star Erna Basson on her stylish and affordable new skincare line

There’s a hot new skincare brand on supermarket shelves.

With its minimal lines and on-trend peach packaging it’s fair to say Frula Beauty‘s products look like they’d be more at home in department stores or beauty emporiums like Sephora.

But for Frula Beauty’s creator Erna Basson, that’s entirely the point.

The Auckland-based entrepreneur and mother of two loved using beautiful, natural skincare lines and their active ingredients but wished they were more easily accessible and affordable.

Unsurprising for a go-getter and self professed ‘yes person’ that came a respectable fourth in the New Zealand version of business-focused reality show The Apprentice, she set to work creating a solution.

The result: Frula Beauty has just launched in Countdown supermarkets throughout New Zealand, Pak N Save and New World stores in the North Island and some items are available at the newly-opened Costco.

Frula is the first brand to launch in a supermarket using hydrating and nourishing ingredient aloe vera rather than aqua, or water as the main ingredient. It also makes the most of naturally-derived ingredients including hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, squalane and more and is cruelty free, vegan friendly, free from SLS, SLES and parabens.

We spoke to Basson to find out more about her business background, her own skincare routine and her drive to create the New Zealand-made Frula Beauty.

Frula Beauty’s Erna Basson. 

What was the inspiration for creating Frula Beauty?

I had been using a natural skincare brand I liked from Sephora and had been saying to my husband for so many years, “Imagine if we could create a high-end product like this, with high active ingredients and one that really worked; but we were able to make it more accessible and affordable?”

At the back end of the pandemic, the cost of living has increased dramatically and women began having to think twice about making luxury beauty purchases. It was then that I knew the time was right for us to create our brand, offering clean beauty for less.

What were the non-negotiables aspects you wanted your skincare to have?
1.    It must be made in New Zealand
2.    It must be natural
3.    It must be formulated to US Clean at Sephora standards
4.    It must have aloe vera as its first ingredient
5.    The product should just be as beautiful on the inside as the packaging on the outside

Aloe vera is a key component, what makes this so important?
Aloe vera is known as the ‘magic plant’ in skincare as it is super soothing for sensitive skin. Frula Beauty is the first skincare brand in supermarkets to use aloe vera as the main/primary ingredient; a formulation that is traditionally only found in products sold at high price points in high end beauty retailers. Other brands use aqua/water as their first main ingredient. I wanted the products to work their magic from the very first ingredient.

The range includes Reusable Face Cleansing Pads, 3 Phase Micellar Cleansing Water, Brightening Vitamin C Serum, Gentle Foaming Face Cleanser, Super Hydrating Moisturiser and Superfood 2 in 1 Exfoliator & Mask.

What else sets Frula Beauty apart and offers something new in a crowded skincare market?

Using aloe vera as our main ingredient is one of the biggest differentiators for us. Another important aspect is our packaging, which is recyclable and designed to have the look and feel of products available in high end beauty retailers. As we live in a digital social world, it was important for us to ensure our packaging was Instagram-able to build virality in this digital space.

Why was it important to retail through supermarkets?

We knew from the beginning we wanted to make our brand accessible to everyone and what better way to do it, than through an FMCG retail channel. From a business point of view, if you compare e-commerce to retail, e-commerce customer acquisition has increased dramatically due to the increased cost of advertising and saturation of the market; but FMCG does not come without its own set of difficulties like margins, systems, compliance and so on.

We decided to forgo e-commerce on our own website as we have no intention of competing for sales with our retailers.  The retailers are investing in us by stocking our brand, and we need to invest back into them by driving all sales and basket spend to their stores.

What does your own skincare routine involve each day?

I am a person that absolutely believes in routines.  My day always starts with my husband bringing me coffee in bed (I know, I am super lucky).  In the morning, I splash my face with cold water to really awaken my senses, wash with our Foaming Cleanser, then apply our Brightening Vitamin C Serum followed by our Super Hydrating Moisturiser.

My night routine is a bit different; if I had makeup on that day, I start by removing my makeup by using our Reusable Face Pads and Micellar Water, from there I would cleanse my face using our Foaming Cleanser and then apply our moisturiser.  I exfoliate twice a week (three times a week if I have been wearing a lot of makeup) with the Frula Beauty exfoliating mask.

I really believe in keeping things simple, and that is exactly how we have created our skincare line – to simplify skincare routines.

How long did it take you from idea to launch and what were the major challenges?

From idea to concept it took about 6-8 months and from concept to shelf, it took another 8-10 months.  In total, it has taken a solid 18 months.

The biggest challenges we faced were in between the concept to shelf phase where we had to ship physical products. Due to the pandemic, the supply chain has been under severe stress and we had to deal with several shipping and supply delays that were completely out of our hands.

You’ve chosen to work with female-run supply partners. Why is that?

I should clarify, I don’t work exclusively with female-run supply partners, but I do aim to work with them whenever possible. I am extremely passionate about female entrepreneurship, and I want to see female entrepreneurs take up space in the business world.

You’re a successful entrepreneur with a business brain. What’s the hardest part of getting a burgeoning business off the ground?

Execution! It’s the one thing a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs lack.  Everyone has amazing ideas that could change the world; but the lack of execution and motivation is what keeps those world-changing ideas from seeing daylight.

What would you say to other women looking at starting their own business?

Go for it!  The best time to start something is right now.  You first need to believe in yourself before anyone else will believe in you.

You call yourself a ‘yes’ person. What are some times when saying yes really paid off for you?

I love this question! My first business actually started from this. When I was 20 something, fresh out of Uni, my first job was as a sales person at an office automation company.  On a client visit, I had a meeting with the manager when he got a call about some promotions that hadn’t gone to plan over the weekend. I saw the opportunity, said “yes” to myself, and then said, “Mr Thompson, if I can guarantee you, I can set up my own below the line marketing business and have it up and running in the next 30 days, will you make use of my services?” and he said “Yes!”  This company is the largest alcohol distribution company in South Africa and was also my first client.  It’s not always about saying yes to others, but saying yes to yourself and saying yes to opportunities.

How do you balance being a mother and a businesswoman? Do you think you do have balance?

It is so hard being a mum and running a business as mum-guilt really is challenging. However, I know in my heart that I am working for our family to provide them with a better future, and that drives me to work harder.  It is not always all work and no play, I go to every basketball game my sons play and on the weekends when its lovely outside we will go to the beach and have a great day together.

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