This week we chat to Judy Cheung-Wood, founder of SkinB5, an Australian acne skin care company that is taking on global giants like Proactiv and Clearasil with its natural alternative to treat skin conditions. Judy’s innovation has resulted in a swag of awards, and in 2015 SkinB5 was named one of Australia’s Top 50 most innovative products by the Anthill Magazine SMART 100 Index awards program.
ISB: Please tell us briefly about your dream of developing a natural skincare product range and the issues it is designed to address?
JC-W: I personally suffered from acne, as a teenager and young adult, and spent years searching for a solution that would stop my acne once and for all. I also have sensitive skin – all of the scrubbing and toners that “beauty experts” told me to use for my oily, breakout prone skin made it worse – it would react to those chemically based topical creams and washes.
I started researching and experimenting with natural ways that would stop my acne breakouts without any side effects, and I began concocting homemade remedies with ingredients like bananas, honey, yoghurt, oats etc. I dreamt that one of these natural remedies would stop my breakouts for good.
ISB: What was the biggest challenge you encountered getting the venture off the ground, and how did you overcome it?
JC-W: My biggest challenge was to convince health professionals that a potent Vitamin B5 based supplement formulation is a highly effective acne treatment option without side effects. Most conventional health professionals have been taught that acne is caused by bacteria that naturally exists in our skin flora, and that topical, peroxide-based solutions or prescription medications are the best ways to treat acne. To try and shift their paradigm to realise that the root causes of acne are a complex mix of internal body functions (e.g. skin oil metabolism, hormones, immunity, stress response), we allow them to witness first-hand how our products work by giving them our products free of charge to help acne sufferers in their lives. After that, they become our strongest advocates.
ISB: Why is it so important to you that your products are only made from natural ingredients?
JC-W: I come from a family heritage of natural medicine doctors. My maternal grandfather was a chemist who strongly believed in the food as medicine knowledge, which he passed down to us.
I learnt from personal and family experiences that the only long-lasting solution to health issues comes from harnessing the incredible healing powers of natural substances working in harmony with the body, not against it. My own mother, who had breast cancer and chemotherapy, adopted natural medicines and a healthy, stress-free lifestyle to help her regain strength. She has remained cancer-free for 30 years. With this insight and knowledge, it’s incredibly important to me to develop skin treatments that improve customers’ health and wellness in the process, rather than damage it.
ISB: How important has innovation been in your company’s growth?
JC-W: Innovation clearly differentiates us from the rest of the acne industry which still focuses on topical and treatment options that target the bacteria (which is merely a symptom). Our market proven innovation has given us, as a home-grown Australian business, real prospect to become a global leader in the specialist skincare space, even up against global corporations.
ISB: What is your vision for SkinB5 in the next couple of years?
JC-W: To strongly establish the SkinB5 brand as the go-to skin wellness and acne treatment option that customers can trust to regain their confidence and quality of life. The last five years have been a steep learning curve for us, and we have come out of it having learnt so many good lessons that give us a clear perspective on where we are going and how to become a true leader in our industry. With our recent launch of Next Generation SkinB5, we are already seeing an accelerated growth, and we are ready for the exciting next phase of our journey.
ISB: And finally, what is the #1 piece of advice you’d give to those who dream of starting their own business?
JC-W: SkinB5 would not exist today if I didn’t believe in my vision and persevere with it, especially in the beginning. It was a lonely time when I started my company because no one understood what I was doing. I got very little moral support from family and friends, who thought I was crazy to abandon a highly promising and well-paid professional career to launch skinB5. But, I knew that this wasn’t just a pipe dream – it was a vision based on reality and that it was going to work and be successful.
So, it sounds cliché, but it is the ultimate truth – believe in yourself and your vision.