Have you a farm background?
My father was a cattle and poultry farmer for most of his life, until, at 65, he started changing the farm in Mayobridge, Co Down, into a golf course.
It was rocky and in places boggy, so he bought a track machine and a digger and spent five years digging and draining the land. It's now an 18-hole GUI-accredited course, with a beautiful clubhouse and a large, friendly membership.
I learned a lot from my dad about working hard, taking things a step at a time and avoiding too much risk.
In the worst case, if the golf course didn’t work out, he would have made great improvements to the land and could put it back to grazing.
I married a farmer from Co Louth and we have four sons, aged from 23 down to 15. The youngest has some cattle, but has his dad talked into looking after them, while he works at another job. So I’m not sure just how long that arrangement will last!
Why did you set up your business?
I set up Finca Skin Organics officially in 2018 after a decades-long battle with rosacea.
Before then I was only looking for skincare that didn’t make my skin worse. I couldn’t find any products that were both natural and effective. Anything I tried either had no effect or caused further irritation.
Before this, I had an Irish-only website rosacea.ie and Irish Country Living kindly did an article on me and my fledgling business at the end of 2015. It really helped kickstart the awareness of what I was doing and generated some early sales as well.
I’m from an engineering background, so I like to understand why things work and I enjoy research. I began looking into the dermatological studies around rosacea and about skincare formulations too.
I discovered that there are two main types of rosacea; subtype 1 and subtype 2. One is dry and the other is oily. Both require very different skincare routines to manage the symptoms effectively.
But, interestingly, someone with rosacea can also have both types, just on different areas of the face. Subtype 2 is usually around the nose, chin and the tops of the cheeks and subtype 1 is elsewhere on the face.
I started testing formulations on myself as I have rosacea subtype 1 and some other people with rosacea subtype 2 also agreed to help. Here is where Finca Skin Organics was officially born, with my two hero products, Calming Serum 1 and 2.
What process do you use to create your products?
The Finca Skin Organics range now comprises of six products: two serums, a moisturising balm, primer and two options of tinted high-SPF sunscreens.
Everything (except the sunscreen) is produced here in Carlingford and I have formulated each product myself to suit super sensitive skin including rosacea skin types.
All my formulations have one thing in common: a short ingredients list. All of the ingredients are plant-based, to avoid further irritation to already sensitive skin.
Our products recently underwent a clinical study by Harley Street dermatologists and although we knew our products suited rosacea skin from hundreds of customer feedback, it has been fantastic to get confirmation that our plant-based, minimalist approach is clinically proven.
What is your best seller?
The Calming Serum 2 is without a doubt our best seller. It is a localised, lightweight serum made specifically for those with subtype 2 rosacea, also known as acne rosacea.
It is an underlying oily skin condition, where the skin is prone to acne-like breakouts called pustules. It’s the most aggressive-looking form of rosacea, so to find a formulation that tackles the appearance and soothes such irritation is a godsend for those with the condition.
What is it about the business that brings you joy?
I like working for myself and I like variations in my work. I like using the brain that God gave me.
But most of all I love when I get feedback from customers, who tell us how much our products have given them back their confidence. I have been in their shoes.
I remember the constant checking in the mirror to see if my face was red and on fire. So it's a wonderful feeling to have made something that helps other people, just like me.
What are your hopes for your business for 2022?
As a start, we’ve recently updated our website, fincaskinorganics.com, which includes a questionnaire to help people identify their rosacea subtype and will recommend the skincare products that suit your skin.
We’re also building out a blog full of advice and expert tips to help people manage their super sensitive skin.
We’re currently stocked in the Ailesbury Clinic in Dublin and hope to expand into a wide network of other aesthetic clinics and health food retailers in the coming months in Ireland.
We already sell online into the UK and with the new website, selling online globally should become easier for us in the next 12 months.
What is the best piece of advice you would give a start-up business?
Seek help at the earliest stage. Talk to your local LEO office. I was lucky enough to have a great one in Dundalk. They are good at helping you along the funding journey and also pointing you to the business courses that can help.
If you know you have a good business idea, then don't give up. It's usually small steps at the beginning, nothing will happen overnight.
Get a business partner that you trust, if at all possible. Things will go much quicker if there are two of you, with different skill sets.
If you are an ecommerce business like me, try to talk to people who are also in that space, who aren’t your competitor, but might be able to advise you.
Simply put, work hard!