There is nothing like that period of time between Christmas and the New Year. For around five days or so, the world collectively forgets to check its emails, things that seemed like ultimate priorities are pushed to the bottom of the list and time stands still reaching a delicious lull. During this time, we love catching up with fresh reading material whether that’s a book we found under the Christmas tree, a fresh magazine or our favourite online publications.
As we reflect on the year gone by and begin to think about the year ahead, who better to catch up with than British Entrepreneur of the Year, Clare Anderson? Known for introducing the luxury Lava Shells massage to the UK and Ireland, massaging Little Mix (!) and pivoting her business during the pandemic with her product now being used in over 2,000 high end spas, Clare is the woman we want to go to with our New Year Resolutions for a brainstorming session. Our favourite insight? Her honesty about the time it took to build a business – as she says, the rest is hardly ever history, and is, instead, a mixture of graft, sacrifice and smart working.
Time to grab a cuppa, rummage around for another chocolate and curl up on the sofa – enjoy.
Tell us more about your business journey and how it came about
I’ve always been driven by helping people to feel good, delivering immersive wellbeing experiences with holistic results. It’s why I entered the beauty and spa industry first. It’s hard to believe that was over 30 years ago! I want all our products and treatments to make someone feel amazing, whether they are enjoying a treatment in a spa or at home, creating their own little magic pampering moment.
I am incredibly fortunate that before I started my own business, I worked, for many years, in 5-star spas, on cruise ships and in high-end department stores, which gave me a huge amount of insight and experience in the beauty industry as a whole. I started my career as a beauty therapist with Champneys Health Resort, moving into more senior roles over the years, working for companies such as Clarins and Decleor, eventually becoming the Sales Director of the professional skincare brand Gerards.
While on a family holiday in Turks and Caicos, I first discovered Lava Shells and saw the opportunity to launch professional treatments to the spa industry in the UK. The rest isn’t quite history. It’s been 14 years of hard graft to get to this point, but Lava Shells ignited a spark in me for product development and put me on the “self-heating” journey. Lava Shells are the world’s first self-heating massage tool and can deliver an hour of seamless massage and touch. Their huge success made me appreciate that people love the combination of heat and touch and had me think about other applications for this technology.
Within a year, our product became the most wanted heated massage in the spa industry, and I’m proud to say that 14 years on, Lava Shells are now available in over 2,000 spas, salons and by mobile beauty therapists. A few well-known spas you could visit for a Lava Shells massage include Champneys, Centre Parks, and Bannatyne.
Have there been times when you have had to be flexible and pivot your business, for example, during the pandemic?
In 2020, the spa industry closed overnight, and my core business disappeared before my eyes. I had to pivot my business….and fast! I had recently launched a sister company to Shared Beauty Secrets called Sensory Retreats with the plan to build a consumer-focused range of products, initially selling our professional massage oils and developing other home-use products. With salons and spas closed, my only option was to fast-track a product idea that had been bubbling away on the back burner for a while, using self-heating technology but applied to an eye mask.
I wanted to reach a wider, more diverse market and bring affordable luxury to everyone, anywhere they might be – home or away. It also gave a lifeline to our professional customers, giving them a product to promote to their clients who were missing their regular massages.
As part of a larger portfolio of wellbeing consumer products under the Sensory Retreats umbrella, our eye masks have garnered a huge fan base. They have been featured on ITV’s This Morning, as well as winning numerous prestigious awards, including a coveted 2022 ASOS Beauty Award.
What has been your biggest lesson so far?
Over the last few years, I’ve been forced to think very much on my feet and act quickly. I’ve been fortunate to have the support and trust of my clients and partners (not to mention family and friends), who have ultimately shown their confidence in and trust in me and my brand, along with support and backing from the industry that I love so much.
I feel so grateful to have such support, respect and trust from the people around me. This support helps me remain positive, passionate and driven towards innovation, even when circumstances such as Covid and now the cost of living crisis throw curveballs at us all!
When Covid hit, I had to dig deep and embody what I think it truly means to be a successful health and beauty entrepreneur; passionate, driven, determined, resourceful, and creative, but also compassionate and giving. I learnt to trust in my instincts and not be afraid to innovate.
All the challenges I’ve faced in the past have helped forge the journey I’ve been on, and I learn every day from my experiences and the people around me.
A 2022 highlight?
There are just so many! 2022 has been quite a year for the business and me personally.
I’ve had plenty of pinch-me moments in the past with Shared Beauty Secrets, for example, being featured on The Apprentice and being dubbed “the new hot stones’ by Vogue for our Lava Shells product when it launched back in 2009. Then seeing that treatment launch successfully in over 2000 leading salons and spas, including the prestigious Soho House Group. We’ve also been lucky enough to be invited backstage with Lava Shells and many events such as the National TV Awards, MTV Awards, X Factor and two of my favourite events hosted by Capital FM, the Summer and Jingle Bell Balls. As a result of being at those events, we’ve built relationships with Little Mix and Rita Ora. We’ve since been on tour with Rita and regularly massage Perrie Edwards with our Lava Shells at her home.
As a mum, these experiences have allowed me to win some serious brownie points with my daughter, as Siena has been lucky enough to accompany me and meet Perrie on several occasions. Perrie has always been incredibly kind, so much so that when naming characters in my children’s book The Lost Wish, Siena asked if we could name the magical pixie, Perrie. Most of the book’s characters are connected to people we know in real life. Being involved in bringing the vision for The Lost Wish to life has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. While it’s brought me well and truly out of my comfort zone, it’s also enabled me to spend precious time with Siena. Together we chose people who inspired us to be part of the story, including family, friends, our dog and even Siena’s teacher.
I’m blown away when I sit down and think about everything we’ve achieved in such a short time! I’ve so many favourite parts!
Being approached last year by Vanity Fair as one of their brands to watch was another pinch-me moment. I realised that people were beginning to acknowledge and recognise the journey we’ve been on. Seeing Dermot and Alison wearing one of our eye masks live on ITV’s This Morning was also pretty special.
Holding a copy of The Lost Wish in my hand for the first time, especially as someone who was never academically successful and still struggles with dyslexia, was an overwhelmingly emotional experience. Even better still, being invited to a sell-out book signing event in my local Banbury Waterstones was a pretty surreal experience. Never did I imagine that I would be signing my autograph!
Thinking about it, I’ve had more pinch-me moments than I ever thought possible!
Being nominated for (and winning) numerous prestigious awards, including an ASOS 2022 beauty award, is also up there regarding achievements I’m super proud of. But most recently, I was nominated for and won the Health & Beauty Great British Entrepreneur Award, which is just mind-blowing. Such an incredibly proud and humbling moment for my team and me.
Then to top off Xmas 2022, another little cherry on the cake when we were hand-picked by Ateh Jewel as one of her must-have last-minute Xmas stocking fillers on ITV This Morning.
What a way to finish the year.
What are your business resolutions for the New Year?
Good question. This is something that I always try and spend some time mapping out. I like adding some fun and ambitious business expansion goals into the mix. 2023 will be no exception, with a big 15th birthday coming up. Below are five resolutions we’re working towards as a business in 2023.
Update Our Business Plan
It’s time to update our business plan. The past three years have been incredibly unsettling. We’ve had to be incredibly reactive and really think on our feet, making fast decisions with short lead times. Next year we need to get back on track with more consistent planning and longer-term goals that can be planned out in advance and then reviewed and revisited regularly.
I feel it’s time to go global and focus on international expansion for the Sensory Retreats brand. I can’t wait to see our wellbeing products bringing rest and relaxation and positively impacting the health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.
As sales continue to increase, we have outgrown our current office and warehouse and need more space, so a successful move is in the planning. Exciting times are ahead!
Plan a Party
And so for the fun part! We are heading towards our 15th birthday. Every five years, we have thrown the most fabulous party to bring together our friends and customers from all across the UK and America to celebrate successful partnerships.
Planning the 15-year celebration is high up on the plan for 2023 to thank everyone for their support and celebrate our wonderful industry.
Practice What We Preach
It’s super important that we make the time to look after ourselves as a company and as individuals. There hasn’t been much time for that over the past few years, so self-care and balance are most definitely something the whole team will focus on in 2023.
So there you have it – time to grab your diary and start journalling about what your 2023 will look like.
The Squiggles Team X
- When writing this interview, we were kindly sent a Luna Eyes Self-Heating Eye Mask Set