Amanda Connock shares the passion she says is the reason she has managed to get her first product line, Connock London, onto shop shelves
As I wander around the beauty departments of Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, something I have done countless times in the past, I now do so with an emotion that was not there before; it is an overwhelming sense of pride and achievement. For now, after two years in development, on shelves which are like gold dust to beauty manufacturers everywhere, sit the products that make up the very first line of a company that started as a dream and has now become my life, Connock London. Launching a new beauty brand has been a daunting task, but now, having jumped the biggest of hurdles, I look back at why perhaps I have succeeded where so many before me have failed.
Having grown up surrounded by the running of my father’s company, A & E Connock, a supplier of speciality ingredients to the perfumery and cosmetics industry, an interest in this area was almost inherently instilled in me. There was a passion within my father when he described seeking out exotic ingredients that I found almost infectious. So, having attained some vital grounding through completing a business degree, I immersed myself in his world and felt that initial interest turn to a passion of my own. But I wanted to take it further. I wanted to share the amazing heritage and cosmetic properties of these visually unassuming ingredients, and give them packaging that would be a true and justified reflection of their beauty. However, formulating and packaging a finished product suitable for the most prestigious of stores and salons was a far stretch from my world at A & E Connock. Where on earth should I start?
This was where the age-old cliché of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ really rang true for me. My first port of call was John Woodruff, a cosmetic scientist who has been a friend of the family as well as consultant chemist to A & E Connock for as long as I can remember. There had been many a Christmas party where I’d told John about my dream of launching my own range, which was usually met with a list of statistics on how many new product launches fail or worse still never even make it to market. I was not discouraged, and perhaps the fact that when asked John did agree to formulate my products shows that he had seen enough passion and determination in me to take the risk.
Being from an ingredients background, I had a good idea of what I wanted to use in my products. I wanted a beautifully fragrant body wash containing as much kukui oil as possible but that was also highly foaming, and I was adamant that my Wonder Balm should be a 100% natural blend of oils and waxes with a flawlessly smooth surface and no separation; surely that should be easy... version 55 was perfect! But to achieve this I was insistent that only the best and safest raw materials were included. During my time with A & E Connock I had become quite frustrated with some of the misleading claims that were made by cosmetic manufacturers for their products. To John’s delight I told him to formulate with whatever ingredients he knew to be the most effective and safest despite media scare stories, and I would source each raw material myself to ensure its quality. To be able to look with pride at these products on the shelf and put my heart and soul into selling them, I knew I would need to fully believe in them.
By March 2009, the products were well on their way to stability and I had mock-ups of packaging. It was the time I had been waiting for – talking to retailers. I use the word ‘talking’ loosely here, as managing to get as far as a conversation with a buyer is an arduous task. Again, my contacts in the industry were vital, and I began to get my products in front of the right people. Each meeting was the same. I would tell my story and show them the products, then they would tell me how much they loved the brand and that they would love to stock the range sometime in the future. How was I ever going to launch if no retailer would commit from the start? My dream of seeing my products on the shelves for Christmas was rapidly slipping away and then it was gone.
Several frustrating months passed and just before Christmas 2009 I managed to get a meeting with Tracey Woodward, the sales and marketing director at Urban Retreat (Harrods and Harvey Nichols Manchester). It was Tracey who gave me the break I needed, shortly followed by Fortnum & Mason, with whom I had been in contact for over nine months.
And so it’s September 2010, and the feeling of pure elation of standing in front of the Connock London displays in the most beautiful of department stores is one that I am sure will never diminish. And my advice to anyone embarking on a new venture? Easy. Be passionate – really believe in what you are doing. It is the passion that my father lit in me that gave me the courage to see my dream become a reality. It was this same passion that John recognised and which convinced him that I was a gamble worth the punt. And it was passion that I took into every meeting with every retailer to enable them to share my vision for Connock London.