Big in Beauty – Marcia Kilgore

As the founder of blissSpa, Soap&Glory, new ‘beauty buyer’s club’ Beautypie and FitFlop, entrepreneur Marcia Kilgore is yet again breaking new ground with the naturallyderived, enviably-priced bath and body range Soaper Duper. She talks to Emily Hunter about the inspiration, challenges and breakthroughs she encountered when bringing the brand to market


You’ve launched a number of highly successful brands – where does your inspiration come from?

Marcia Kilgore: The here and now, and responding to the zeitgeist. I also focus on the customer – women in particular – and what will make their lives easier and better. Right now we’re saddled with landfill, climate change, plastic oceans, water shortage, pollution, unsustainability and fish eating our exfoliators. I acknowledged the worry that’s out there surrounding certain ingredients, and realized that there was a gap in the market for a fun brand that could act as a voice for being more conscious, without using ingredients that people have concerns about (whether founded or unfounded).

How did you identify a gap in the market for Soaper Duper?

MK: 15 years ago, the food industry was going through the evolution that the beauty industry is today. Look at the food market now; natural food stores have taken over in terms of popularity and trend as people want to buy natural and organic products. Packaged foods are no longer as popular – instead, consumers are demanding products that are healthy, safe and fresh, and are increasingly aware of what their choices mean to the earth and to future generations. We have a better understanding about the impact of what we put on and in our bodies and their effect on the environment than ever before. This is our opportunity to try to be part of the solution.

The brand has a unique tone of voice and packaging – how important is a brand’s personality and how do you ensure it is carried through the range?

MK: Over the years, I have learnt that you have just three seconds to capture the attention of the customer. People merely glance at new brands, so you have to do something special to really capture their attention, let alone their custom. Therefore, we set out to create an approachable and relatable tone of voice that includes everyone and represents us as the responsible yet straightforward brand we are. There are also the more intricate details, such as the product names and descriptions, which all play a part in representing and speaking for the brand.

What were the key issues you faced when creating the range?

MK: Making our packaging out of recycled plastic as much as possible has been a challenge and much harder than we first expected, but with perseverance we got there. We’ve also avoided unrecyclable pumps where possible. We knew the importance of responsible packaging and if it makes even the slightest of differences, it’ll be worth it. As well as this, making big decisions about ingredients and efficacious formulas with no ‘nasties’ while keeping the product affordable is always going to be a long, challenging process, but I’m surrounded by a great team and we have managed to steer clear of any ingredients that pollute the groundwater when rinsed. In addition, as we obviously believe in the power of soap and water, we have committed to providing soap and water to people who don’t have access to it already (via WaterAid and Clean the World).

Were you knowledgeable about natural, naturally-derived and ‘usual suspect’ ingredients before creating Soaper Duper, and do you think consumers truly understand natural ingredients?

MK: I’ve been developing products in this industry for 20 years and have watched it evolve to what it is now. These days there is a huge emphasis on the ingredients in products and where they all come from, and I have had the fortune of watching this develop from the front line. I used what I saw and learnt to produce a brand that fills the gap in the market for affordable and natural products that are very open in terms of what they contain. Despite people’s increased interest, the majority of them still don’t understand what they need to know about the ingredients and formulas, so we are aware that it is up to us to be responsible to the user and to the environment and inform them in a straightforward format. Our consumers are busy people, so we are doing the hard work for them.

What makes Tesco and Liberty the right physical retail stockists for Soaper Duper?

MK: Liberty was the perfect environment for us to launch in; it is incredibly exclusive and aspirational, the ultimate beauty mecca. It was such a privilege and joy to see our brand take over those institutional windows and floors; however, ultimately, we wanted the brand to be ‘masspirational’ and accessible, and no retailer exuberates that more than Tesco. They provide the perfect platform to make natural and environmentally conscious beauty accessible toall, which is the direction in which the industry is going – we have just kick-started it.

What is exciting you in the beauty world at present? What do you think have been the most exciting launches, discoveries and breakthroughs in recent years?

MK: Transparency both in terms of products and ingredients, but also in relation to how much products actually cost. Environmental impact is huge. Also, the influence of e-commerce for beauty and the role vloggers and bloggers play in influencing demand, which means brands are engaging in a very different type of PR landscape.

How do you view the role of the beauty retail assistant and how important is it?

MK: Beauty sales assistants today need to make the difference versus what clients can already find on the web. It is not just about information anymore, but also about delivering an experience. It is about what the brand experience is and how the shop environment is designed to allow this experience to take place.



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