Bia Beauty is an innovative natural skincare range, created by the talented Tracey Ryan. Last month, the company was acquired and integrated into Codex Beauty. We caught up with Tracey to find out about her business, her job and her day since this change.
Congratulations on going global with Codex Beauty! What was it about the company that appealed to you about working with them?
Thank you! What really appealed to me about Codex and more specifically it’s founder Barb was that her principles completely aligned with mine. Barb like me comes from a scientific background and sees the value in research and data. While the area of natural skincare, herbalism and botanical extracts might be new to her I could see that she was passionate about learning more and doing things the correct way. Barb told me that she wanted to get organic certification, use more native plants, carry out full clinical trials for all products and that’s what really appealed to me. Barb immediately began talking to me about improving the preservative system and upgrading our ingredients. I knew that Barb’s approach was going to bring great changes to the natural beauty industry, and I wanted to be part of that change.
What was the key driving force behind you becoming an entrepreneur?
I’m a complete accidental entrepreneur! I never planned to go into business and never took any business subjects at school. I always wanted to work with plants and that’s what led me to study Herbal Science and it was on this course that I set the business up as a project. So, the driving force has always been the passion I have for working with plants. I learned everything about running a business on the go!
What do you wish you knew in the beginning about setting up your own business and working for yourself?
I wish I had of valued myself, my time and my business a lot more. I gave things away too easily at the start because I didn’t have enough value for what I was doing, and I thought I had to jump at every opportunity. I would say to anyone starting out in business that you need to get your pricing spot on from day one, pay yourself a proper wage and learn to say no.
What drew you to natural beauty and what ingredients do you most like using in formulating your products?
I have been making potions since I was a little girl! Back then it was petals from the garden. The ingredients we have available to us are so beautiful – plant extracts, seaweeds, floral waters, essential oils. I love looking at native Irish ingredients with a long history of use and then finding out what constituents are in these plants and how best to extract them out. There’s a real science to it! We are so lucky here in Ireland with the environment we have for plants, low levels of population and pollution, pristine Atlantic waters, it makes for exceptional plants and seaweeds. For example, one my favourites, Bog Myrtle essential oil, has incredible anti-ageing ability, sebum control and anti-acne abilities. We use it in our facial oil. I also love using simple Irish native plants that grow abundantly all around us like chickweed, daisies, nettles, elderflowers.
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Could you describe a typical working day for you?
I check my phone as soon as I get out of bed! Because half of our team are based in the US there’s several time zones we need to account for. So, I always check my emails first thing to make sure there’s nothing urgent after coming in overnight. I try to get to work early, 8am or 8:30am so I get a head start on planning my day before the team come in here and the phone starts ringing. My team check in with each other at 10am and we run through what we are working on and see where we can help each other. I work on formulation and new product development either in the lab making samples or at my desk doing all the paperwork that comes with it. As well as formulating I’m the Managing Director for Ireland so I keep on top of different areas like the sales and PR teams here. We are always adding information to our website so usually, I’m working writing posts on preservatives or plant extracts or organic farming! Ingredient procurement is probably my favourite part of the job and I love nothing more than heading out to meet a supplier especially if it’s on an organic farm or a seaweed supplier on the coast. And of course, there’s daily meetings online with the different parts of the team around the world pulling the whole operation together.
What are the best and worst aspects of your job?
The best and the worst are wrapped up in one for me – travel! I love to travel, its exciting to meet new people, tell them about the business, forge new business relationships. I loved promoting Ireland and our beautiful native plants on our launch tour around the US and UK. I always feel so focused when I travel and get huge amounts of work done, but I have two children, 3 and 9 and it’s so hard to leave them and not be able to tuck them into bed at night.
How do you generate innovative ideas for new products?
I have no shortage of new ideas for products! I’m still working through the catalogue of products built up in my head over the years. I generally start with asking myself what benefit is needed from the product. Then I run through the plants I have in my head that can provide these benefits. I’ll often read through research papers looking for new ideas or some of the books on traditional herbalism I have. When I’ve decided what plants, I want to use then I look at the constituents within the plant that have these benefits. I figure out the best way to get them out of the plant, are they water or oil soluble, what kind of extract are we looking for etc. Then I think about how best to formulate them into a product and to have that product be desirable to the consumer in terms of scent, texture, colour. There’s a lot to consider but it’s a process I thoroughly enjoy and learn from every single time.
If you weren’t working as Master Formulator and Managing Director of Codex Beauty, what career do you think you would be in?
I would be working with plants, in some way! Codex Beauty is my dream job, but my other dream is to have a few acres of land and to be growing lots of native herbs and have a little workshop showing people how to make simple creams and balms.
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How do you begin and end your day?
I try to wake up early, once I get into a routine with it, it’s no problem. The alarm goes at 6am and I get up check emails and do some exercise, walk the dog, do couch to 5k or a workout on YouTube. I then get my plan for the day locked in before my family get up. I read a great book a few years ago called Miracle Morning which was all about cultivating a morning routine with time for silence, visualisation, affirmations, reading, journaling and exercise. I dedicate a little time to each of these practices each morning really it has been life changing.
At night I delete social media apps off my phone I find them way too distracting when I want to concentrate on my family. I water my plants, read to the boys or make up my own stories for them. My own dad always told us stories at night, so I like to continue that tradition. Then I read in bed for a bit or if I can’t nod off, I’ll listen to an audiobook. I love books about plants obviously, but also sci-fi books set in dystopian futures. I just finished Circe, a book about the Greek goddess of herbs and witchcraft. That was completely my kind of book!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Learn to say no. I am the worst person in the world for saying no, I just say yes to everything and don’t want to let anyone down. But it means that I am often overworked and exhausted, so I have gotten better at saying no.
If you could only bring three things to a desert island, what would they be?
My husband Gav and my two boys, Feidhlim is 9 and Milo is 3. They are my favourite people and I adore spending time with them. Milo was born with a congenital heart defect and had open heart surgery at 6 months old. It was a very tough time for the family, and it taught us that being together is the most precious thing.
What is your personal favourite Bia Beauty product?
That’s like asking me to pick my favourite child!! Well, it changes all the time but right now I am loving Skin Superfood. It’s made with a blend of 5 herbal extracts and is so good at keeping skin hydrated. We got results back from clinical trials last month and by Day 84 100% of people testing it had seen a 52% in hydration levels in their skin as measured by a dermatologist. They also reported anti-ageing and skin restructuring benefits too. I was like a proud mammy reading the results, I knew it was a good product but to see the data in front of me really made it hit home. I tell people to use it anywhere you have dry skin, use it as a moisturiser or night cream, an after sun or on eczema. It’s a multi-use product with scientifically proven benefits!