04/11/2010 - 00:00

Plans to make this Bridget the new Black

04/11/2010 - 00:00

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BRIDGET van Herk’s dream of emulating worldwide brands like Estee Lauder and the Body Shop may be some way from becoming reality, but the chemist and founder of skincare retailer and manufacturer Bridget Black has no doubts about her business’s potential.

BRIDGET van Herk’s dream of emulating worldwide brands like Estee Lauder and the Body Shop may be some way from becoming reality, but the chemist and founder of skincare retailer and manufacturer Bridget Black has no doubts about her business’s potential.

Ms van Herk is steering her company through a period of rapid growth, with the opening in July of a third retail store to be followed by a stint raising capital to expand into the eastern states.

Not bad going for a local operation that started as a single product made in her kitchen.

“This was by far the hardest fit-out I’ve ever done,” she said of the new store, keeping one eye on the shop floor for passing customers.

“This store was hot pink and the floor was falling in.

“I tend to do most things by myself, I bring a tradesman in to do the floor but the rest of it is basically a labour of love; my husband, my 12 year old, and I just come in here and deck it out.”

Bridget Black has grown from a single anti-ageing serum made for a friend to a company boasting three stores and a range of more than 40 products stocked in salons across Australia and New Zealand, including skin care, baby products and clothing, and candles.

Ms van Herk has been challenged by the need to relinquish control of the day-to-day running of the company as it grows.

“The strategy for the business has been written and we’ve launched our Face to Face program, which is our therapists going into people’s houses and doing facials,” she said.

“It’s already launched in New Zealand; we’re just starting it here, and following that I’ll be looking for capital to grow the company, and we’re going to replicate all of these (stores) in the eastern states.

“That’s been the hardest part for me; to raise the capital and put people into place, and it’s hard to relinquish your baby.

“I’m starting to learn emotional detachment from it and to treat it like a business, which is what it is, but it just started as such an important part of my life ... it’s hard to let go of it.”

Ms van Herk is consulting corporate-minded friends in the UK, who now sit on the company’s board, to help navigate her through the capital raising process, while also studying for an MBA.

“I really just wanted to learn about accounting, but I think it’s been quite instinctive,” Ms van Herk told WA Business News.

“The manufacturing’s one thing but now I’m sort of learning with the business as I go, and doing things by gut instinct, rather than by what’s meant to be done.”

The new city store, located in a mall off St Georges Terrace, stocks the full range of Bridget Black products and will soon offer express facials, tinting and waxing for time-poor office workers.

Informed advice straight from the experts is a core value of the Bridget Black brand, and the reason Ms van Herk is pulling back on supplying independent salons with her products, instead wanting to increase the number of her own stores.

“It’s very difficult to put a brand across to someone who’s not directly involved with the brand, and I’ve found it’s a lot better to have my own staff that I’ve trained that pass on the correct information,” she said.

“There’s so much misconception about ingredients and what goes into products and I’d prefer that we’re all telling the same story, and the story comes directly from me.”

Ms van Herk said the distance from Perth to other markets, particularly the east coast, was an issue for the business.

“It’s hard to run any manufacturing business from Perth,” she said. “Everything’s manufactured in Perth and it’s really hard to get anything really because freight’s expensive.

‘‘I freight packaging from Sydney then it gets freighted back to Sydney and filled, and then over to New Zealand so it’s just constant back and forward.”

The company also has plans for a men’s range – Bridget Black Bloke, which has been a long time in the making.

“The products are all ready to go but it is packaging I can’t get my hands on at the moment so that’s my issue. I try really hard not to source from China and it makes life really difficult,” Ms van Herk said.

Also in the next year Ms van Herk hopes to launch an adolescent acne-care range.

In the longer term, however, she wants to move to France and learn traditional perfumery.

“Chanel and another few perfume houses run intensive courses for chemists like me who want to be perfumers, so that’s the aim for the next three to five years,” Ms van Herk said.

 

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