Women are a constant source of inspiration for Saben founder Roanne. From her family, friends and team of Sabenettes, she considers it a privilege to have learned so much from so many throughout her long, successful career. It was this core value of supporting women which brought Roanne together with Natasha Bourke (Skintopia Founder and Two Hundred Doors CEO).
It was this chance encounter, a coffee and an afternoon waxing lyrical about their careers, the challenges and what they learned over the years which let to the ‘aha’ moment and idea which led to the launch of the EmpowHER Scholarship.
Launching on International Women’s Day, March 8th 2023 alongside Dermalogica NZ and powered by The Icehouse, female founded businesses will have the opportunity to apply for a $10,000 grant alongside money-can’t-buy mentoring within the Saben and Dermalogica NZ head offices.
We sat down with Roanne and Natasha, asking them to share the advice, experience and nuggets of wisdom that led them to be the business leaders they are today.
For those people who aren’t familiar, can you tell us who you are, what you do and the business you own/run.
R:I'm the founder and creative director of Saben.
N: I’m CEO of Two Hundred Doors – the NZ distributors of Dermalogica and Founder of Skintopia. I’m passionate about supporting women in business to feel empowered. I’m honoured that I get to do that every day in my job through the support we offer to our Dermalogica business owners and skin therapists, as well as our own team members, to help them succeed in their careers. Outside of work, my life is very centred around my family. I’m a wife and a mother (to a 13-year-old and I have two stepchildren who are 11 & 16. Our household is full of energy (and hormones!).
*Can you share a moment from your business journey that you are particularly proud of.
R: There have been so many, launching EmpowHER has to be in the top!
N: Something that I am proud of is that way we have been able to use the Dermalogica ecommerce platform to support our industry in recent years. When consumers shop online, they can select their local Dermalogica stockist and we then pass on a percentage of the sale to them. During Covid, our industry was severely impacted, with the majority of our wholesale customers unable to trade and bring in any revenue. But they were able to direct their clients to our website to buy Dermalogica (and we passed on the full profit margin our stockists would normally make). It was amazing to be able to do something to support our professional skin therapists at this time.
What inspired you to start your own business? Did you always know this was the path you would go down?
I did a Fine Arts degree and moved to NY to make my name as an artist. But after spending time in New York, scouring the flea markets and haberdasheries for odds and ends. Those odds and ends turned into an obsession and it wasn't long after that I made my first handbag. Is it clichéd to say the rest is history?
N: I grew up in a family business, so entering the beauty industry felt like a natural progression when I finished school. I was very fortunate to have an incredible experience working for Dermalogica in the United Kingdom before returning to NZ to take over the running (and eventually ownership) of the business. In 2019 I had an itch to start our own skin care destination, which led to the development of Skintopia with our first location opening in Wellington. We now have 5 locations across Auckland and Wellington. Naturally, we offer Dermalogica professional-grade skin treatments!
How do you ensure your creative tank is full (or as full as it can be)
R: I have 2 teenage boys at home so there are very few moments where I get to be quiet and still. Taking our pooch Storm for a stroll around the block, or sitting in my favourite chair to drink a cup of coffee is the time when I can clear my head. That's when the ideas come flooding in.
N: I like to make sure my cup is full and that I am feeling grounded and healthy. Prioritising sleep, exercise and a nutritious diet is all super important. As well as nurturing relationships with people I care about. I’m also surrounded by an amazing team who support me and allow me to focus on my strengths.
Can you share some words of wisdom or nuggets of advice that you live by?
When it comes to launching an idea, you must put yourself out there before its perfect, because if you wait for perfection, you will never put anything out there.
Be yourself, everyone else is taken.
This applies to you as an individual but also your brand. Raymond and Jane Wurwand (Founders of Dermalogica and mentors of mine) also talk about the 80/20 rule. I love their view on this – don’t try and please everyone (as a business), instead focus on the 20% you want to turn-on and don’t worry about the 80% who don’t want what you have to offer. If you try and please everyone you’ll just be mediocre.
What inspired you to create EmpowHER
R:It was after celebrating our 20 years in business that I was reflecting with my family, my Sabenettes and looking at all the support I've had over the years when I had that aha moment and decided it was time to give back.
N: From very early in my career working with Dermalogica, I was exposed to Jane Wurwand (who co-Founded the brand with her husband Raymond). Jane is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship and vocational skills training (which our industry is built on and is where I started out in the beauty industry) and has launched some incredible programs to support women both inside and outside our industry. One of these was called FITE (Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship) and was powered by an organisation called KIVA, which enabled companies and individuals to ‘loan’ money to women in developing countries via microfinance. Dermalogica set a goal around loaning 25,000 entrepreneurs funds to start their own businesses. Since its inception, FITE has now loaned over 75,000 entrepreneurs the funds to start their own businesses, giving them a hand-up rather than a hand-out. This movement inspired a lot of people – myself included. It has led to me look at opportunities to support women (both internationally like we did with FITE, but also at a local level).
What does international Women’s Day mean to you?
R: I long for the time an International Women’s Day is no longer necessary. 50% of the world’s population shouldn’t have to fight to be seen as equal.
N: International Women’s Day shines the spotlight on women. On how far we have come, and all there is to celebrate, but also to take stock on the work still to be done. While we are privileged to live in a country like New Zealand, where gender equity is a lot more balanced, we still have work to do. Women are still underrepresented in board rooms, and pay inequity still exists in many professions. We need to use our voice and speak up on these issues so we can continue to move our society forward.
Why launch a scholarship for New Zealand Women?
Saben is founded bya women, run by women,our products are predominantly purchased by women so it is important that women need to be the focus when we find ways to give back.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your journey as a business owner?
R:Cut yourself some slack. Some things will work out, some won't - don't be disheartened, if you get knocked down, dust yourself off and get back up (but first feel free to stop in at your friends for a wine first, your friends will always give you honest advice).
N: So many things really! I really can’t stress enough the importance of getting solid financial advice and understanding the numbers. Marketing is my background – not accounting – so I didn’t give this area enough attention early in my career… which led to some costly errors. While they were all good learnings they could have been avoided. I am an also Icehouse alumni and have taken part in their incredible courses which have been so beneficial to the business, I cannot recommend their courses enough to any business owner.
It also took me a while to understand that you grow a business through other people. You can’t do everything yourself, and you can’t have the answer to every problem. Find great people, develop them in their roles and empower them to make decisions (as well as mistakes). This will lead to growth.
How would you describe your business journey?
R: It’s been slow and steady and a touch unconventional, as I didn’t study business. My father owned and ran an IT business, so I think I grew up with a desire to follow in his footsteps. Just not in I.T!
Have you got any pivoting business moments, or lessons / advice you can share with someone who is thinking of taking a chance on their dream?
R: 20 years of business has made me very aware that every day brings highlights or challenges and in the best case scenario, both. Everything worth having is with worth fight for.
N: Whether you aspire to own your own business or have a career working for someone else… Find something that you are passionate about. If you lack passion for what you do you just won’t achieve that same level of satisfaction from your career. If you are passionate about your job, then you will eat/sleep/breathe your work (mainly in a good way) and are much more likely to succeed and be happy. And know your strengths and what you are really good at. Then find the place your passions and strengths intersect. There lies your opportunity.
*What is your Saben style? Either now, or on your wish-list and why.
R:My Harlow! She's our newest silhouette which launched with our Autumn Winter collection and I loooove her. Sophisticated, refined and makes me feel like I've got my sh*t together..spoilet alert, I do not always have my sh*t together but that's OK!
N: I am loving the Tilly Crossbody in Gotham Grey – it is so versatile and I can wear it with anything. I am also obsessed with my Parker Briefcase… I feel like it has elevated my work wardrobe and is a big step up from my former laptop bag!
Inspired to follow your own business dreams? Apply for the EmpowHER Scholarship here