In 2015 Arabella Preston – make-up artist to the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge, Edie Campbell and Victoria Pendleton – and Charlotte Semler launched their luxurious and natural beauty oils in Liberty. We find out more.
Can you tell us a little bit about Votary, what makes your products so special and where you are stocked?
In 2015, we (Arabella Preston and Charlotte Semler) launched Votary, a line of 100 per cent natural, luxurious face oils in Liberty – the infamous department store on Regent Street in London. Having worked as a make-up artist to high-profile clients, Arabella only used oils to prep skin and in her own skincare routine and together, Arabella and Charlotte have transformed a kitchen-table apothecary into a luxurious, yet natural, beauty brand that delivers skin-transforming results.
Where did the name ‘Votary’ come from and how did you go about designing your branding, logo and packaging?
Votary means ‘an advocate or devotee of something’. As advocates and devotees of natural skincare and facial oils, we thought this sat perfectly with our philosophy! We had a clear idea of the direction we wanted the branding to go in, but it was realised by the brilliant Coosa Creative agency in New York.
What made you decide to turn your passion into your business, and what were the biggest hurdles you had to overcome to do so?
Arabella: Finding a brilliant business partner in Charlotte was key. I could never have done it on my own, and it allows me to do the things I am good at – product development, marketing and PR – while Charlotte makes sure things can actually happen. I tend not to overthink potential hurdles. We have allowed the brand to develop organically along the way. We like to roll with changes and developments rather than rail against them. As a strategy it has worked out okay thus far!
What have been the most rewarding parts of creating and launching Votary?
Arabella: Actually holding the finished product in my hand for the first time was pretty breathtaking; a real ‘wow’ moment. And since then it has been the stories of our customers who tell us how Votary has transformed their skin. We’re working on a testimonials section on our website at the moment and it is incredibly rewarding to read them, and actually very moving too. Having great skin is so fundamental to the overall well-being of so many women.
As mom to two young children, how have you balanced building a business with parenthood, and what advice would you give to other parents aspiring to launch their own company?
Finding a brilliant business partner in Charlotte was key. I could never have done it on my own
Arabella: Thanks to the wonders of technology and the Internet, Charlotte and I have launched this business without an office, or even living in the same town! Our art director is in New York, and the three of us just Skype call into the small hours. It does means it’s hard to switch off completely, but I’d rather that and have the flexibility it affords. I can do the school run and get back to my desk when the kids are in bed. I think owning your own company is a great solution for parents who want to be around during the school day; just make sure you love whatever you’re doing, because you can be fairly sure there will be no financial rewards for a few years!