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What it's like to be a beauty entrepreneur

By Heather Large | Features | Published:

When Maxine Laceby started drinking bone broth to help treat the symptoms of arthritis little did she know it would be the start of a new million pound business venture.

In just a few weeks she saw improvements in her skin, hair and nails and discovered it was thanks to the high level of collagen.

This is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendon, but it depletes with age, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles.

“I stumbled across the benefits of collagen while boiling up pigs trotters and chicken feet. The collagen was having an amazing affect on my body, skin and overall wellbeing,” says Maxine.

She began sharing her new-found beauty secret with her friends and started researching collagen to fully understand why it was giving her fresh and radiant looking skin.

After 25 years as a stay-at-home mum, the then 50-year-old decided to return to the world of work and enter the beauty industry by producing an affordable, drinkable collagen supplement.

During her research, she learned that Type 1 marine collagen from fish was far superior to any other form and taking it hydrolysed was the best for maximum absorption.

“I thought what did I want from a product? I wanted the maximum amount of the best collagen that was ready-mixed so there was no hassle and I knew I wanted to keep it as cheap as possible,” says Maxine, who lives near Wolverhampton.

Hours of experimenting with the formula, taste and ingredients followed before the final recipe was confirmed.

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“Each sachet contains 8,000mg of pure hydrolysed type 1 marine collagen for maximum impact. Most brands use the minimum amount required to make the claim,” says Maxine.

The sachets also include Vitamin C which works synergistically with the collagen.

Absolute Collagen was officially launched at the Beauty Show UK in Birmingham in May 2017 and, noticing a gap in the market, the company launched a men’s product a few months later.

By May 2018 it was an award-winning supplement, having won an Editor’s Choice Award in the Beauty Shortlist Awards 2018, and been nominated twice for the GLOBAL Beauty Awards 2018 in two categories.

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The company is very much a family affair as Maxine has been joined in the business by her two daughters – 22-year-old Darcy and 19-year-old Margot.

University graduate Darcy looks after the day to day running of the company, based at the family home, while Margot’s duties include packaging the orders and ensuring they are sent out to customers on time.

“I’ve always said as long as they are happy, I am. They weren’t under pressure to join the business, they’ve chosen to do it. I have to be strict, as a parent, and say that in the evenings we don’t talk about business,” says Maxine.

The company, which also employs five other part-time and full-time staff, has gone from strength-to-strength with turnover increasing almost tenfold in the space of one financial year to £2,110,466. The company is forecasting £3 million turnover for the next financial year.

And earlier this year it won the ultimate award within the beauty industry; The CEW beauty supplement award. It has also launched in Ireland and will soon be available to customers in the US. For Darcy, this has meant getting her head around the regulations for exporting their products.

Maxine believes there are many factors that have contributed to its success including its ethos that beauty products should be accessible to all.

“I was told I would struggle because I was too cheap. But my ethos is that beauty shouldn’t just be for those with deep pockets. My mum was a single parent on the bread line. I used to see all these lovely things in shops that we couldn’t afford but others could.

“No one is interested in the average woman when it comes to beauty. I knew Absolute Collagen needed to be totally affordable,” she says. Currently, a one-off Beauty Box for women, costs £32.99 or £2.35 per day but by subscribing customers can bring the price down to £1.93 per day.

At the moment it’s only available from the company’s website, as Maxine wanted to stay in control of the whole process, but she is now in discussions about bringing it to the High Street due to demand. Maxine also prides herself on being a woman of high principles and the motto she uses for running the business is S.I.R – which stands for safe, important and respected.

“Customers need to know the product is safe, that the website they are using is safe and that their data is going to be looked after.

“They need to feel important, that they are part of the Absolute Collagen family and feel confident that we will get the product to them. They need to be treated with respect and know that we will listen to and answer their questions. All this helps to make the business successful,” she says.

Subscribers are also thanked for their loyalty with small gifts such as nail files, eye masks and sweat bands. “We’re all about looking after people. Most companies just go after new business, we want new business but we also want to nurture what we’ve got as well,” says Maxine.

But most of all Maxine says Absolute Collagen is a team effort. “The business’ success is not just down to me. Yes, I came up with the product but there are so many other components that I could not do on my own,” she adds.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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