1. Dear Olga, I am very happy to introduce you and SKIN MATTER as part of our Female Founder Community. Please tell us a little about yourself and your company.

Hey Lisa, thank you for thinking of me for your Female Founder Initiative! I think it's super important that women support each other more and create more transparency about the start-up process!

Transparency is generally an important word for me, because it was often not clear to me what exactly is behind all of these complicated names in the ingredient list (INCI List) for the numerous products that we use every day. Even with such banal things as toothpaste or soap, the ingredients are often so cryptic that it is impossible for the end consumer to understand what is ultimately being used.

Then I started googling and researching for 5 years! In the majority of cases I was shocked because the products were often “empty” or not that good for the skin. Too strongly scented, with few or no high-quality ingredients or not mild and gentle on the skin at all. Do you know that feeling when you enthusiastically buy a new cream or cleanser and it doesn't do anything or even makes everything worse? Totally frustrating!

Slowly, something out of this frustration and also out of the enthusiasm for the great products that I found at the same time, the online shop skin-matter.com was born.

Through careful curation, I wanted to create the platform for European niche skincare and self-care products that not only have good and efficient ingredients, but are also sustainable and innovative when it comes to production and packaging. I couldn't find anything similar in Germany that deals exclusively with skincare from Europe and has this holistic approach. So that was a signal for me!

Because of my digital background in entertainment, it became clear to me relatively quickly that the site should be a discovery platform where you can discover new brands that are not necessarily conventional or commercial; that the page should be colorful and cheerful, not ordinary white and that it should be clear; that our skin is perfect the way it is. Accepting and caring for them is priority one for SKIN MATTER.

2. SKIN MATTER offers a curated selection of niche and natural cosmetics. How do you choose the right brands for your shop?

Just in advance: it is important to mention that natural cosmetics are also developed in a laboratory. Everything is chemistry, but not everything has to be chemical or synthetic. I stand for science, which takes the ingredients from nature and through lots of testing and research creates a product that is efficient and really delivers. It is also important to understand that skin care is an individual matter and you cannot tolerate the natural ingredients either. Natural cosmetics, clean beauty, green beauty are often just buzz words, no guarantee that the product is perfect for everyone. I want to create transparency so that the end consumer can decide for themselves and, above all, can really understand what they are buying.

I rarely choose the entire collection from one brand; often there are only selected products that I am 100% convinced of. Above all, I look at whether the brand is produced in Europe and whether all the ingredients make sense. Alarm bells ring for me when the product is loaded with unnecessary alcohol or fragrances. How the brand is established is not that important to me. From a marketing perspective, that doesn't make my job any easier, but I believe in good products, good founders and that there must be a platform, even for “the less well-known”. Last but not least, packaging is of course very important to me, it not only has to be attractive and exciting to use this product, but also be as neutral as possible for our planet. I think the over-the-top packaging is uncreative and less is simply more.

3. You built your online shop almost entirely yourself - wow! How did you go about this? How did you get started, where did you get your information?

The old, simple rule works best here: trial and error. It's super important to talk to other founders and experts, but no one can give you a guarantee or bullet proof recommendation about what you need for your idea. I built my site myself with Squarespace and in the beginning it was exactly what I needed, learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes, optimized quickly and moved on. The good thing about a start-up is that you can test a lot and react quickly.

Currently, I have decided to move away from Squarespace and switch to Shopify. Unless you have 20 years of experience in e-commerce, you won't know exactly which features or integrations are relevant to you at the beginning. After being live for several months, you collect feedback and experience and can use it to make further decisions. I currently have over 250 products online, so I have to think carefully about every big change because it already takes 1-2 months of work.

Squarespace is a drag and drop system with which you can build great designs pretty quickly, but are they really SEO optimized, can the search engines “read” your site well, does the site have enough features like filters, for example? You'll find out all this in the process when you're already inside. It can quickly become very technical, but always remains exciting.

4. What are your most important learnings from your first year of founding?

Kill your darlings! When you develop an idea and are passionate about it, the danger is that even though the idea is crystal clear in your head, it can still be confusing to your target audience. Messages like Cruelty Free, Made in Europe, Plant Based, Plastic Free, Niche are all very important, but can become too much at once. Brilliant ideas are often easy and quick to explain. So it has to be clear to your grandma and also to a 5 year old child what it is that you are doing. I underestimated it a bit at the beginning and thought it was too complicated. But it doesn't have to be too complex, so I'm now trying to bring more ease into communication and SKIN MATTER vision.

"Brilliant ideas are often easy and quick to explain. So it has to be clear to your grandma and also to a 5-year-old child what it is you're doing."

And another thing is that founding means spending 5% on your product and the rest on marketing, finance, tax, accounting, contracts, registrations and so on. Don't get me wrong, it's kind of super exciting since you're doing this for your baby! But overall, being a founder, even if it is super empowering and exciting, is also less romantic on a daily basis. You have to consciously approach this before you start a business. Not all tasks are sexy and not everything is always fun, but you just have to get through it because no one but you can do it. It's a long, long marathon and you need good endurance! 

5. Tips for other female founders: What do you think are the three most important essentials that an online shop should have?

1) Don't be afraid of making mistakes and not having an immediate answer to everything. It is normal. You don't start a business because you can do everything, that's not even possible, but because you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to bring new concepts into the world. In other words: Just be yourself and try to reflect on yourself in your business. It will be authentic and real and no one else has that, no matter how big their marketing budget is, no one can do everything exactly like YOU.

2) Talking and exchanging ideas with other founders, experts and also your target group is another important point! Constructive feedback is everything for you in the beginning. Sometimes you don't have enough distance from your idea because you're busy with it every day. So collect everything you hear like a sponge and make your decisions. Everything will never be perfect, but it will be considered and evaluated in your head.

3) No matter what idea you have, it has to be something that you love with all your heart. Sounds trivial, but it shouldn't be underestimated. For me, skincare is simply much more than a cream or toner, it is part of the relationship with yourself. Skincare Ritual has something magical about it because it is YOUR moment in which you take care of yourself. If you want to share the idea you love with others, it will give you strength and patience when you are dealing with problems or big challenges.

4) And maybe a quick tip for the Grande Finale if you're thinking about whether you should start a business or if you're already there and aren't always 100% sure about your ideas and decisions, remind yourself a little more often that you should think less and yourself despair, but “just do it”! :)


If you would like to find out more about Olga and SKIN MATTER, please take a look here:

To the website: www.skin-matter.com

To Instagram: @thisisskinmatter