Skin empire has a clear vision

Pestle & Mortar CEO Sonia Deasy tells Trish Dromey about the company’s big expansion plans

Opening up exports to Russia and China, winning the overall National Enterprise Award, and becoming a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition is making 2019 a busy year for Kildare skincare company Pestle & Mortar.

Now selling to 15 countries as well as to 250 Irish stores, the company has in recent weeks moved in to a 10,000 sq ft facility in Naas and increased its staff size to 27.

“Our aim this year is double turnover to €6m,” said CEO Sonia Deasy, who co-founded the company with her husband Pádraic Deasy in 2014.

Further plans for this year include launching the company’s products in 45 Marks and Spencer’s stores in the UK in July, and also developing sales in Indonesia.

It started out 2014 by coming the first Irish company to launch a hyaluronic acid serum.

Credited with being able to reduce wrinkles and fine lines and also provide hydration, this type of product has become hugely successful for the global cosmetic industry in the last few years.

Ms Deasy says she saw the start of trend in the US and set about developing a product with the assistance of a biochemist and subsequently found a company to produce it for her.

“I started by selling online and then I took a cosmetic stand at a trade show in the RDS where I signed up 120 retail customers including Avoca, Sam McAuleys chemists and some independent pharmacies,” she said.

By the end of 2014, she had some 200 customers and by the end of 2015, she had her second product, a hydrating cream.

The focus, she explains, has been on creating simple skincare products using natural ingredients. Exports began in 2017 when the company secured a spot on QVC shopping channel in the US.

We sold out in seven minutes which helped put us on the map in the US and we have since got in to Bloomingdales

Pestle & Mortar now has a range of eight products which are produced for it by companies in Ireland and Germany.

Sonia Deasy accepts the top prize at the National Enterprise Awards
Sonia Deasy accepts the top prize at the National Enterprise Awards

Ms Deasy says that the hyaluonic serum continues to be the best selling product across all 15 markets.

Exports account for 50% of sales and the UK market is its largest market accounting for 20% of total exports where customers include Liberty London, FaceGym, Harvey Nichols and the Hut Group.

In addition to selling to retail stores, Pestle & Mortar sells on its own website and multiple other skincare and cosmetic websites.

Ms Deasy says that in the region of 30% of all sales transactions are now online.

This figure is set to increase this month when the company launches a new website in China.

“We cannot sell to retail in China because retail products there have to be tested on animals, and our products have not, but we see huge opportunity to develop online sales,” she said.

In addition to making plans for the Chinese market, Pestle & Mortar has also signed distributors in the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

Continuing to develop new products, the company employs a team which includes graphic designers, sales and marketing and sales staff.

“We have another product launch coming up in three months,” said Ms Deasy.

She says that in the last few years company sales have doubled year on year and this year she is expecting this level of growth again.

Exports are now at 50% but with the development of new markets in China, Russia and Australia as well as increased sales in the UK, the company is aiming to grow this to 65% by the end of the year.

The company has been self-funded although it did receive some support at the start from the Kildare Local Enterprise Office.

With the expansion of its export reach, it has now received help developing new markets from Enterprise Ireland through Market Discovery grant funding.

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