Building a global brand: taking Crystal Clear from Liverpool to L.A.
HM Magazine asked Sharon Hilditch MBE, from Crystal Clear, the challenges of building a brand in Liverpool then going global.
Q1 What did you believe launching Crystal Clear in 1995 could achieve in the first year?
My goal was to stay trading as most businesses fall in first 2 to 3 years.
Q2 What were your biggest obstacles?
Cash. Cash is king; every business needs cash flow. Launching 24 years ago, finance meant going to the bank with a business plan. Visiting a male bank manager with a skincare plan, well, he looked at me as if I had 10 heads! He could not grasp people spending that much money on it.
I went to Rose Davis at MSIF who got it right away and a small loan was agreed.
Q3 Had you always had an interest in beauty?
I come from that background and liked skin health. I worked with a dermatologist in Beverley Hills and in Italy discovered dermabrasion with crystals. I came back with a new vision for Crystal Clear involving progressive treatment which removed post-op problems. We worked with Liverpool University and developed the first micro dermabrasion system aimed at the beauty market.
When the Daily Mail asked ‘Has Madonna had a face lift, or has she had Crystal Clear?’ we were catapulted to the next stage.
Q4 Did you ever think of giving up?
No, at no point did I feel it would fail. I believe in positive thought and visualisation: if you see it, it is there. We have taken risks, and aside from the small loan we have funded everything. Which is not necessarily the right way as it is usual to take on debt.
As a woman in business, I have also managed my personal life. My children have grown up so now is the time to get funding for the next level: buy out. The innovation behind Crystal Clear is mine and my ideal job would be to continue R&D with the new buyer.
Q5 Was there a point when you thought ‘my business is succeeding’?
I don’t think in business you ever feel that. It depends whether you believe in your own PR; never believe your own PR! People do, but it could be a mistake.
Q6 When did you think of taking your brand global?
I am proud of our heritage and have been questioned why my skincare was not made in Paris or London. It used to be an issue, now Liverpool city is trendy. My dream is to ensure our skincare range becomes synonymous with everyone, any age. You cannot do this just in the UK, it has to be global. We’re relaunching with new spa products, a website and a campaign ‘For the life you live’.
Q7 How did you manage work life balance?
It was a nightmare and I lived on adrenaline! I never went out at the weekends and felt guilty as I did a lot of travelling so I spent time with the children when I could.
Q8 How much of your personality is in Crystal Clear?
I am Crystal Clear and I live and breathe the brand. We’re not faceless and I would like us to be known and recognised for innovation.
Q9 At different stages, have you ever had to shift your mind set?
I think business takes you as you have to react. I don’t agree with banks asking for a five year plan as markets can change; people’s perceptions and confidence can affect spending. We came through a tough recession when banks were pulling funding and had to change our thinking. We poured everything in financially, built up skincare, and held firm!
Q10 What are you personally striving for?
We have recently launched our new Brand ‘Quartz Spa’ to complement our existing Crystal Clear treatment and skincare products and I’m proud to say that Liverpool is now home to the first ever Spa brand in the world to use a crystal in each spa product. Quartz Spa is a innovative spa brand that offers ritualistic spa treatments along with a fabulous range of retail spa products and candles.
Thank you Sharon Hilditch, MBE for your contribution to HM Magazine.
Find out more about Crystal Clear.
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