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Making Something From Nothing: Rachaelle Rempe Of Auraïha On How To Go From Idea To Launch
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Mistakes happen. If there is a customer complaint, apologise, and give them a positive customer experience. It will help you in reviews and the longevity of your brand.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachaelle Rempe.
Recruited by Oregon State University on a soccer scholarship, Rachaelle Rempe left her Canadian hometown to chase her American dream. She then pursued her design aspirations in San Francisco at the Academy of Art University, earning a B.F.A in Menswear Fashion Design. In a personally momentous career break, Rachelle joined Ralph Lauren as a designer in New York City. Deciding to shift her career in favour of production, Rachaelle returned to Canada to work as a Production Manager, first at Canadian Tire Corporation’s Marks subsidiary, and currently at Aritzia, both apparel companies.
When the pandemic hit, and sequestering at home became the norm, Rachaelle found that the extra evening and weekend time allowed her to pursue her own individual interests. While some might consider this period a blip in their careers, Rachaelle combined her creativity and product knowledge to found Auraïha, a small skincare company. Rachaelle’s wellness journey started as a consumer disheartened by a gap in the market for reasonably priced, natural skincare and makeup. Auraïha embodies her belief that everyone should have access to affordable clean beauty.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Ata young age I was told that I would never achieve a university education due to my dyslexia, however, I was determined to prove to everyone that I was capable of not only obtaining my degree but being a highly successful corporate employee. I worked tremendously hard in sports as well as academics and earned a D1 soccer scholarship. The scholarship taught me so many things in addition to the game. I learned the importance of teamwork, how to work with demanding timelines and how to define success. This opportunity of sport and education also led me down a decade-long path of living and working in America.
It really was the American dream for me as I received my design degree, played the sport I loved, acquired a working visa, lived in NYC, and was hired by Ralph Lauren as a designer. The biggest risk I faced was leaving my family to create a better life for myself, which is now paying off as I launch my new business, Auraïha.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m a big believer in the saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” How can you achieve anything if you wait for success to come to you? You must take risks to gain something. Leaving my family, earning a degree in design, living in NYC — it was all a risk that paid off.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I absolutely love the film “The Imitation Game” as it showed me that people who are ‘different or differently abled’, as I am with my dyslexia, can still make extraordinary contributions to the world. In that sense, it inspires me to work hard to achieve my dreams every day.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
The idea stage is the most fun and creative part of the whole process. This is where I was able to envision what my product would do and why. Thinking about what my skincare needs was what I thought was missing from the marketplace. Creating formulas based on my ideas, developed by my chemist, testing samples, brainstorming, critiquing, and building products was incredibly rewarding. I was thrilled to receive the EWG (Environmental Working Group) recognition for my products, which is a tribute to the clean beauty formulas we created. As we moved into the bottling and packaging stage, I spent untold hours speaking to bottle vendors, sourcing the exact bottles, pumps and sprayers to best showcase and deliver the product. I wanted to ensure my product delivered the best message to my customer. Another highlight was working with artists to develop the Auraïha brand — developing a logo that represents the clean beauty image of my product. Packaging was also tremendously important: it was where I worked to find the most environmentally friendly product boxes, packaging boxes, and tape.
It took around two years to go from formulation to manufacturing and bottling. I think the most important lesson I learned was how to plan every aspect of a small business. This all became very real for me when I started putting every dollar of my own money behind the business. It’s easy to think about a product, but it’s another to pay for marketing, branding, bottles, shipping…the list goes on and on. Ideally you need to have a sound financial plan from the outset, but this journey has been worth every penny.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
I strongly believe that there’s room for all of us. Not one idea is the same, whether that be the formulas, the message behind the brand, the product benefits, or the packaging. We are all unique and here to help our customers with their skin concerns.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
It can be a little overwhelming to start a new business: You really don’t know where to begin. I can honestly say to start with LEGAL, LEGAL, LEGAL! I took a small online course about starting a business then went straight to a lawyer’s office and asked for my trademark paperwork, NDA’s, and online policy agreements. I also took my time to find the proper insurance agency. This quite possibly could be your biggest upfront expense. Legal fees come before you finish a product and way before you polish it for sale. I know a couple of friends that started a business and dealt with legal matters last…Let’s just say that it’s been an uphill battle for them ever since.
Regarding producing and manufacturing, I have been working in that field for 7 years, so finding a good manufacturer and sourcing vendors wasn’t too hard. A lot of people don’t have contacts when it comes to this, so I would recommend a deep dive on Google. Set up Zoom calls with manufacturers and find out what your minimums are. Most aren’t willing to work under 10,000 units, which is almost impossible for a small business. Finding a partnership where you want to grow with your manufacturer is huge. I can’t stress enough about the importance of building relationships first.
As a small business that isn’t a year old yet, I can say awareness of the brand and your product is the next hurdle after manufacturing. If no one knows about your product, then no one will think of it for retail. I’ve been pushing with my PR team and building our reputation so that when the time comes for retail, I can meet their deliverables.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- You need PR before you launch. As much as you have spent in legal, getting a good PR team before releasing products could be a game changer. That is what I missed for the first 3 months of my launch.
- It doesn’t happen overnight. I was told this, but I think it needs to be reiterated. Unless you have millions of dollars in sponsorship and/or celebrity backing, you need to understand that this takes time. Don’t doubt yourself because sales are slow.
- Your product might not be for “everyone” and that is perfectly okay. Find your niche and go 110% for your customers. They will give you the reviews and loyalty.
- Budget! And yes, you will still go over it. All I can say is have a budget in mind and try to stick to it. Don’t spend unnecessarily. People will try to sell you their services, but if you don’t really need it, don’t do it!
- Mistakes happen. If there is a customer complaint, apologise, and give them a positive customer experience. It will help you in reviews and the longevity of your brand.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Depending on the product I would suggest you hire a chemist…A reputable chemist. Search LinkedIn, set up Zoom meetings, and make anyone you tell your idea to sign an NDA. When I first had my idea, I even made my mentor of 5 years sign one. Don’t ever think someone “won’t say anything.”
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I think it’s a great idea to set up a Zoom meeting, pick peoples’ brains, and ask questions. I can’t stress enough how important it is to build relationships. Consultants are amazing because they know the business you’re trying to enter, and any information is good information. Personally, coming from a product-based background, I’m not hiring anyone other than an accountant, lawyer, or graphic designer.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
As of right now I am bootstrapping and growing my business organically. I think this is a great way to go for the first year of your business. Once you gain awareness, moving into venture capital will allow you to scale your business. It’s all about you and what your business needs.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Honestly, as I’ve said, I had really bad acne growing up. I wanted to hide my face. No one should ever feel that way. I wanted to create products that make a difference not only for my customer’s faces but for their wallets. My chemist and I worked for months on formulating affordable and inclusive products.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to inspire people to believe in themselves and their own, natural, beauty, regardless of what others.
I would love to inspire people to believe in themselves and their own natural beauty, regardless of what social media says!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would have to say Deepica Mutyala, CEO of Live Tinted. I love her journey and how she talks about all the rejections she has faced and building her dream while still working a full time 9–5.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.