How ecommerce helped a hobby grow into a glowing business.
Starting a business is easier than ever. But making your business a success still requires the traditional ingredients of hard work, sharp thinking and an understanding of your market.
With software services firmly entrenched into mainstream markets, young entrepreneurs are perfectly placed to take advantage of SA’s growing familiarity with technology.
“Ecommerce is definitely on the rise. Even in South Africa, plenty of people have smartphones. We’re more comfortable with technology. Everything’s about convenience. It's an expanding industry, it’s the trend and we’re moving into an interesting space.”
Convenience has been core to the success of countless businesses.
Uber, Mr Delivery and Superbalist are a few examples of startups that became behemoths in a short space of time, disrupting the status quo and making people’s lives easier.
Now that consumers are happy to shop from the couch, entrepreneurs in the retail space can pounce. We’ve reached the point that a side project can become the primary focus in a few short months.
“Corium started as a hobby. We started in April 2016, just taking orders via email. In July we launched the online store with Shopstar to formalise things a bit. By November we had our first stockist in Joburg and now we’re on Zando! It’s quite a thing, hey.”
Corium’s rapid rise is down to far more than good timing. Chatting to Vuyi is wonderful – her demeanor is warm and her considered responses are casually delivered. She’s comfortable, confident and exudes an energy that makes it easy to see how the startup found success so fast.
Vuyi is aware of who she’s selling to. She understands her market.
She knows that millenials – the ‘self-care generation’ – are paying more attention to what they’re consuming. It’s a trend that goes far beyond the status of craft goods.
The fact that Corium is a local business helps. A Joburg-based startup injecting Africanness into a market dominated by multinational giants is appealing at face value. But what Corium brings to the table goes much deeper than the skin. It’s about delivering a premium product that adds genuine value at a fair and accessible price point.
Competitive pricing is always a challenge.
While not yet being able to do all their bottling and labelling themselves – which would be labour intensive and drive up their prices – Corium outsources to companies that are environmentally responsible wherever possible.
And aside from being totally plant-based, Corium doesn’t test on animals. They also prioritise unrefined ingredients, as close to their natural state as is practically achievable.
“We only use natural ingredients in our products. No artificial colourants, fragrances, petroleum – these are irritants that can do harm long term, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin. If ingredients on a product look like Greek, they’re probably not good.”
Vuyi hopes that Corium can play an educational role. She’s excited that people are starting to pay attention to how things are made and where ingredients come from. What’s important is that people empower themselves by knowing what’s in a product and choosing products that work for them.
She’s particularly enthusiastic about the changes she’s begun to see in men’s buying behaviour. There’s a noticeable move away from defaulting to main market, stereotypical 3 or 4-in-1 products. They’re starting to pay attention to what they put on their skin.
“Men are becoming more open minded. One or two have figured out that you shouldn’t use the same products on your face as your body! But jokes aside, younger guys coming through have some spending power, they’re educated about grooming and they’re investing in it.”
So there’s a natural consumer evolution that plays in Corium’s favour. And, being a primarily online business, there are fewer risks and less expenses than a brick-and-mortar equivalent. You can learn as you go without poor decisions proving fatal.
That doesn’t mean success comes easily. Like any business, Corium as faced significant hurdles.
“Getting new clients is the ongoing challenge. To make sure we’re constantly creating demand, to always market the business. People need to know who we are, what value we can bring to them.”
Corium outsources much of its marketing activity to consultants. Advertising activity is mostly digital. Social ads, Google Display and SEO drive traffic to the website where new and returning customers can make purchases.
Having gone through a major rebrand recently, the hardest part is getting people to the site. Once they’re there, the products speak for themselves. And Vuyi promises more big news in the near future.
“We’re growing and the continent is our next focus. We’ve got stockists in Zim and Tanzania so far. I can’t say too much, but a partnership with a major retail chain is coming in a couple of months. And all this momentum started with our Shopstar store. We’re very excited.”
And so are we! You can shop Corium’s world class natural skincare products on their online store right here.