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Interview with Cecilia George - founder of @tigerflicka_

· Handmade,Cosmetics,Healthy Living

What we put on our skin is vital for our health and physical appearance. However, can we be really sure that cosmetic products we use are good for us and our children?

Our today’s #heroine_of_the_week Cecilia is a Ph.D. chemist from Sweden, living in Munich. She developed her own line of natural handmade cosmetics @tigerflicka_ which due to the high success became her main business.

Cecilia uses vegetable, bio-organic oils, butters and waxes to make safe skin products for babies, children, women, men and four-legged friends. She makes everything with her own hands to ensure the best quality of her products.

Read Cecilia’s inspiring story of entrepreneurship, the challenges she faced, and the philosophy behind her brand in the interview below.

Cecilia, the story of the brand Tigerflicka starts back in 2013 with the birth of your second child. Can you tell us what motivated you to start your entrepreneurial journey? Was it a planned move or did it happen by chance?

My interest for natural cosmetics goes 20 years back in time, basically since I learned how to make cold-processed soaps. However I was busy finalizing my doctorate in analytical chemistry and later on travelling the world as senior scientist. It was a dream of mine to start a business in natural cosmetics, but my time had not yet come.

It all started in 2009 when I got pregnant with my first child. As a chemist I was horrified to study the contents of the mainstream cosmetics I had been using. That sparked the idea to make safe skin care products for me as pregnant and for my coming baby. After the birth of my second child in 2012, the midwife who took care of us after the birth discovered the baby balm. She tried it and became the very first Tigerflicka-fan. So much that she wanted to distribute my balm to other parents, since it was the most effective one she’d ever tried against diaper rash and sore lite bums. In order to make that possible, I had to make it all official, meaning I had to found the company, as well as to find out about the rules and regulations for cosmetic production. So I sat there, nursing my son, at the same time emailing with the authorities back and forth, and a couple of months later, my son and I went to KVR München to found the company.

The following years, I kept my day-time-job, and just last year I started to focus solely on Tigerflicka.

So I suppose it was a combination of a good idea, a good product, useful contacts and the right timing. At least in theory I could have started the business years earlier, but I think I did it when the time was ripe.

Once you decided to create your products for sale, what were the first steps in adjusting the production? Did you have to partner with somebody to be able to scale your production or do you still create everything by yourself?

I do everything myself – and I intend to keep it that way. I started this brand to be 100% in control - and out-sourcing the production does not allow that. I think that my customers appreciate the fact that the batches are small, handmade and made by me. I have the feeling that people today are looking for brands with real people and not just a glossy facade and a impersonal support phone number.

I develop the new formulas, then they have to go through safety assessment and registration at the EU cosmetic portal. Then I am allowed to distribute them. Scale-up of the production is not really a problem – the batches are small, or even teeny tiny if compared to larger or industrial cosmetic companies.

If I ever would hire a person, it would be an elderly lady (or man) who’s done a whole lot of cake-making in their life. Making the perfect balm, is like whipping cream so hard that you can turn the bowl upside down over your head, and the cream stays put. However, it should not have turned into butter!

You create and experiment a lot with different oils, what is your favorite product at the moment?

In product development I start with research based on the problem I would like to solve. Goal is to find a set of oils or butter, all plant-based, and then to find the right proportions and texture. So yes, I experiment a lot.

I have two favorite products, one is the new shampoo soap. It cleans the hair but without all the yucky chemicals found in most shampoos.

The other product I use every day is the Facial One facial oil. It nurtures the skin without making it greasy – a combination hard to find elsewhere, which also was the reason why I developed it.

With a huge amount of cosmetics on the market, why do you, as a Ph. D. chemist, advise your customers to switch to alternative organic based products?

There are several reasons. First of all, many substances are not healthy for you at all. They have been linked to allergies, cancer (!), hormone disruption, obesity etc. Personally I find it shocking, that the policies aren’t more cautious, putting it simply the customer has to „Prove it unsafe“ rather than the companies having to „Prove it safe“.

What unsafe ingredients all have in common is that they are inexpensive to produce and have long shelf-lives. On the flipside, they can be very harsh on your skin, they don’t contain nutrients beneficial for the skin, and they can even cause an addiction – as example lip balms containing mineral oils where once you started using them, you have to continue since your lips are getting drier and drier.

However – not all natural products are natural if you ask me. For me, a natural cosmetic product do not contain ingredients that have been chemically produced or altered and do not contain additives of any kind.

We were very surprised to find some pet products in your online store as well, how did you come up with an idea to create something like this?

All my product have a history! In the case of „Puppy Love“, my mother wanted a paw balm for her Yorkshire Terriers. In the winter in Sweden salt is often used on the pavements, which makes the paws dry, cracked and sore. Since the dogs most likely would lick their paws after their pedicure, it was important to use high grade ingredients. Puppy Love do not differ from the other products in terms of quality – they are all 100% natural, bio-organic with no additives whatsoever.

This is an example of how I work: someone has a problem that interests me, I do so research, experiment a bit, and then develop the final product.

Cecilia, you have a little shop, your web shop and Instagram account to distribute your products, what channel does work the best and where do you want to invest your time more in the future?

I think that social media, be it LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc, is the most cost-effective marketing channel. Of course you have to find the platform where you feel most comfortable using. Your expression has to be authentic and on regular basis.

I like Instagram the most since I like to communicate with images. Also, my impressions is that the reach is better compared to Facebook. Since their algorithms changed the past years, there was a huge drop in the visibility on Facebook, which I find discouraging. So, I’d say Instagram primarily, and Facebook tags along.

Many people do not believe in social media channels as source of sales for their products, what is your experience and advice for new businesses?

Really?! I can‘t disagree more! Most, if not all, of my partners in Sweden and Germany selling my products I met on Instagram. It’s fairly easy to judge from someone’s profile if it’s a good match or not, and most of the time it worked out for me. I think I never had such a high success rates in finding suitable partners as of now, and I definitively have to thank Instagram for that!

I really hope Instagram do not change the way Facebook changed - then I would have to find a new social media channel.

When you look back to the 4 years in entrepreneurship, what were your highlights and what was the hardest challenge? 

It’s such a great feeling when I get feedback on how my products have improved peoples‘ lives. Hands getting through winter without cracking skin, diaper rashes that heal quickly and also the fact that my products do not harm people or the environment.

As self-employed you are on your own for good and for worse! You have to deal with health insurance, retirement insurance, taxes, economics, web-site disclaimers, and in my case everything that comes with good manufacturing practice etc etc. Sometimes I spend more time on bureaucracy than on my business itself. I also find the intransparency mind-killing! I do my best to make informed decisions regarding the topics mentioned above, calling the authorities, searching the web, trying to make things right – and then it sometimes goes wrong anyway! There was one nitty-gritty detail someone forgot to mention, which overthrows everything. I call Germany „The land of the counselors“ („Das Land der Berater“) because you need one for every damn detail! I find that extremely frustrating, and this is actually my biggest challenge – to cope with this.

I don’t fear hard work or late nights and small pay in the startup years. I fear that little rule or law I possibly could have missed, which potentially could threaten my entire business.

I don’t know if it would have been easier in Sweden, but in Sweden there’s a tradition of transparency which I miss in Germany. Also I find the authorities more helping in Sweden. But I live here now, and have to deal with it, the German way.

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