Meet our founders: in conversation with Sophie + Sam
by Tandem Skincare on Oct 22, 2019
Tandem's been launched for a full month now and we thought it was a perfect time for you to get to know our founders, Sophie and Sam, a little better. Our content manager Maisie sat down with them to find out why they launched the brand - and what it's really like working with your 'other half'...
Why did you launch Tandem?
Sophie: For those of you that don’t know I’m the founder of Sister & Co, which creates natural, multitasking body care products. We created Tandem as a direct result of feedback from the Sister & Co. community. Our customers were constantly asking us for products for face that would give them a skin routine that was both natural and (it was amazing how often this came up) - easy to follow. When we dug deeper into why we were being asked this so often, it became clear that people were finding the current skincare landscape just too complicated, too expensive and not transparent enough in a lot of areas - especially price points, ingredients and sustainability claims - in fact, claims in general.
It was this strength of feeling among our community that convinced us it was the right time for Sam to take the leap out of the corporate world and join me in embarking on a journey to create a skincare brand that worked in tandem with our customers and directly addressed these problems. Hence the name. Side note... we do actually happen to have a tandem bike (I don't pedal).
Sam: As an outsider to the skincare industry what excited me most was hearing how Sister & Co. customers were crying out for simpler, cheaper and more environmentally friendly solutions to their skincare needs and knowing that we could help them. Having worked in the food industry for the last 15 years managing household brands and working with national supermarkets, I understand how reliant the whole consumer goods industry is on constantly making and marketing new stuff. But in skincare in particular, this approach has created a lot of confusion and a lot of wastage.
We experienced this first hand when working with our formulation team to formulate Tandem's products. A number of industry professionals, including seasoned formulators as well as ingredients' suppliers, thought it was crazy that we wanted to combine multiple great ingredients into the fewest number of formulas, when there was the chance to have more to sell (and make more money) by separating them all out. Hearing this approach from so many industry insiders made us even more certain that the time was right to launch Tandem and do things a bit differently – in a way that we believe is more beneficial to the consumer.
You’ve both come into this industry having had very different careers first. Could you tell us a little bit more?
Sophie: I actually trained as a lawyer and worked for about 2 years after qualification before giving it up to work on Sister & Co. full-time. I loved law school, but hated actually being a lawyer. My legal training has been super helpful though in terms of the nitty gritty around setting up a business, making things like intellectual property, compliance and employment contracts a lot less daunting. I’ve registered lots of other people’s trademarks – it was a great feeling to register my own! I would say to anyone reading this that’s unhappy in their career and has a dream they’d like to go after – do it. Make sure you’ve done your homework, but with determination and hard work you’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
Sam: I worked in marketing managing some of the nation’s favourite food and drinks brands. I absolutely loved it. With the resources of a big multinational you can have huge impact in the market very quickly. But I wanted to take my experience and solve genuine consumer problems by building a business from the ground up. I worked on loved brands, but the sort of passion customers show for their favourite skincare brands takes this to a new level, which we saw with Sister & Co. It’s this passion that excites us and what led us to create Tandem. It's another reason we've chosen to sell Tandem directly to customers (not through retailers) - customers have so much to say, and cutting out the retailer means we can hear all of that directly.
Could you tell us more about your decision not to sell Tandem through any retailers?
Sam: We sold Sister & Co. through some of the most well-known global retailers for over four years. We had great relationships with our retailers and believe that there is absolutely a place for them today. But in our category, we don’t think retailing through third-parties necessarily works in the customer’s best interests. Retailers take a hefty margin (minimum 50%) of the proceeds of each sale of our product, because they need to pay for their own overheads. So that means that we need to charge more – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to make the money we need to keep going.
Brands are also required to constantly innovate to stay fresh with a retailer in this super-saturated category (and for them to keep giving you attention/driving your sales). The model with Tandem is around stripping back skincare, and doing more with less. We won’t be constantly bringing out new products. We’re not anti-innovation, but our innovation strategy is based on quality of our formulas, not quantity of products.
And as I said, if we remove the middle-man, customers always interact directly with us. This can only be a good thing for both parties. The direct to market route isn’t going to be the easiest, or the most revenue-generating at the start. But we think it’s the only route that makes long-term sense, both in terms of staying true to our business model and our customers.
What’s it like working together as husband and wife?
Sophie: Terrible. No, it’s great. But I think it depends on your relationship – I have loads of friends who say they would NEVER work with their husband and the very thought horrifies them! For some reason we have a relationship that also works for being business partners – even at the very beginning with Sister & Co., I chatted every decision through with Sam. He’s much calmer and more unflappable than I am, and our personality strengths and weaknesses mean we happen to bring out the best in each other in a business capacity.
Sam: On the whole it’s brilliant as we are both fired up to make it work. The trick is to try and make sure work doesn’t take over life outside of work as it’s so easy for that to happen. It's good to carve out time where you can take a break and recharge the batteries as this means you can enjoy it so much more and it also keeps your thinking fresh.
What’s your favourite product?
Sophie: Super-Oil. I’ve always loved facial oils, and this one combines my favourite plant oils with ceramides - powerful natural lipids that help restore elasticity and strengthen the skin's natural barrier. It’s amazing to apply, never greasy and just always feels like a treat.
Sam: Mine is the More Than Moisturiser Rich. I use it morning and night and I can really feel the difference. And it's taught me a lot of new words... bakuchiol, anyone?
What are the plans for Tandem in the future?
Sophie: We just want to keep giving more and more people access to efficacious, user-friendly skincare that doesn’t cost the Earth, both from a price and an environmental point of view. We believe that the only way to do this is to sell direct to consumer, so it’s going to mean that people are going to need to talk about it to spread awareness. That’s you guys – please help us!
We're also launching a new Sister & Co. line-up in November which is super exciting. Tandem is about your skin routine, Sister & Co. is about indulgence, with sumptuous products for bath, body and baby. Both brands are underpinned by the same values: making top-quality products more accessible and kinder to the planet.
Sam: We don’t believe in newness for the sake of it, so we won’t be bringing out loads more Tandem products (although we do have some launches in the pipeline, which will complete the Tandem offering). What we will be doing is working with our formulation chemists to ensure the formulas we do have are always as effective as they can be, based on the latest scientific data.