Join me as I interview Anna from UpCircle, who’s beautiful products I started stocking in January during my skincare focus. It is so great to learn more from Anna about the company, I hope you enjoy finding out more too.
Tell me about yourself and your role at the company? “My name is Anna and I am the co-founder of UpCircle Beauty, which I launched alongside my brother William in 2016. In 2019 we launched our products into more than 2000 retail doors and expanded into America. Brand founders tend to wear a lot of hats, but I would loosely describe my role within the brand as “The Story-Teller”. I came from fairly corporate background, but was left feeling ultimately unfulfilled. I wanted to start a business with a purpose beyond profit and to create products I could be proud of. “
What did you do before you started working there? “I am someone who has always cared about sustainability and my impact on the planet and I think that the beauty industry has a pretty bad reputation for its environmental impact. I wanted to create a brand that would help to shake that reputation. If we can provide competitively priced, high performing products from upcycled ingredients then we are demonstrating that the beauty industry can become a lot less wasteful. Lots of skincare brands can claim to be vegan, natural, handmade, organic, cruelty-free etc. and so can we.. but I wanted my brand to go a step further. How many brands can claim that their products have saved literally hundreds of tonnes of valuable skin-loving ingredients from ending up in landfill? I feel very lucky to have ended up in a job that is so well-aligned with what I truly wanted to be when I was younger. “
What was the inspiration behind the business? “It all started four years ago. One morning on his way to work at his previous job, my brother William (co-founder) asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites. William decided it was a great starting point for a business idea, but wasn’t sure what that idea was – that’s where I came in. Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so… that was our light bulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products? We began our journey collecting coffee grounds from one coffee shop, we now collect from hundreds of coffee houses across London – our list is always growing! We now infuse lots of varied skin-loving by-products into every single skincare formulation.”
How many people does the company employ? “At the moment we’re seven, but we’re currently hiring into six different roles, so we’ll be more soon! It’s crazy to think that at the start of 2020 we were only a team of three! Growing our team is something that excites me greatly. With each new member we have a new wave of excitement, passion and personality. We’re also hoping to build a permanent team in the US later this year.”
Where are you based? “We’re based in London. We recently relocated into our first formal office in Westminster but also retain a railway arch which is used for storage and light industrial use, including manufacturing. A bigger warehouse in Birmingham currently handles our UK order fulfilment and another in the US distributes our products in the states. We’re looking to open another warehouse in Europe very soon to help us to tackle all of the Brexit complications. “
What are your best sellers? “During Covid our bestseller has been our face mask. I think this is because people are bringing the spa home, and focusing on self-care and creating an atmosphere of relaxation. Our Face Mask is made with the fine powder of discarded olive stones. Olive stones are a by-product of olive oil production, we source them from Benamejí (Andalucia) at the heart of the Spanish olive growing region. The olive powder is combined with rejuvenating white kaolin clay, coconut powder and baobab oil. The olive powder acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and a source of antioxidants. The presence of the powder in our face mask formulation helps to create its gorgeous texture. It has a light, mousse-like consistency and the powder helps with the ease with which it can be spread across the skin. Our Face Mask can be used to fight blackheads, minimise pores and prevent breakouts, leaving the skin cleansed, refreshed and balanced! “
What is the businesses biggest achievement or impact to date? “It’s so hard to choose one! Having 3 dragons fighting over us on Dragons’ Den was certainly a high! Last year I won a live pitching event to Sainsbury’s buyers which led to our range being launched in their stores nationwide… that was obviously pretty amazing too. I find it exciting that we are being used as an example for how big brands can be better, and as a source of inspiration for new brands. For example, Prince William and David Attenborough recently announced the new Earthshot Prize, which will award £50 million over 10 years to innovations and organisations that help repair the planet. In their announcement, the BBC chose to interview US as an example of a successful planet-friendly business! But if I’m completely honest I cherish the little things even more. When customers take the time to email or even send letters, showing before and afters of their skin and letting us know how much they love UpCircle – those sorts of things are what I value more than anything. “
Are you developing anything new that you can share with us? “Our intention is to keep on innovating. At the moment we’re looking at how we can begin rescuing flower petals from local florists to turn into beautiful fragrant bath products. In the last 12 months we’ve expanded our repurposed ingredient portfolio to ten by-products from varied industries, including the argan, tea, juice, date, olive and wood industries. For example, this year we began repurposing residual fruit waters leftover after the creation of juice concentrates. Our product launches for this year include an ocean-friendly SPF, a Hand Wash, Hand Lotion and Hand Sanitiser Trio which we plan to launch widely into restaurants and hotels. We’re also developing a Night Cream and Lip Balm – all set to launch in 2021.”
I think all of that is just a little bit exciting! I can’t wait to add more of these wonderful products to my stock range at Eco Living Ideas. But for now you can shop the products I have here.