Irene Forte Skincare brings you the Mediterranean diet for your skin; nourishing, nurturing and responsible for a glow that only comes from true health and vitality.
How did it all begin?
I was interested in wellness from a very young age. This started with fitness and healthy eating and developed a little later into beauty. It is for this reason that I eventually became Director of Wellness at Rocco Forte Hotels. I first debuted a skincare line in 2015 for Rocco Forte Hotels. I wanted to create something that unified all of the group’s spas. I also knew that Rocco Forte Hotels had an amazing wealth of active organic ingredients at Verdura Resort in Sicily. I came across Doctor Francesca Ferri of EffegiLab in Trento, Italy, who I immediately knew was the perfect fit to help me bring the line to life. The immediate positive reception to my first line made me want to learn more, create more and launch an even bigger line. So, my line has been 3 years in the making.
What sets your business apart?
We are passionate about provenance. Each product in the line is created with ingredients grown on the organic farm at Rocco Forte Hotels’ Verdura Resort in Sicily. We take ingredients like organic olive oil, floral hibiscus, fragrant lavender and herbal rosemary and blend them with icy fresh mineral water from Sicily’s mountainous Madonie Regional Natural Park. The Mediterranean diet is widely considered the cleanest, healthiest and most balanced in the world and is the inspiration for our products. In the same way the Mediterranean diet promotes good health from the inside out, Irene found the same nutrient-dense ingredients to be deeply beneficial when applied topically; supplying the skin with a wealth of vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants to help enrich, rejuvenate and protect. Our formulations are as delicious as they sound, but it is the research carried out by EffegiLab in Trento, with globally renowned Doctor Francesca Ferri, that elevates them to Spa grade skincare solutions. Working with her team of biologists and pharmacologists, her philosophy is the development of performance natural formulas that are exceptionally skin-friendly and free from pollutants. With recyclable glass, 100% recycled paper, vegetable and soya-based inks, Irene Forte Skincare is fully sustainable in its lifecycle, without ever compromising on beauty. We are vegan friendly, as well as free from skin-harming parabens, paraffin, colourants, sulfates and abrasive fragrances.
What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?
We believe in authenticity, transparency and honesty. We do not believe in faddy trends or quick fixes, but skin longevity. The Irene Forte approach is synonymous with the very best that breathtaking Sicily has to offer, distilling the benefits of the Mediterranean diet into sustainable, organic skincare that nourishes the skin from the outside in.
Where to next/What is your brand vision?
We intend to make Irene Forte Skincare a household name across the UK, wider Europe, the US and Asia (Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore). Over the next three years, our strategy is to secure select luxury retailers in major cities in our target markets. Our goal is to also successfully launch Irene Forte Skincare as the only brand in all new Rocco Forte Hotels Spa projects and all existing spa refurbishment projects (Rocco Forte Hotels is planning to double in size in the next five years). We are also keen to secure key freelancers, beauty clinics, day spas, and other luxury hotel spas in target markets. From year 4 onwards, we expect to have created a strong spa concept, and to operate Irene Forte Skincare Spas worldwide (as well as continuing to create spas with Rocco Forte Hotels). We expect to secure retailers in key cities worldwide, and eventually think about one or two flagship stores.
Irene Forte Skincare
What do you feel passionate about/what
I’m passionate about sharing a sustainable health mantra; this has led me to create my eponymous line. I’m also passionate about Sicily; with the people, the culture, the food and the breath-taking nature of the island. I wanted to do something that will help the Sicilian community. Last but not least, I love the people I work with; this is often the most rewarding part!
Share an example of early life that has
I’m an Italian, who was born and grew up in the UK. Spending all of our long summer holidays in Italy as a child allowed me to truly develop a love for all things Mediterranean, and to create something that brought me back to my roots.
Highlights of your business journey so far?
Launching! I only launched the brand in December 2018. Securing a Global exclusive retail partnership with Net-a-Porter. Winning the Attracta Beauty Awards 2019 for ‘Best Face Mask’ category with our Pistachio Face Mask. Already having secured key retailers for when the exclusivity period with Net-a-Porter is up (including: Niche Beauty, Beautyaholics, Shen Beauty and Urban Retreat).
Key lessons you have learned along the way?
There are challenges every day, especially with a start-up. I have learnt to preservere, be resilient and never give up. I have also learnt to have a team that I can can trust and that complements my own skill set.
Best piece of advice you have received?
My father has always told me that the business world is tough and without working hard and giving it your all, you will never succeed.
Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?
Try and connect and meet with as many experienced people in the industry you are involved in; get as much advice from these individuals as possible. Surround yourself with the right support network. Have a team that you can rely on, trust, and that complements your own skill set. Learn to take criticism and adapt things following feedback. Things will always go wrong and you just need to be strong enough to keep persevering.
What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?
I invested a little bit of my own money to start with and I took a loan from Rocco Forte Hotels. I was lucky that I had the support of Rocco Forte Hotels. However, they wanted to invest on terms that were not favourable to me; therefore, we agreed for it to just be a loan. I am now raising money and currently speaking to some VCs, along with some individual investors (EIS route). I am looking for investors that can bring a wealth of expertise and help to support the growth of the brand.
Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?
I think my first biggest challenge was on the investment side. If I had agreed to the terms of Rocco Forte Hotels at the beginning, I would have lost majority control of my business, but I needed the money. In the end, I stood strong and negotiated – and I’m very happy that I didn’t give up. You cannot let knocks get you down!
Why is it important to support women-led business?
It’s important for many reasons. All women have the capability to become empowered leaders.