Julia Barcoe Thompson is the co-owner and director of online beauty retail destination, Face the Future. She runs the business alongside her husband, Paul Thompson. Since buying the business in 2020, Face the Future has flourished into one of the UK’s fastest growing beauty retailers, winning multiple industry awards and growing its brand portfolio into other sectors such as haircare and cosmetics. Benefitting from their clinic-born background, Face the Future uses its expertise in skincare to provide their customers with advice for life; whether they’re looking to treat a skin concern or improve their skincare habits, Face the Future is not only here to help their customers with treatments and stock up on their essentials but support them on their skin and self-care journey, too.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
My background is actually in HR and I’d never worked in the beauty industry until buying Face the Future 3 years ago, but I absolutely love it and I’ve learnt so much! Face the Future has been around for a long time; our clinic was founded by a dermatologically-trained nurse back in 2005 and the online shop launched in 2008 to enable us to provide advice and products for customers that were unable to get into the clinic. We now have customers globally that buy their skin and self-care products from us.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Although I didn’t start the company, almost everything has changed over the past 3 years. We still offer nurse-led treatments in our clinic but we have invested in new technology and training to offer new treatments that achieve lasting results. We have also invested heavily in the online side of the business so that we can improve the customer experience and offer a wider selection of products for at-home use. We are also really focusing on providing education to our customers; getting the right advice, treatments and products is such a key part of our self-care journey. We want to support our community throughout their life time so as their needs change, so does our advice and guidance.
How did you achieve awareness?
We’re still working on this and I think we always will. We have a really loyal customer base, and this continues to grow. COVID certainly helped the online side of our business grow and for customers to be more aware of us, but it also had such a negative effect on our clinic. In the last year we have rebranded and we focused heavily on launching our new identity; activity around this included a rebrand event, Out of Home Digital marketing and lots of social activities. We have also advertised on the Tube and in underground stations in London, hosted our inaugural Beauty awards ceremony for our brand partners and appointed a PR/media agency to work in partnership with us. We work with a lot of partners to try and ensure we are raising our profile as much as possible, so people know who we are. We also work with affiliates and influencers to create awareness across different channels so we can target different audiences.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We have grown significantly in the last three years. Some of this has been organic and through the word of mouth of our lovely customers and brand partners. Because we operate in a D2C market, we generate cash daily and therefore we haven’t needed much funding along the way. But we have recently received some funding to support with our ambitious growth plans for future years from a specialist ecommerce funder. As they focus on ecommerce, they understand the market dynamics and that the big areas of investment are in stock and marketing. Accessing funding from them will allow us to push harder in both areas and that should facilitate a faster level of growth than we could achieve by only using the cash the business generates week to week.
What are the key successes?
It has to be the rebrand; we are all so proud of what has been achieved, it really was the last thing that we needed to do in order for the business to be completely transformed from the previous ownership. The rebrand not only changed the way that we looked but was also instrumental in underpinning our values, how we wanted to engage with our customers and what we wanted to be known for. There have of course been so many other things that I’m really proud of, including building the amazing team that we have which has doubled in size and is still growing and the growth in our customers numbers which has also more than trebled.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The clinic and online side of the business both have very different challenges. For the clinic, lots of clients got used to not having treatments during COVID and more effective products were developed which clients are now using as an alternative, meaning that not everyone has returned to have in-clinic treatments. This has meant that we have had to think hard about our treatment options, pricing strategy and delivery methods. I work with the clinic team to review what is and isn’t working and take action to try and achieve continuous improvement.
The main challenges for the online side have been trying to give the very best customer service when we have seen such growth and had ongoing issues with suppliers and couriers due to everything that is going on in the world. To be honest, we still haven’t got this right as it takes time to implement all the plans, especially when it comes to resources. We have increased the number of delivery options on our site to try and ensure that both us as a business and our customers have a choice on which couriers to use and, as I said earlier, we have doubled our team but we still have a number of vacancies that need to be filled in order to further improve our customers’ experience. Acquiring great staff is tough and then, of course, we want to train them appropriately. Not just in terms of the systems and processes but also in terms of expertise and knowledge which sometimes takes years. I try really hard to make sure that we have no single points of dependency and that the team are multi-skilled but this does add to the amount of training that is required.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We will continue to grow and develop our team as well as the business overall. We will further develop the relationships that we have with our existing brands, ensuring we are working in true partnership. We are bringing new brands on board, including exciting partnerships that we have planned with new and emerging brands in the UK. We are reviewing the treatments we offer in clinic and our internal operations across the board to improve our customer experience. We also have exciting plans for creating further Face the Future brand awareness this year. We already have events booked in where we are supporting local partners with activity they have planned but we have some really exciting things planned that we will be doing on our own and with some of our wonderful brand partners so keep an eye out!
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you have an idea and you think it’s a good one, keep at it but be realistic about what you can achieve. Start small, work hard, and don’t give up. If you do something you love, it’s worth all the hard work.
Learn from your mistakes, remember insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results, change the input and the output will be different, creating great learning opportunities.
Have the right people around you, you need support so building the right team or having a great support network is key. Try to get a great mentor, they’re not just an amazing support but also a great sounding board, enabling you to talk through your ideas and really hone them before taking action.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know, accept and seek advice and support, you can’t do it all on your own.
Collaborate and involve others but always go with your gut, every time I’ve been swayed to do something I didn’t feel was right, I’ve picked up the pieces later.
Be true to yourself and honest about who you are, you’ll respect yourself more.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and do the hard stuff, if something was easy, everyone would do it.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
The first one has to be my Dad. We lost him recently and it’s left such a massive hole. He didn’t have an easy life so he did everything he could to encourage us and make sure we got a good education, something he didn’t have as a child. He also had a ‘can do attitude’ which is where I think I get my impatience and ‘just do it’ attitude from. He certainly taught us to make decisions and have the courage of our convictions – not one of my favourite quotes but we certainly understood that if we ‘made our bed, we would lie in it’!
Madonna – I know she’s not everyone’s cup of tea and she’s quietened down recently but as a girl growing up in the 80’s she was a true inspiration. She taught me to stand up and be true to myself, be independent and don’t be afraid to have ambition. Nothing seemed beyond her, and I liked that.
Winston Churchill – I know this is a strange one but his inspiring speeches during such a bleak time certainly contributed in my mind to us winning the war. It taught me that no matter how bad things were and looked, positive thinking and motivational words always help.
Emma Watson – what’s not to love about her? Seeing her grow throughout the Harry Potter films and using her success to become the voice for equality that she is today is truly inspirational.
Karren Brady – her story is incredible. I’ve always thought that she was a great role model for women in business and carving out a career for yourself in a typical ‘boys club’ environment. I recently listened to her on a podcast and continue to be amazed at what she has achieved given the barriers she encountered.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Success is a journey, not a destination.
Believe you can do it and you’re halfway there.
You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream another new dream.
You don’t always need a plan, sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
Julia’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliabarcoe/
Face the Future Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/facethe_future/
Face the Future Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/facethefuture
Face the Future Website: https://www.facethefuture.co.uk/
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