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Penny Hamilton

Inspiring Female Founder Spotlight: Penny Hamilton

Penny Hamilton is a bathing salt expert and one of the founders of global award-winning natural mineral salt brand, Westlab Salts. Since joining Westlab, Penny has witnessed and helped grow the brand from a small pharmaceutical product line to a recognised brand stocked in leading supermarkets and trendy online stores. Penny has developed exciting product launches for the brands expanding audience with the introduction of ALCHEMY, Westlab’s lifestyle wellbeing range and has seen it become a favourite of a-list celebrities and Olympians alike.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I started my career in Beauty and Spas. I developed Rosacea when I was studying at skincare college and felt that it was due to the overuse of products on my skin during training. I started to explore natural skincare and after a few years I managed to clear my skin of Rosacea. This led me to specialising in sensitive skin so that I could help others in the same way and it became my mission to bring natural skincare and wellbeing products into people’s everyday lives.

Westlab does exactly that. Our products use natural, therapeutic ingredients which enhance daily personal care rituals​. ​Providing easy, accessible ways to support ​health and wellbeing with natural ingredients which are backed by science.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

My childhood friend, Scott Livingston, had discovered the benefits of Dead Sea Salt after he’d taken a trip to the Dead Sea and seen the benefits of the salts on his young son’s eczema. He’d started to import the salts and was packing them in his kitchen and selling them online.

We met for lunch one day and he asked me if I’d like to join him and help sell the salts to a bigger audience, including spas, pharmacies and health stores. I wasn’t convinced, so he gave me a bag to use on my daughter’s eczema. Seeing first-hand how instantly effective the salts were on her skin was a gamechanger and I joined him immediately.

How did you achieve awareness?

We’re lucky in that our products speak for themselves. They make a genuine difference to people’s lives and they want to recommend them to others. So, event sampling, PR and amplified word of mouth marketing were how we achieved awareness in the early days. We also ensured that we had a really strong retail presence and made the most of any opportunities we were given for promotional space within stores.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

Investment has always been part of Westlab’s strategy for success. We’ve never been afraid to bring the right people on board and dilute when necessary. Not only does this bring in the required funding for growth, but it also improves the breadth of knowledge and expertise in your team, which can be essential for long-term success.

What are the key successes?

Getting our listing in Boots was the turning point for us. We weren’t having any joy getting meetings with any retailers. No one had heard of us or would consider giving us any time. I knew that we just had to get in front of them and our story was compelling enough and our products would deliver. So I found a category expert who could speak their language and we hired him to help get us a meeting. He managed to get the Boots buyer to give us some time, and looking back that was one of the best decisions we ever made. Sometimes you need to know when you need additional expertise and help to get things over the line.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Sustainable packaging has without a doubt been the biggest challenge we’ve faced. We’ve spent the last 5 years working tirelessly to improve our packaging and reduce plastic waste. Magnesium salts are a complicated product which aren’t compatible with most types of compostable packaging and we’re not prepared to compromise when it comes to making change. There are many so called solutions which are now showing to be coming with their own host of environmental challenges and are basically just greenwashing, which we’re absolutely not prepared to do. But watch this space, as we’re getting much closer to finding a genuine, long-term solution.

What are your plans now/for the future?

We’ve recently put an excellent leadership team in place and have some really exciting new projects launching in 2023. Both in terms of new product development and also campaigns to support our customer base and their communities.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

Seize any opportunities that come your way. You’ll need a strong support network to allow you to do this though, so make sure you surround yourself with the right people.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Know when to push on through and when to quit. Not every decision you make will be the right one. Accept when you’ve made a mistake and move on rather than keep trying to make it work. It’s ok to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. Stay humble and always keep your sense of humour.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

Briana Banos and the rest of the TSW (Tropical Steroid Withdrawal) community who are raising awareness of the risks of misuse of topical steroids and the devastating effects this can have on eczema patients.

David Attenborough who has always inspired me to love and respect our planet.

Dolly Parton who reminds me not to take life too seriously.

My mum who makes me want to be as kind and caring as she is.

My kids who motivate me to keep working on self-improvement and personal growth.

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?  



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