Sophie Hooper has one mission, to help women feel good about themselves during and after pregnancy. The ex-Team Saatchi Managing Director and Mother-of-two is the CEO and Founder of breakthrough patented stretch mark prevention-wear product, Secret Saviours. The only clinically proven system in the world able to prevent stretch marks.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company? I started out as a TV producer working in commercials and then moved into management in advertising. By chance, I was introduced to a vascular surgeon from UCL who had invented a prototype support band with special pads printed inside, coupled with a gel and a cream, that could prevent stretch marks forming in pregnancy.
As someone who suffered with stretch marks in both pregnancies and has hated them ever since, I decided to quit my job, raise investment, develop and trial the product and take it to market to help other women avoid stretch marks.
We now have a clinically proven and patented product that not only prevents 82% of women from stretch marks, but is supportive and comfortable to wear.
How did you achieve awareness?
We used any and every means we could afford. Our happy customers have done a great job of spreading the word but apart from that we have created awareness through digital channels, influencers, emails, baby apps, trade shows, midwives’ and dermatologists’ endorsement, as well as ads on screens in hospital throughout the UK at the point when our customers have their antenatal scans at 12 and 20 weeks.
We’ve found we need more time to explain our product than most brands. There is a certain amount of education about the science behind our technology that needs to take place. We’ve also had to break down old myths around the ability of creams and gels to work – we know, that used on their own, they don’t!
What makes Secret Saviours so successful is the unique apparel, which has been printed with Derma Dot pad technology. These pads gently grip the skin, dispersing pressure across the middle layer called the dermis, which often tears when the collagen is stretched beyond its limits of elasticity. If a small micro-tear does appear, the random pattern of the pads blocks the path a stretch mark needs to tear straight downwards.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
The initial funding for our product development, testing and patents came from a VC fund specialising in pre revenue bio medical businesses. When the fund closed, I raised funds through angel investors, friends and family who all believed in the business and the problem it was solving to fund further product development, design, branding and marketing.
Recently, we have closed a round of investment that has enabled us to design a new wider collection of products and source an excellent manufacturer that has the ability to scale.
What are the key successes?
Developing a unique product that really works and women love. And to be able to say that so far, we have saved over 24,600 of them from stretch marks! We have over a thousand 5-star reviews, with many resembling long “love letters” telling us how much they enjoyed using the products, raving about the gorgeous, spa-like smell of our gel and cream and, most of all, that they are so happy to be stretch mark free after pregnancy. Those reviews mean the world to me and the team.
I’m also proud to say that we have hugely reduced our packaging. We’ve centralised our whole production set-up to minimise our carbon footprint and we are switching to 85% recycled yarns. Our new manufacturer is a certified green, solar powered factory.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
As with every start up business, there have been many challenges! The unique Derma Dot pads were difficult to get right. Developed and trialled over three years, we had to get the right size, right position on the garment and the perfect formulation so that they didn’t crack or split, were comfortable to wear and be hypoallergenic.
It has also been a challenge marketing the product to women in a positive way. There is nothing wrong with having stretch marks but personally, I would have done anything to avoid them. So, it comes down to the individual’s skincare choice. It’s similar to wrinkles – some people are happy to go with the aging process and some want to minimise it or delay it.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Launching our amazing new collection in April is my top priority. We have developed bras, leggings, shorties as well as new and improved briefs and support band. All the products are super soft, support and gently sculpt the body whilst preventing stretch marks and are fabulous to wear. Later this year, we will be developing post maternity wear and looking to widen our distribution geographically.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Be resilient. If you have a great product or service and you know it is a good idea, keep going and bounce back quickly after the rejections. For me, with a female-led, female-orientated product there have been many of those! And then you meet someone who really gets it straight away and invests.
Let the people you meet really feel your passion and determination. That’s just as important as a great business idea/product as they will be also investing in you.
If possible, find investors that will help you and your business develop. Ideally with experience of having done it before in your sector or that have a skill set or contacts you don’t have.
Be prepared for everything to take much longer than you could ever have anticipated!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
There are so many! I am extremely privileged to have Dr Annalisa Jenkins as a shareholder and mentor. She is one of the most impressive businesswomen I have ever met. I always come away from meeting with her feeling positive and empowered to do my best.
My group of female founders (Enter the Arena); the support, determination and brilliance of all of them are a constant inspiration for me do things differently and keep going. And my team at Secret Saviours. We have been through extremely challenging times together but their passion for the business and wanting the best for our customers is endless.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you say or did, they will remember how you made them feel” Maya Angelou
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