Beauty Idol: Karen and Ruel Welch

Albertha's GardenAlbertha’s Garden has a really beautiful story to it. After being dealt with a double blow of bad news (their son getting Melanoma on his thumb and their daughter’s increasing battle with eczema) Karen and Ruel Welch turned their troubles into something positive by creating this amazing brand. Their main aim was to find a product that would help to relieve their daughter’s eczema. After trying many products that did not work they decided to create a product themselves. Hence the birth of Albertha’s Garden which is a selection of products such as body washes, body butters, exfoliating bars and their lip balm which has gained rather legendary status. They took five minutes out of their hectic schedule to have a chat with me.

What made you decide to bite the bullet and set up your own beauty business?
Firstly, we were tired of the skincare products on offer and were looking for something that was all natural, free from harsh chemicals and that could repair our children’s skin ailments. We initially started to create products for our children. It wasn’t until people outside of our immediate circle of friends and family started to request our products that we had that eureka moment that we were onto something.

What is the concept behind Albertha’s Garden?
Our son had contracted a melanoma and we were faced with the option of either having his thumb removed and replaced with his big toe or leaving his thumb and watching the cancer spread. However, by the grace of God, we were given a third option which was to have a pioneering operation which required only part of his thumb being removed and replaced with an artificial tissue called Tegra and a series of skin grafts. Of course we went for this option. The operation was a huge success. During this time our daughter had severe eczema and the prescribed treatments were no longer working effectively. The more we used, the worse it got. The prescribed treatment would work for a short while and then the eczema would return even more aggressively. This caused our daughter to become very depressed and frustrated, especially as she was a young teenager going through hormonal changes. It was on our annual holiday to Grenada that we discovered that the locals used nutmeg butter combined with petroleum jelly to moisturise their skin. When asked why, they told us of all the natural properties nutmeg bestowed on the skin and that nutmeg was a natural preservative. In a nutshell, Albertha’s Garden is the home of natural skincare products which can be used on all types of skin without using harsh chemicals therefore allowing the ingredients to provide natural healing and skin nourishing properties.

What sort of research did you do to find out what worked best on sensitive skin?
The first thing we researched was nutmeg. We wanted to make sure that the healing and skin conditioning properties of nutmeg was not a fable. We discovered from many sources that it was not some folk tale and that many pharmaceuticals use nutmeg oil extracts as an active ingredient in their skincare products. We then started to look at the different properties various plant oils departed on the skin. Working closely with highly qualified and experienced Chemists from the toiletries and cosmetics industry, we than started a process of elimination. First we looked at the best and safest preservative system and worked closely with various online companies that monitor the safety of ingredients in skincare products. Once we learned what was good and what was not, armed with all this knowledge we started to formulate our products. Then the formula needed to be tested, so we tested them first on ourselves and then on friends and families. Our daughter had very sensitive skin so she was the ideal person to try them on. After that we started to be the skincare authority within our circle of people.

How did you decide on the packaging look and feel of the brand?
We had various attempts at finding the best look and feel that represented us as a company. When we first started we would put our body wash and body butters in whatever bottles and jars we could get our hands on. Our exfoliating bars were wrapped in tissue paper, shrink wrapped and a piece of card with our logo and ingredients wrapped around it. At first we were so happy with what we had created and we thought everyone else should be. But having received mixed opinions and suggestions from our customers on the packaging we decided to review it. We then collaborated with a very experienced graphic designer who advised and supported our vision and together we created the packaging used today. We also consulted a pharmacist to advise us which type of plastic bottles and jars we could use with our ingredients.

What are your future plans for the brand?
We are working on increasing our range to include natural hair care products. We would also like to include a range exclusively for men. Although our products are mild enough to use on children we would like to create a baby range. Our long time plan is to grow our own nutmeg farm and employ more farmers to work on the farm which will help with unemployment in Grenada. We would also like to open a chain of Spas

What are your favourite beauty products?
I don’t have a specific favourite beauty product, generally all natural beauty products are what I prefer. I am too sceptical about what I put on my skin. Researching natural oils and butters for our own products has had a great impact on what I look for in beauty products now. Activilong is one of my favourite hair products on the market at the moment.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to set up their own beauty business?
I’ve made a list of things I would say to someone setting up their own beauty business. Not necessarily in that order, but here goes;

  1. Have a vision.
  2. Do lots and lots of research into your proposed area.
  3. Be prepared for a large learning curve.
  4. Be persistent/determined.
  5. Go to networking meetings and try to forge collaborations
  6. Ask lots of questions
  7. Enjoy the journey
  8. Remember there are only positives no negatives
  9. Be flexible enough to know that you can’t do it all and you may need help from others.
  10. Business plans are really important.

For more information about Albertha’s Garden you can visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

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