Emma Davis’ career as a Melbourne make-up artist and hair stylist stretches back to childhood – with lots of happy memories. Putting make-up on in front of her Nana’s mirror was the beginning of a life-long love for make-up artistry and as her skills grew, she honed her skills as a make-up artist in the dressing rooms of local theatres and halls.
In 1998, those humble beginnings took her to the mainstream entertainment industry and the experience of working with high-profile identities at major TV networks, including 7, 9 and 10, made her passion even stronger.
She loved the way professionally applied make-up and expertly-styled hair transformed women and she wanted to share that joy with everyday women who still deserved to feel special and connected to their full potential.
It was when she started her make up artistry business in 2009 with her need to use a hand sanitiser many times a day, she became curious about what she was putting on her skin. She went in search of a sanitiser that not only looked good in her studio but gave her confidence about what she was putting into her body whilst feeling beautiful to use. Her search spanned the world until she realised she’d have to formulate herself.
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Emma Davis: We are in the era of social change; from mental health to education and crucially, the environment. People want their products to align with their core philosophies, while still delivering on their promises. What goes into a product is now equally as important as what happens to the packaging when it’s empty. We are no longer prepared to sacrifice sustainability for selfcare. The impact on our planet is as important as the impact on our wellbeing.
esst is the intersection of science and luxury: a sanitising hand cream that prioritises both the health of our skin and the environment. We decided this time we are not going to compromise on the essential products in our lives.
esst was conceptualised in my Brighton studio, Melbourne, Australia, in 2017. The idea was born out of needing a sanitising hand product for myself as a busy makeup artist. I thought I could simply Google it and somewhere in the world it would already exist, but no… and so I went from makeup artist to formulator.
I found a world renowned chemist who accepted my challenge, leading to extensive research and development. We worked hard to combine all of the essential components of a premium hand cream, with the safety and responsibility of antibacterial functionality. Our ingredients are suitable for sensitive skin and come with a superior safety profile.
My check list was concise and rigid: a luxury cream formula that moisturised and sanitised (government lab-tested to kill 99.9% bacteria), could multipurpose, was safe for the whole family, and felt beautiful on the skin without compromising efficacy. The innovative formula ensures every single ingredient has a function, using only what is integral and nothing more. It was also vital the product be vegan, cruelty free, plus 100% Australian owned and manufactured with all aspects of packaging locally sourced. Aesthetically, it needed to be elegant and understated.
esst embraces the philosophy of Informed Beauty; which is to value information, and transparency around non-toxic ingredients, science-backed research, and sustainable packaging of products. We rely on third-party data and independent sources to ensure that every step of our process is ethical and environmentally friendly. Consumers are increasingly understanding the direct link between health, nutrition, functional ingredients, beauty and personal care. It is important they get the right information and understand the nature of ingredients.
esst’s mission is to reinvent the way we think about wellness; at work, at home, and when travelling. Being socially responsible when it comes to our health has never been more key, as it directly impacts our community. Having esst within reach, especially on the go, guarantees a barrier of protection.
We have two exciting new products launching early 2022 to compliment the ‘essential’ (esst is a play on the word essential) range. We are inspired to create products with purpose that perform, utilising the benefits of aromatherapy. Scent is attracting increasing scientific research, particularly in relation to aromatherapy essential oil benefits on sleep, stress and immunity.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Emma Davis: I believe the entrepreneur is 100% born. An entrepreneur is a personality type that can lead them down an entrepreneurial path. Entrepreneurs were those “hard to parent’ children. Always asking ‘why’ type of kids. Always breaking the boundaries and creating other ways of doing things. Entrepreneurs have a hunger to work things out, to take risks, to learn. I believe the Entrepreneurs personality remains consistent from birth into adulthood.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Emma Davis: Determined, Innovative, Passionate
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Emma Davis: Things take time, alot of time. There will be many setbacks. There will be many knock-backs. Whatever you think it’s going to cost you to launch times it by 4.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Emma Davis: I overproduced on my first manufacturing run of the cream. Start with small runs even though the manufacturing cost will eat into your margins. Marketing a new brand takes alot of time and money and in a very crowded space.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Emma Davis: Find a business consultant in your industry preferably from referrals. They will save you alot of time and money.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Emma Davis: I don’t think I’ve ever got bad advice. I like to listen to everyone’s advice and suck and see if I have a good feeling about what they’ve said. You really need to listen to and trust your gut instincts at all times.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Emma Davis: Nothing in life is a sure thing. Plan A, B and C are imperative to be able to pivot quickly. Always have a stash of money to give yourself the flexibility to change course quickly. This is a standard rule when starting a business anyway. Covid has been a wild card that even our own leaders weren’t prepared for. It’s pushed people out of their comfort zone and made them assess what they really want to do and where they really want to live especially now we can do so much from home but you still need good internet reception of course!
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Emma Davis: That you’ll be an overnight success. Don’t start unless you’re in for the long haul, you have something different to offer that you are extremely passionate about and get over the marketing jargon to make a quick buck. Consumers have changed and they can’t be bluffed anymore. Don’t take shortcuts to save money. I believe it is a responsibility of a brand owner to choose sustainable chemistry making sure your products and brand is a brand that is sustainable for years come. You will be working around the clock for little return for a long time. Don’t give up your day job.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Emma Davis: The digital world offers many great resources. Listen to podcasts, read, ask other business owners what they did. You can’t ever learn too much.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Emma Davis: A Cosmetic Scientist. I have loved working alongside my Chemist and her team and becoming the ‘why’ adult. I feel I’ve been empowered by understanding the why and how of ingredients resulting in taking my health back into my own hands.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Emma Davis: My chemist of course. They said it couldn’t be done – killing 99.9% of bacteria in an emulsion.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Emma Davis for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.