Interview with the founders of cult beauty brand Temple Spa
PUBLISHED: 11:16 31 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:40 20 February 2013
Liz and Mark Warom built The Body Shop's Colourings range into a £124m global success story and went into business with Richard Branson. They now run spa and skincare brand Temple Spa from Littlehampton
Liz and Mark Warom know how to get things done.
Showing an early aptitude for decision-making, they married young Liz was just 17 and, 36 years later, they are very happily running their own highly successful skincare and spa business Temple Spa from a head office in the grounds of their 500-year-old Littlehampton home. After nine years in the marketplace their retail turnover is around 11m per annum.
They describe themselves as two sides of the same coin: I love developing people and products, says Liz, whereas Mark very much makes it happen. Im a good starter and hes a good finisher, so it works brilliantly.
After a preternaturally precocious career in direct cosmetics sales in her late teens she was managing 2,000 consultants Liz rose to a sales director role before leaving
to work for an own-brand cosmetics manufacturer.
That was a real eye-opener for me because rather than just selling products I learned what it took to make and create them. My job was coming up with ideas for cosmetic lines and selling them into stores like Marks & Spencer. The job was almost like an apprenticeship,
explains Liz, and gave her a thorough knowledge of brands and product creation.
During her time there she won The Body Shops business and worked closely with them on their make-up brand, Colourings. On a flight to Germany Liz found herself, very fortuitously, sitting next to Body Shop founder Anita Roddick and by the end of the flight she had agreed to work for them directly, developing the Colourings brand from the inside.
Displaying similar mega-watt charm and powers of persuasion Mark, who started his career in industrial engineering, met The Body Shops directors at a party in 1991 and by the end of 20 minutes had agreed to work for them too.
Together Liz and Mark managed the Colourings division, taking the brand from 4m to 124m in four years. It was an amazing opportunity for us to work together and to realise that as well as being life partners, we are pretty good business partners, says Liz.
We have always had strong support for each others careers, says Mark. We always wanted to work together.
A meeting of minds
After five years at The Body Shop the sirens lure of brand ownership began to call.
As a hobby, the couple developed a concept for a niche lifestyle brand which, they soon realised, was at odds with the eras taste for power brands.
In 1997, after friends dared her to follow through and enlist a big name to get behind the company, Liz inveigled herself into the office of Richard Branson a feat of some determination and daring. We ended up sitting in front of him with our business plan. You are given a 20-minute audience with him. Two hours later he put his arms around us and said: I like it lets do a deal.
Our concept for Vie became Virgin Vie. They were very exciting times and only furthered our experience at start-up. At The Body Shop we had taken a brand that was floundering and taken it to tremendous success in 42 countries around the world. That taught us a bit about international marketing, and Virgin Vie taught us how to turn a blank sheet of paper into a successful business.
I think in our hearts though we both really wanted our own brand. We were really good nannies at The Body Shop. We loved that baby as if it was our own but appreciated that it belonged to Anita and Gordon, it was their baby and we were there to serve them and look after it.
At Virgin we realised that we were surrogate parents. We absolutely gave birth to that thing but it was a Richard Branson business and it was never going to be ours.
Time for reflection
Liz and Mark decided to take a years sabbatical. It had been a momentous year, during which they created and launched a business in 18 months and lost three of their parents; they felt they needed to pause for breath.
Liz was turning 40 and they felt they had one big idea left in them. We considered moving to America; there were lots of ideas on the table but really we just needed to retreat.
In the end, they travelled for a full year with no agenda, visiting every country in the Mediterranean and duly falling in love with the region and its lifestyle.
Our need was to restore, repair and be inspired again, says Liz. And it worked.
Without realising it, they had begun to germinate the idea of a new brand.
Travel provided the basis for what would become Temple Spa, a brand strongly informed by the Mediterranean way of life: You need a platform the world does not need another cosmetic brand, that is for sure; its a very crowded market. We didnt do this to fill a gap, we did it out of a desire to do something very well, of which we would have complete ownership.
Demonstrating the extent to which the strength of their union contributes to their business success, Liz tells me the story of their epiphany moment.
We woke up in Cyprus, on the morning we were going to renew our vows, and I said to Mark What do you think of the name Temple Spa?
Straight away Mark went onto the balcony and I could hear him on the phone with our trademark lawyers in London.
A big idea
At the turn of the new millennium,the time was right for a niche business. People were starting to reject the big brand names and multi-nationals. There seemed to be a recognition of expertise.
From brainstorming in their study, Liz and Mark moved into a cottage in their garden. You speak things into existence, laughs Liz, remembering the first time she answered the phone Temple Spa.
Having been used to managing hundreds of staff, they were alone in business for the first time, with all the attendant personal financial risk. You are literally watching your capital decline as you build your brand, and its quite sobering, says Liz.
The company was built around the spa concept and Bailiffscourt Hotel near Climping, then looking to establish itself in the spa market, became an early partner in 2003.
The project was delayed and a warehouse full of produce was all dressed up with nowhere to go, so Liz and Mark started planning a retail arm of the business. So impressed were Harrods review committee with their Temple Spa samples that the products jumped the three-year waiting list and were on the shelves within a week.
Now Temple Spa is stocked in both Harrods and Selfridges, used in three spas in Sussex and 19 in the UK.
Scandinavian Airlines commissioned an amenity collection, which provided four years of business. To be honest, that was like our bank, says Liz. That gave us the cash flow. That type of business is a lovely contract to have its only a few products and its not particularly profitable but youre making heaps of them. That enabled us to remain wholly owned, which we remain to this day.
Another dimension to the business is a return to Lizs background in direct sales, which grew out of a need to get Temple Spa into peoples lives on a day to day basis. Independent consultants are franchisees with their own portfolio of clients. More than 1,000 consultants across the country sell the products both one-on-one and through skincare classes held at a hosts home.
We employ 40 people and no-one ever leaves we just grow, says Liz. Its just a great place to work. I am 53 and I am at an age where I mentor quite a lot of people, and that is a privilege.