Launching a skincare brand was the least accidental of all my career moves

The seed of her business idea was planted when Jenni Retourne was a young journalist working on a trade magazine. It would take 20 years, and several lucky accidents, for it to take root.

Starting out at 22, I wanted to be a journalist, and would have taken a job in any area of women’s lifestyle, but in the first of my lucky accidents, it was a trade beauty magazine, read by people working in the beauty retail industry, that offered my first role as an Editorial Assistant.

The fact that it was beauty, and that it was a trade magazine read by businesses rather than consumers, ended up shaping my entire future. Nearly 20 years later and now in my 40s, I’m still working in beauty and I have my own skincare brand. 

The trade element of the magazine nurtured the business geek in me. I loved keeping up to date with industry news, analysing retail and product trends, seeing which brands became big and why. I often interviewed beauty brand founders and revelled in hearing about how a brand is created and what it takes to make it survive and thrive.

I began to harbour an ambition to have my own brand one day, although at the time I had no idea what it would be; I could see first-hand that the industry was absolutely rammed with beauty brands and I didn’t want to launch something unless it genuinely had a place in the market. 

Five years on the magazine, which I rose to become Editor of, working on sales, running a team, hosting events and contributing to the growth of the business was a brilliant experience of how to run a company and manage staff. It gave me such a head start when it came to doing that for myself.  

The next accident came about courtesy of my husband, whose job relocated from London to Cheltenham. We only intended to stay there for six months but discovered what a wonderful city it is, so we made it our home. And that led to accident number three. 

Soon after our move, I received a message from the owner of a PR company that I had done my first ever work experience for at the age of 18. He offered me a small copywriting job, which led me to think… maybe I could do more of this? So I started my own beauty marketing consultancy, offering copywriting, marketing and consultancy to beauty brands which I successfully ran for the next seven years. 

It was during a consultancy session where I was helping a small beauty brand that my long-held ambition of having my own brand suddenly re-emerged and I realised that it finally felt like the right time to do something about it. 

So alongside the work I was doing for my beauty clients, I started to flesh out a plan. I went on a course to learn natural skincare formulation, how to start a skincare business and the legislation required to be able to sell skincare. I wrote a very long list of everything that needed to be done to create and launch a brand. And step by step, I got to work. The arrival of our baby daughter did slow my progress somewhat!, but after 3 and a half years of working on the creation of the brand, I launched Willowberry skincare. The least accidental of all my career moves.

There were two things that I wanted Willowberry to stand for: nutritious natural skincare products that provide real results to make a difference to the skin, with luxurious formulations which indulge the senses and make skincare a pleasure to use. And to stand firmly against the deafening ‘anti-ageing’ message that is so prevalent in beauty.

I didn’t want to sell skincare with the message that people need to reverse the natural signs of time on their faces. I wanted to offer skincare designed especially for the needs of grown-up skin, whilst making people feel good about themselves. Because healthy skin is beautiful with or without wrinkles. There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking our age. The beauty = youth message has perpetuated for too long in our society. I’m on a mission to change that. 

And so Willowberry’s Age Without Apology values were born. Five years on, our message continues to resonate with women who tell us we’ve helped to change how they feel about ageing. If are fortunate enough to live a long life, decades of disliking our faces is a long time. I hope Willowberry can help to change that.

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