Becoming an overnight success in the beauty world isn’t as easy as it sounds. The CEO and founder of Rituals shares some lessons he’s learned along the way.
Raymond Cloosterman founded Rituals in 1999, as Unliever alumni Raymond was inspired to create his brand following a trip of discovery where he explored the latest trends in beauty across the world. Rituals was born out of his findings, offering an exclusive range of affordably priced products that transform everyday routines like bath, shaving and drinking tea into more meaningful moments. I caught up with the CEO as he opened his flagship Irish store on Dublin’s Grafton Street, the fourth in this country in 2018.
On starting out
I gathered a team around me that included some of the best perfumers in the world. It was about helping people change their lives with small rituals. We are all on automatic pilot and have forgotten what it is to enjoy the simple things in life. We need to rediscover this. This insight launched the business. We started back in Amsterdam with four people in the basement of one of the canal houses. We opened our first store and it didn’t work. So we learned the hard way. We had Internet stations within the store, which was revolutionary back in 2000, but they were all stolen the first night. Lots of things failed, but we survived. What we tried to do from day one is give people a prestige experience with a chic looking store, a cup of tea when you come in or a hand massage but at the same time at a fair price. A bit like what Zara had done with apparel, we did in beauty. It was difficult until people understood what we were doing and the value.
On achieving success
I think it was after four years, when we opened our second store. During the first four years there were a lot of moments of doubt – I would go back and work in the store and reconnect with the customer. I knew that our philosophy touched hearts and this whole notion of slowing down in this hectic world, taking a step back and doing that with everyday products was key. In year five we started to make a bit of profit and opened some more stores and suddenly it was a tipping point and people started to trust us. You need a little bit of critical mass to get traction. In the past two weeks we’ve opened 15 stores and by the end of the year we hope to have 750 standalone stores worldwide.
On advice for other beauty entrepreneurs
Don’t do it! I am joking. I started my business plan with the words “if you can dream it you can do it” – my favourite mantra stolen from Walt Disney. You have to dream big. If you have imagination, you’re blessed. Not a lot of people have it. Then it’s all about follow through and staying true to your vision. Don’t give up. It’s good for entrepreneurs to understand it took us six or seven years. I’m old school, but I was raised with the idea that building a beautiful brand is a lifetime’s work. Nowadays with social media you see brands popping up all the time, but they go down almost much quicker. You see it in make-up a lot. With beauty brands you need strong roots and you need a strong philosophy at the heart. It takes time. Don’t do this to become rich, but do it because you are passionate.
On selling a philosophy
It takes a lot of time. People had to discover the stories and the brand. Our passion is about helping people to slow down, creating small moments of happiness. How can we take your everyday ordinary routines and make them into small moments of happiness? Taking a bath, a cup of tea or lighting a candle and making it a moment of happiness. From there, we created a store and built in storytelling. Every product has a story at its heart. When I started the brand, I didn’t work from a laboratory. I started with my anthropologist looking for ancient stories from Asia that are worth sharing. I have a passion for Asia, but also because there are stories to discover. In terms of rituals and respect for the past, they have much more than in Europe. We have a more throwaway culture where it’s all about today and yesterday doesn’t count. In Asia older people play a more important role. So when we started looking for ancient stories, we started looking for ancient natural ingredients and we gave them to our fragrance house and hence we brought a new fragrance approach. We turned the creative pyramid upside down and started with the story, then created the products and then started selling.
On wearing his mantra on his sleeve
I have my entrepreneurial mantras stitched into my shirt sleeves. Today’s is “He who is brave is free”. I started doing it in the early days. It’s an affirmation. I get my shirts made and they offered to put my initials on them, but I didn’t want that so I got mantras embroidered that no one else can read but me. It’s my personal ritual.
Rituals is available at Blanchcardstown, Dundrum, Grafton Street and Kildare Village, and in store at Arnotts and Brown Thomas and via rituals.com.