Jennifer Rock, Start-up of the Year: 'I expect a lot from myself'

Jennifer Rock, CEO and founder of The Skin Nerd Ltd was named IMAGE Start-up of the Year 2018. Speaking to Jillian Bolger after her win, Jennifer explains how she got into business; as well as the importance of having a multi-skilled team at work. 


Jennifer Rock is a multi-award-winning dermal facialist and skincare trainer, renowned for a 360-degree approach to skincare. Having gained invaluable experience working for international skincare brands and bodies, Jennifer developed her Cleanse Off Mitt while working in a London clinic, as a response to the number of clients who seemed to use face wipes.

“It’s a microfibre skin mitt that removes your make-up in seconds with just water.” Immersed in skincare – “working in it, travelling with it, lecturing in it” – Jennifer was meeting clients every day who had no idea how best to look after their skin, and she realised that people didn’t know who to trust. “They felt sold to and marketed to, as opposed to receiving the best advice.”

Related: Nora Twomey, Businesswoman of the Year:
'If you feel you’ve stopped learning, it’s time to move on'

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Jennifer established The Skin Nerd Ltd to offer educated skincare advice, as opposed to opinion-based, and she is on a mission to remind people that ultimately, the skin is an organ that has to be respected. “Most of the time, people see it as an accessory and as a vanity, and they often don’t understand what they’re putting on.

Jennifer Rock accepts her award; photo by Kieran HarnettJennifer Rock accepts her award; photo by Kieran Harnett

"We’re not trying to scaremonger, we’re not against chemicals, but we’re trying to ensure that we can empower people to know what they’re purchasing.”

This includes a reminder that skincare purchases shouldn’t be “smell-led”. “Smells don’t change cells,” she declares, “and skincare shouldn’t be chosen based on the prettiness of the packaging alone. It’s about what ingredients are inside and how it will empower you to feel better in yourself. Skincare is confidence, as opposed to just aesthetics.”

Related: Gemma Teeling, Management Professional of the Year:
'Prove you’re making a difference'

The “Nerd Network”, Ireland’s first online skincare community, is centred around lifelong membership; guidance by FaceTime, Skype or WhatsApp; follow-up consultations, and a client-exclusive online store stocking more than 20 brands, from cosmeceutical to Ayurvedic formulations, for a personalised regime that can be delivered to your door.

“We would describe our team as educators. They explain your skin’s past, present, and future and try to take you on a journey to ensure you get long-term skin help. There’s no quick fix. This is not about fluff and puff. We don’t over-promise, but we definitely don’t under-deliver. For us, it’s about ensuring people know what to do for their skin within their budget and when to change things.”

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In the beginning, Jennifer admits she felt she needed to be good at everything to succeed. “That’s truly hard, as I expect a lot from myself. When I realised accounting wasn’t my forte, or IT isn’t my niche, that was hard for me, but now I’m the opposite, and I own it. Now I like to recruit people and surround myself with consultants or employees who actually excel in those fields. That gives us a dynamic team where we all bring our attributes and respect each other for that.”

Related: Anne Harris, Lifetime Achievement Winner:
'Open your eyes and observe'

The Skin Nerd recently branched into corporate events, which has proven to be a highly profitable revenue channel. This year also saw the launch of Jennifer’s debut book, The Skin Nerd: Your Straight-Talking Guide to Feeding, Protecting and Respecting Your Skin (Hachette Ireland).

“Winning this award feels incredible. It’s been a challenging year personally, but a phenomenal one professionally, so being acknowledged like this feels great. It spurs you on. Starting a business can be rocky, and this kind of recognition beyond my industry will help drive me further.”

Photo: Jennifer Rock, taken by Anthony Woods

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