Sonia Deasy, the co-founder and CEO of skincare brand Pestle & Mortar, was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year awards 2018. Speaking to Jillian Bolger after her win, Sonia opened up about her journey to success (as well as the importance of learning from past mistakes...)
Sonia Deasy launched Pestle & Mortar in 2014 with just a single product and a strong vision of creating the highest quality skincare products on the global market.
Pestle & Mortar was originally started as a secondary business; Sonia was already running a portrait studio with her photographer husband, and they had three employees. “This was another business, but it very quickly turned into the business,” she laughs. “After launching, we realised straight away that we were onto something. We hired our first Pestle & Mortar employee six months later.”
Related: Anne Harris, Lifetime Achievement Winner:
'Open your eyes and observe'
How it came about
Looking closely at faces all day, her work in the portrait studio had highlighted the need for a skincare product that would treat dry, dull and patchy skin.
Drawing on her Indian heritage – Sonia hails from six generations of Indian medicine healers – she combined science and nature to deliver an innovative and effective skincare range that was free of harsh chemicals and delivered natural-looking results.
“My uncle still lives in India," she says, "and he is the medicine man in Hoshiarpur, in the city where my dad was born.” She visits regularly, with a return trip planned for 2019.
Sonia Deasy pictured with Dearbhail McDonald, Gillian Hennessy and Melanie Morris. Photo by Kieran Harnett.
Pure Hyaluronic Serum was Pestle & Mortar’s launch product and was quick to win favour with international beauty editors. “We launched thinking it would just be an online business. Then we got featured on Xposé, and everything changed," she says.
"We had a huge sales spike on our website, and through our Instagram feed, we got calls from Liberty in London, Arnotts and Brown Thomas.” In just four years, Sonia’s resilience and entrepreneurial spirit have seen her premium brand become a major player on the global beauty stage.
Learning from mistakes
If Pestle & Mortar seems something of an overnight success, Sonia admits she didn’t strike gold straight away. “I do come from a self-employed background, and taking risks seems quite natural. So I’ve had failures before this. I treat those failures as steps on the road to learning: if you don’t learn from them, then you’re never going to progress.”
Since launching, the company has experienced exceptional global business growth. In 2017, the Irish brand secured a landmark deal with QVC. In just seven minutes, Pestle & Mortar reached sold-out status.
In the four years since it was founded, Sonia's company has become a widely loved and multi-award-winning brand, securing a listing this summer with Bloomingdale’s New York, both online and in store.
Top photo: Anthony Woods