[UK] Susan Keating’s new company has developed science-backed, seaweed-based skincare products for men, writes Trish Dromey.
Launching on the market with a range of seaweed-based skincare products, Limerick start-up NEUÚ Seaweed Skincare has begun by targeting the now rapidly expanding male skincare market.
“It’s a less crowded space than the female skincare market and has very few seaweed products, making it a little less challenging for a new brand to stand out,” says founder and chief executive Susan Keating, who since launching in March has worked on building up sales in Ireland and is now preparing to ship her first export order to Germany.
Setting out to develop a product range suitable for sensitive skin which harvested the anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties of seaweed, she saw an initial opportunity to offer men a product to “soothe the wear and tear and irritation associated with shaving”.
Explaining that the company’s unique selling point is that it has devised a way to extract seaweed oil, which is rich in nutrients and minerals, and use it as an ingredient, she says NEUÚ has invested in having a number of independent studies done which demonstrate the hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties of the company’s products.
Between coming up with the idea for a science-backed marine plant skincare company and the market launch this year, it has taken four years and around €650,000 in funding.
Ms Keating was head of global sales at Shannon Engine Services when she started thinking about making a career change involving seaweed skincare products.
A meeting with Professor JJ Leahy at the Department of Chemical Sciences at the University of Limerick (UL), who had a wealth of information about seaweed, prompted her to do more.
“We set up the company in 2014 and in 2015 funded some scientific studies on the lipid chemistry of seaweed,” says Ms Keating.
During 2016 they identified the type of seaweed they wanted to work with and developed the process to extract the oil.
The following year, NEUÚ established a facility at the Nexus Incubation Centre at UL to extract the seaweed oil, created a range of seven products for the men’s skincare market, and found a company in Mayo to manufacture the products under contract, using the seaweed oil as an ingredient.
“In 2017, I began working full time with the company and we recruited four staff,” says Ms Keating, adding that it was at this point that the company raised most of its funding.
“We secured private investment of €400,000 through EIIS [Employment Incentive and Investment Scheme] as well as €150,000 in High Potential Start Up Funding from Enterprise Ireland in addition to an investment of a further €100,000 from myself,” explains Ms Keating.
While currently working on building brand awareness and growing sales of its men’s range, NEUÚ is also completing development of a new range of three female products which is scheduled for launch early next year.
Competing in a marketplace dominated by some major players with huge budgets, Ms Keating says that part of NEUÚ’s strategy has been to invest in independent studies to demonstrate the efficacy of its products and to set its sights on a specific niche within the skincare market.
NEUÚ now has 10 retail customers in Ireland, and also sells through its website.
“We are now shipping out our first export order to a high-end store in Germany and are in early-stage discussions with a number of specialist retailers in Ireland and Germany,” says Ms Keating.
Preparing to embark on another fundraising round this year to fund international expansion, NEUÚ, in the long term, aims to gain global recognition as a go-to skincare brand for sensitive skin.
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