Karen J. Gerrard, Founder, and Creator of SEAMS Beauty, is the modern-day woman balancing responsibilities in business and family. Born in London England in 1964, Karen nurtured her entrepreneurial spirit through education in the creative arts and fashion. In 1990, after working a decade in the fashion industry in design, wholesale and retail, Karen opened a fashion accessories store that quickly became a success. After several years, she chose to sell her shop to focus on building her family and supporting philanthropic endeavors. Karen’s passion for sewing led her to later pursue a course in Millinery at The London College of Fashion. Her hands took a beating from the repetitive use of sewing needles, hot irons, and constantly being in the water, leaving them cracked, dry, pinprick and sore. She was not alone.
“I wanted to buy a hand cream that would moisture and help heal our sore, dry, pin-pricked hands but didn’t transfer grease onto the fabrics. I couldn’t find one so I created SEAMS.” During the next year, Karen worked with a pharmacist to formulate the best possible hand cream full of natural ingredients, with a light calming scent. Karen traveled across the UK to find a factory, Karen kept production in the UK to support the British manufacturing industry and to enable her to build a face-to-face relationship. Karen is proud to have created the best possible hand care and is currently working on developing a full collection. “Learning a new business is exciting and I have been fortunate to meet many lovely people along the way who have been happy to share their expertise with me”
SEAMS launched at London Fashion week in 2013 and quickly became the go-to hand cream backstage at film and TV studios used by seamstresses and make-up artists. SEAMS takes the practical need for comfortable hands and has developed a beautiful product that renders skin soothed, soft and silky to the touch.
Can you share your journey with us so far Karen?
I’d love to, thanks for asking
What is the story behind Seams Beauty?
Whilst taking part in a Millinery Course at The London College of Fashion my hands got cut, burnt sore and dry, I found myself going to bed at night with antiseptic cream on my hands but couldn’t use a hand cream as it stung! I wanted to find a beauty cream that would moisturise and heal our sore, dry pin pricked hands but didn’t transfer grease onto fabrics, I couldn’t find one, so I created SEAMS.
April 2012 I set up SEAMS Beauty Ltd, It was called SEAMS as I was sewing a seam when the idea came into my head, Over the next year together with the help of a pharmacist I formulated SEAMS the best possible Hand Cream, that helps mend, moisturise, soften, Soothe and Protect skin, Strengthen nails, absorbs quickly – non greasy. The scent was very important to me, it had to be light and calming. I especially have kept all manufacturing in the UK to support our industry, and to be able to build face-to-face relationships with whom we work with.
Initially, SEAMS was used by seamstresses and couturier in their atelier’s and at London Fashion Week, then make-up artists and wardrobe started using SEAMS backstage in Film and TV. I received many requests for handbag size tubes, at this point I manufactured on a larger scale and set up the website it has grown from there.
You launched in 2013 what motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I have always had a burning desire to build a successful business, but hadn’t come up with the right thing, as soon as I had the idea of SEAMS I knew it was the one.
What are the top 3 marketing tools you use that are the most effective to spread the awareness of SEAMS Beauty?
Instagram / Twitter, Newsletters and word of mouth.
Have you ever had to deal with contention or any forms of doubt from family or friends whilst building your business? If so, how have you dealt with them?
I didn’t really come across any forms of doubt or at least I can’t remember any, but if I had I would have blocked it from my mind and carried on anyway. Since the set-up period in 2012 I worked around the clock 7 days a week, my family have been extremely supportive of the business although I would say it took them a while to get used to me not being around, dinner often became HYS (Help yourself).
What advice would you give to other young female entrepreneurs?
Follow your passion, don’t overthink and take advice – learn from experts in your field of interest.
Have confidence in yourself, at the start there may be some people around you with doubt, I think it’s just the way other people have been used to perceiving you, and put you into a kind of box, change is always hard not only for you but also for everyone around you, but once you’ve taken the first step don’t look back.
If you believe in what you are doing, others will too. When I first started I looked at some of the big brands and I remember thinking that if they can do it then I could do it also.
Make your own decisions don’t ask too many people their opinions it will confuse you even more. A decision you can be mulling over for days, the next week will be forgotten about.
Get a mentor as there are many successful people happy to pass on advice, even just a chat every couple of months can be invaluable and build a special relationship to get guidance from.
Are there entrepreneurs or beauty industry leaders that you feel you resonate with the most?
I would have to say Estee Lauder, Jo Malone, and Richard Branson. We can all learn something from everyone be it what to do or what not to do! I read many autobiographies, which are a great source of inspiration.
What about any challenging times you have had to overcome? When were they and how did you learn to overcome them?
The most challenging was getting finance for my first production run. I eventually borrowed from a family member. For the first year I was working alone from home, some days it can become very hard with no-one to bounce ideas with, so I joined some networking groups in the industry such as CEW.
Going to events and meeting others gives renewed energy and we all help each other.
Working from home has many pluses but you have to be extremely disciplined – some days I turned on my mac as I woke up and it could get to midday and I hadn’t got dressed yet! Once I was on a Skype call from the office at the top of my house, and instead of being on audio it was on video! From that day I made sure to dress first thing as if going out to an office.
What 3 tips would you give to first-time business owners on how to get up and running?
1.Research your market
Put a business plan together, write down your goals, the What, When, Where Why and How then start trading as soon as you can, put out there what you are doing, be it online or in person, there’s no point holding back.
Follow every lead you have, network, everyone is in the same situation as you no matter what level their business talk to others and help each other.
3.Weather the storm
There will be days when you are feeling great and everything is going well and others when you are crying on the floor, don’t ever give up there will always be another good day.
Lastly, what is on the horizon for 2018 for you and SEAMS Beauty?
Feeling very excited – we are working on a fabulous range of new products all to keep skin soft, and we are launching in the USA to grow SEAMS into a household name. We all should be looking after our hands as well as we do the skin on our face, after all our hands are our biggest tools for everything we want to do.
The Practical Made Beautiful.
Twitter: @seamsbeauty | Instagram: @seamsbeauty