Who are you and what business did you start?
Kiri Yanchenko – I am the founder of AMPERNA® – we are an Australian topical probiotic skincare brand committed to creating active products specifically formulated for even the most sensitive skin, so they can be used by everybody.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was in the FMCG Design & Brand Activations industry in Sydney. During this time I became my father’s sole carer. He passed away before he was 62. I believe my father had mental health issues as well as health issues and he didn’t seek to get help with either of these. During this period of intense pressure I was prescribed medication to help my skin and my stress levels. I reacted to this medication and to the stress of the situation; three of the side effects were severe pustular acne that appeared in 48 hours, skin hives and severe weight loss. In hindsight I feel the stress I was under, and a lack of care from GPs was partly to blame.
My mental state was not great and this all was too much for me to cope with. I went to public hospital three times only to be sent home. I ended up needing to take a career break to recover from stress/poor health. My family then admitted me to a private hospital which of course was expensive, and needed to be covered by private health insurance. I worked on recovering health wise and mental health wise during my stay. My husband pulled me through this period, this year is our 13th wedding anniversary. I continued helping myself holistically for two years after hospital to regain full health.
After leaving hospital; when I was offered more medication from professionals, I decided to review my whole lifestyle, taking a holistic approach to my health. I started researching diets and a healthy lifestyle. I went through the process of cutting out everything I shouldn’t be eating and reassessing everything that I was using on her skin. Going through the process of identifying certain triggers to my skin problems and helping myself took two years.
So began my search for a solution. My skin reacted to many common irritants in skincare. I knew my skin needed help to return to its healthy balance. I was looking for an ultra gentle skincare range that contained key active ingredients, but couldn’t find one. I also suffered Perioral Dermatitis just before we formulated with a chemist. Thus, AMPERNA® was born.
I have now helped hundreds of women feel more comfortable in their skin in a holistic way using our Topical Probiotic products and our newly released Holistic Skin Coaching Service. We are in business to help people. I launched the brand with the huge help of my husband in early 2018, using our savings. We became a company, and are now both directors, in July 2019.
Describe the process of launching the business.
While I have packaging and branding experience, and my husband (and business partner) has programming experience we had never started a product based business before. So the R&D and launching of the business wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.
I knew I had a great idea as I had had done extensive market research however I had no idea how to create skincare products.
I knew I wanted to own my own formulas however – I wanted to create something unique that helped as many people as I could.
I set about trying to find as many business mentors as I could, and looked into the process of formulating products – we hired a chemist to help us with them after I had the basic concept and target audience worked out.
Brand strategy was a huge part of the start up phase for us as well as product testing – as I wanted a great product.
Before we launched I had a solid business plan and brand strategy already. I had a fair idea about how I would market this business as I had done industry research, and I found a gap in the market and we really sold our USP to a very niche target audience. I did a lot of work on target personas.
At launch we hired a PR agency for six months, to get us media coverage.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The main tactics to we used (to attract customers) and still use on social media are; video posts & video stories which are educational/share our news or relevant info, great content that fits our 5 themes (created in our strategy sessions) that has thoughtful messages or responds to customers & followers interests/interactions, healthy recipes or DIY, giveaways with likeminded businesses, sharing our news/events and keeping up a constant dialogue with our followers.
The key is to know your target audience intimately and keep value adding.
It’s important to use data that you have gathered from your customers to understand them. This is because you want to provide the best products and services to solve their problems. This enables you to personalise your business to your target personas and in turn helps you place the right advertising and remarketing in order to grow your business. By personalising the customer journey you’ll generate brand loyalty and your customers will continue to return.
Our blog is constantly updated and is a great source of free education, and 5 star customer service is key.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
At first I was only working part time in the business, however now we have 3 full time staff and one part time staff member to help with packing.
Since launch we have doubled our revenue quarter on quarter and when we turned over $1million AUD in revenue, the team paused to celebrate.
We’re looking to double revenue this next coming financial year and have hired a business consultant to help us.
We’re set to release three new products very shortly, and we look to expand more into the US, Singapore and Japan in 2021/2022.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I would say having a clear business and marketing plan, and goals to work towards helps immensely, however two big things that I would have liked to have known when I was starting out would be to 1) know that ideas evolve and that everything doesn’t need to be perfect as you can learn along the way and 2) to not sweat the small stuff – you’ll make mistakes and that is all part of the journey. Having your own business is hard work, however you are your own boss so it is so worth while.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use google analytics, our website, social media to sell product, xero, the other director codes processes to make data entry automatic, hubspot for CRM and omnisend for EDMs.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Profit First – Mike Michalowicz, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach – Mark Manson, How to win friends and influence people – Dale Carnegie, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup – Noam T. Wasserman, Business mentors
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I was told quite a few times that putting my whole house deposit on the line for just another skincare line was a silly idea, and I remember bursting into tears a few times after horrible meetings. I would suggest sticking with your idea, however make sure you have validated your business idea before wasting too much time and money on it.
Where can we go to learn more?
www.amperna.com, www.facebook.com/ampernaskin, www.instagram.com/ampernaskin, https://www.tiktok.com/@ampernaskin