The Story of Bell Essence: Natural Solutions for Chronic Skin Conditions

The Story of Bell Essence: Natural Solutions for Chronic Skin Conditions

Written by: Debora Pokallus, CEO at Bell Essence

Bel Essence is a natural and organic skin care company creating products for skin wellness.  The story began with the founder’s personal quest to find effective, all natural solutions for chronic skin issues. The collection started ten years ago with two products and has grown into a full range of skin care.

About Bel Essence 

Each formula is developed consistent with our philosophy of natural ingredients, sustainability, and effective and transforming skin care.  Every product is researched and built from a wide variety of natural oils and extracts rich in compounds that benefit your skin.  We identify botanicals that improve the quality and appearance of your skin and create each formula to be your favorite, go-to product that permanently improves your skin. The ingredients are sourced based on their benefits and sustainability. Additionally, we choose packaging that will minimize waste. Our practices stem from our desire to provide skin care that has a positive impact on your life and the world we live in. 

The beauty industry is highly competitive, with the organic and natural skin care sector exploding.  This growth has brought increased consumer interest in our products, but has also challenged us to set ourselves apart from the growing number of brands entering the market.  We survive and thrive by remaining faithful to our ethos and mission, and focusing on the effectiveness of our products.  

Debora Pokallus, CEO at Bell Essence

We may not use the sexiest ingredients, we choose natural ingredients that contain nutritional compounds that have demonstrated effectiveness in improving the skin.  It can sometimes be tempting to cash in on trends and jump on the latest miracle ingredient or product to sell, but fads are short lived and the market moves on to the next, forcing you to play catch up.  You can end up losing your way chasing success down each new and exciting rabbit hole, and your brand loses its impact.  Defining a clear mission and developing each product to be certain it carries out this mission keeps your brand consistent and your customers loyal.

A catch phrase of founding a business is “Find a need and fill it.”  The obvious interpretation of this adage is to find what the market lacks, and fill that void for revenue and profit.  However, this simple phrase also defines the fundamental purpose of business:  to serve the community.   Businesses are most successful when they fill the needs of their customers, their employees, their suppliers and their neighbors.   

Creating a business that continuously evolves to respect suppliers, employees and all those impacted by its operations can be challenging when financial pressures grow, but making a commitment to delivering customer service and finding ways to give back to the community should not be tossed aside when a business goes through natural cycles of up and down turns.

We make customer service the foundation of our business and respond to questions and concerns within a day, looking for creative ways to resolve more complex inquiries.  The questions and concerns expressed by our customers give us ways to improve our products and give us ideas for new products.   

We also use our interactions with customers to improve our service further and to develop ways to reward our customers for their loyalty.  It’s gratifying to read glowing reviews of our company, but the questions we are asked inform our business decisions and help us further define our market.  Sometimes the answer to a question or concern can be that they are simply not our customer.  

The company ethos is a continuation of my 30 years promoting independent fashion designers, particularly in the area of ethical fashion.  I learned about the abuses of the fashion industry and promoted the efforts to reconstruct the business of fashion, one small company at a time, to respect work, a fair wage, and the environment.  

We apply those lessons to this venture, always looking for new ways to reduce waste, respect labor and preserve natural resources.  For small businesses, this can be a challenge; sourcing responsible ingredients and packaging with low minimum purchases is difficult, and access to information about the practices of suppliers can be difficult to obtain.  However, every small company can find at least one ethical, ecological, responsible choice to adopt.  Education is lifelong, and as we learn, we can make more informed choices and evolve our business into a fully responsible citizen.  

It’s easy to compromise on a mission for profit.  Sometimes our preferred choice may not be available to us at a given point in our business.  However, it is important to hold to the established mission and ethics as best we can at every stage and continuously look for ways for our business to further live up to the standards we established.  While we may not be able to fully carry out our mission in every aspect of our business from the start, but we can chip away at the obstacles to that goal.  For example, we are not in a position to create our own packaging that meets our ecological standards, but we stay informed of innovative ideas in development so that when those new products move down the supply chain to our level of consumption, we can immediately adopt the new ideas.

While there are many disadvantages to small businesses, particularly access to low cost suppliers, we are in the unique position of being able to adapt and change more quickly.  Buying small quantities and producing small batches allows us to change direction more easily and faster.  We can easily pivot our catalog to products that our customers are asking for and discontinue aged out products without a significant loss.  

This is the age of the entrepreneur, and we all read the stories of people in their 20s and 30s creating successful companies seemingly effortlessly.  It can be discouraging if you haven’t even thought of an idea as you close in on 40.  I started this business in my 50s – age is not a factor in starting a business.  As for it being effortless, between the story’s opening paragraph about the epiphanic idea and the last paragraph about the unbridled success, most of the struggle is omitted.  Difficulties arise unexpectedly, we have to adapt continuously to disruptions or changes in our supply chain, and we have to constantly monitor our operations and marketing to make sure everything is performing well.  It can be exhausting.

Business Advice

So, onto advice.  Every business encounters obstacles in sourcing, production, supply chain, labor, but when each obstacle or question is resolved (or not), it teaches you how to approach the next one and it shows you the direction of your business.  You are given not just more industry information, but you are also adding new skills to your leadership.  

Always pay attention to the difficulties – they are actually teaching you about your business.   No one goes into a business with full knowledge of every aspect; that’s why large companies are departmentalized with HR, marketing, production, accounting, etc.  They have the luxury of being able to hire experts in each area of their business.  Solopreneurs and small businesses don’t have that ability, so we as leaders have to learn enough about every function so we can either handle it ourselves, or cost effectively outsource.  It can be very discouraging to constantly confront what you don’t know.  However, you start a business on what you do know, and grow your business as you learn.  Education is a constant – the day you decide you don’t need to learn anything more is the day your business will start to suffer.  

Opportunities abound to give you exponential growth, but they can come with compromises.  I saw this many times in my work with fashion designers.  Department stores and chains loved and bought the collection, but the pricing, chargeback and margin requirements sometimes cost designers their business because their gross profit on a sale could not support their overhead, and the large order displaced the orders from smaller stores.   In the excitement of getting interest from a Macy’s or Target, you have to look critically at your business and whether or not you can literally afford to pursue that avenue.

I had an opportunity to place our products with major retailers, however it would have required us to actually water down our formulas in order to give the chains the margins they required.  It was a compromise we were not willing to make.  As we scale the business, we will be able to source ingredients and packaging more aggressively, and could be better positioned to meet those requirements in the future, but if not, that’s okay.  

Bel Essence is built on the quality of the ingredients and the concentration of the formulas.  It is our mission to provide effective natural skin care to our customers and diluting our formulas is contrary to that mission.  It is still possible to have a successful, profitable business without marquee placement.

Ultimately, a successful business requires focus on the underlying mission and purpose.  Every decision you make should be viewed through that lens so your brand and your business has a consistent meaning and identity to your end customer.  Your standards and ethics will help you define your product, your market and your customer.   Most of all, not every business has to become a multi-million dollar empire.  If you are serving your customers, your employees, yourself, your family and your community, you have a successful business no matter what your annual profits are.  You have every reason to be proud of what you created and accomplished whether you operate in your local neighborhood or in countries around the world.  When you improve the lives of those around you, you are a success.

Julia Davis

Mental health expert MS, University of Latvia I am deeply convinced that each patient needs a unique, individual approach. Therefore, I use different psychotherapy methods in my work. During my studies, I discovered an in-depth interest in people as a whole and the belief in the inseparability of mind and body, and the importance of emotional health in physical health. In my spare time, I enjoy reading (a big fan of thrillers) and going on hikes.