We interview the founder of Bravura London, and mum-of-three, Amanda Elias about her morning routine, life in rural Wales, working around her daughters’ routines and why she set up a beauty company, selling skincare products…
Amanda Elias, 35, is the owner of Bravura London, a British brand that specialises in chemical exfoliators, as well as other skincare products such as cleansers, toners, moisturisers, serums, dermaflannel and tattoo aftercare. She lives in South Wales, UK, with her partner Ryan and daughters Eve, 12, Lily, seven, and Aryana, three. They also have three cats, three tortoises and a hamster.
What’s your home like?
It’s like a girly explosion. With the eldest, it’s all about nails, hair and eyebrows. And the younger two are obsessed with anything Disney, they regularly dress up as princesses and have Disney music playing all the time. As a Disney lover myself, I certainly don’t discourage it.
We live in a renovated cottage, which is a mix of old and new. We have a real phone box in our living room, it’s very quirky and beautiful and I can say that because I didn’t design it, we simply moved in.
We have a river running behind the house, so we get a lot of dragonflies in the garden (which Bravura customers may know I love due to our logo). We also have a forest behind, so we have a lot of different birds visit our garden and unfortunately, lots of gifts for the cats to bring back, mainly of the rodent kind.
Bravura London founder on mornings…
What time are you up in the morning?
I’m not a morning person; I get up at 7.30am to get the children ready for school. I hate waking up in the winter when it’s dark.
What wakes you up?
An alarm clock, I do usually wake up a few minutes before it goes off but I’d never trust myself without one.
How do you feel?
I feel gratitude; I always start the day by being thankful for what I have: three healthy beautiful children, a fantastic partner and some amazing friends and family. It’s easy to forget what we have when we have a stressful day so I start and end my day with positivity, which isn’t always easy if you’ve had a bad day.
I work 9am-3pm when they’re in school, I’ll then do a few hours in the evening when they’re in bed
What do you do first thing?
Cuddle my girls; they always come in for a cuddle when they hear my alarm. Then I cleanse and put my contact lenses in.
In three words, describe mornings in your home?
On a school day – busy, loud, rushed. On a weekend – chilled, snuggly, pancakes.
What’s for breakfast?
Cereal for the little ones, oats for the eldest, Ryan usually has eggs and I’m not a breakfast person so it’s often a smoothie with added protein.
How might the rest of your day pan out?
It varies so much. I always start with emails, getting through as many as possible before any meetings I may have. At the moment I do all of the PR for Bravura so I check our ads on Facebook, write articles and press releases etc. I’m also working on some new product formulations, so I liaise with our developers quite regularly, probably driving them crazy because I’m so picky. I send formulations back so many times before I’m happy with the final product.
On occasion, I attend blog events to promote Bravura. My eldest daughter, Eve, has started attending these with me because she tells me she’s going to take over Bravura one day. She loves being part of it all and asks a lot of questions, which is great. I’ve always hoped the brand would grow as a family business.
I also try to attend seminars on skincare to learn about any new advances that I can use to help my customers and advance my own knowledge.
What’s your workspace like?
I have an outbuilding that’s my home office, well it was but we’ve just turned it into a home gym! We’re currently re-designing a new office right next to the river that runs behind our house, so that I can hear the calming water while I work. There’s decking over the river so I sometimes work outside, weather permitting – we don’t get a lot of great weather in Wales.
Where are the kids when you’re working?
I work 9am-3pm when they’re in school, I’ll then do a few hours in the evening when they’re in bed.
On launching Bravura London
Tell us about your business…
I trained as a beauty therapist after leaving school but learned the most about skin when working as a beauty therapist. I specialised in facials and loved working with skin. I’ve recently been studying advanced skin science which has increased my knowledge immensely but my gosh it’s tough, it sometimes feels like I’m studying in a foreign language. But I love it.
I started working on Bravura when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. I knew from research how amazing acid based products were and contacted a supplier about re-selling their formulation. When that was successful, I created my own formula, and after that people were asking for daily skincare products containing acids so the product range grew. The business started because I genuinely wanted to help people, I knew how awful it was to have acne and to hate how you looked. I had never planned on it being a career.
Back then I didn’t have much input in formulas, I didn’t have enough knowledge. Over the years, I’ve studied the basics of cosmetology and different raw ingredients which means I can now design a lot of the product myself, telling our formulators exactly what ingredients I want, the percentages they should be at, the PH (extremely important in acid based products) and how it should look, feel and smell. It’s amazing to have an idea and then after many months of testing and reformulating to have other people using it and coming back with feedback about how much it’s helped them.
What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Juggling school holidays with work, during the holidays I don’t have much time to work in the day which means I do most of my work late in to the evening. Thankfully, my girls love to lay in which means during the holidays I go to bed past 1am and usually get to sleep in until 8.30-9am. I’m extremely grateful; I have friends working just to cover child costs. I’d rather be tired and spend time with my girls.
What makes it all worthwhile?
The freedom to make my own hours so that I can work around my children, it means I don’t miss any sports days or school plays… that means everything to me.
Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
I absolutely hate doing the accounts and thankfully my wonderful partner Ryan is really good at it. I think our accountants were thrilled when he joined the business and took over that side of things because they always had to chase me to get them done. I love interacting with our customers and working on new formulas, we work amazingly as a team, just in different offices. That’s the key to our business relationship, we Skype a lot throughout the day.
Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I’m a loner. While I can easily switch that off when I need to, I love to work in my own little quiet space. I don’t listen to music while I work unless it’s something calming like the sounds of waves or a crackling fire.
I’m a mermaid at heart and luckily we live quite close to a lot of amazing beaches. If the weather forecast shows sun, we’re there
What’s the secret to career success?
Passion, you have to love what you do. I don’t focus on sales, I couldn’t tell you how many orders we average in a day (Ryan could). I focus on helping people, if they buy then great, if they don’t then that’s their choice. I hate pushy sales people and so I’d never force anything on someone if I didn’t think they needed it. Honesty is also important, I’m very up front and honest about what our products can and can’t do.
Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
The juggle is very real but I think it’s real for everyone. One of my close friends owns a salon and I was in having my LVL lashes last week, she said “Is it just me that doesn’t see anyone socially anymore?” Nope love, I don’t socialise much with anyone either. I text a lot with friends, thank God for modern technology! Ryan and I try and have a date night every now and then, it’s important to remember that we’re in a relationship and not just mum and dad or business partners.
Describe an ideal weekend?
The beach – I’m a mermaid at heart and luckily we live quite close to a lot of amazing beaches. If the weather forecast shows sun, we’re there. Actually, we visit on dry days in the winter too; it just means we have to wrap up very warmly.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
To be honest I don’t think I’d want to be anywhere else. I miss London life a lot, but my family is here, I see my mum a few times a week, my in-laws have just moved down the road (Ryan is originally from Wiltshire, England). I love our home, I’m very content, but I would like more holidays, we don’t go away enough, mainly because I never take time off. Bravura is my baby and I must see to her daily.