Lorraine Dallmeier is the award-winning CEO of Formula Botanica, the online organic cosmetic formulation and business school, which has trained over 14,000 organic cosmetic formulators and indie beauty entrepreneurs in 175+ countries. Voted the most influential person in natural beauty for 2020 and awarded the Digital Achiever of the Year award for the cosmetics industry by Google, she says she is on a mission to teach the world to formulate. She talks here with Natural Newsdesk editor Jim Manson, in an interview fist published by Bio Eco Actual.
How did you first get into the natural and organic sector. What was the appeal for you?
I trained as a Biologist and Environmental Scientist and always had a love of plants, so I knew that I wanted to combine that passion with my desire to be my own boss. I started working in the organic sector in 2010 when I designed an app for iPhone which taught the user to make their own very simple DIY beauty products at home using fruit and vegetables. Once I eventually launched my app, it was downloaded in over 70 countries around the world and received lots of wonderful publicity from several major publications. At that point, I knew there was no turning back and I threw myself into learning how to formulate before eventually taking over Formula Botanica as CEO.
How did Formula Botanica come into being, and how has the business – and concept – developed since its launch in 2008?
Formula Botanica was originally set up to be a one-woman side hustle, which is also the stage it was at when I bought and took over the school in 2014. Until then it had really been a small hobby business, so I instantly set about ripping apart everything in the school and building it from the ground up again with the intention of allowing it to grow.
The school is now a well-respected global education institution, with over 14,000 students in 179 countries. We’re accredited by the UK’s Open & Distance Learning Quality Council and we’ve won industry awards for the excellence of our teaching methods and materials, as well as the success of our digital outreach.
The running of the school has changed dramatically in the last 7 years as a result. I now employ about 40 staff who undertake the daily running of the school and all its courses, student support and systems. We currently teaching 9 different courses and operate our CPD membership site, the Lab at Formula Botanica.
How would you describe your working style? And what personal values do you try to bring to your role as CEO?
I’m extremely driven to make the school a success, so I’m not scared of hard work. I have put in years of dedication to make Formula Botanica the industry leader in formulation education. Prior to running Formula Botanica, I worked as a Project Director and Environmental Consultant for over a decade and was located all over the world, so I bring a lot of those values and abilities with me to the role.
Now that the beauty industry is finally taking the concept of sustainability seriously, I also have the opportunity to share my extensive knowledge and qualifications in environmental management with our audience. I became a Chartered Environmentalist with the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment in 2009 and am very proud to uphold the standards in the work I do at Formula Botanica.
What type of person is attracted to Formula Botanica’s courses? What sort of goals do students arrive with?
Formula Botanica attracts in people from all over the world who want to empower themselves with the skills of organic formulation, who understand that learning how to make organic skincare and haircare can completely change their life. Our students not only want to learn to formulate and start their own indie beauty brand, they also want to change the world through botanical and sustainable formulation.
“Our students not only want to learn to formulate and start their own indie beauty brand, they also want to change the world through botanical and sustainable formulation”
What are your most popular courses?
Our most popular course is our foundation Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation, which has welcomed over 12,000 people into its award-winning online syllabus. If students want to start straight away with our most serious programme, then they enrol for our International Organic Skincare Entrepreneur Program, which is a package of 6 online courses that take you from complete beginner to organic skincare formulator and indie beauty entrepreneur. We’re also seeing a huge uptake for our CPD membership site, the Lab at Formula Botanica, which launched in 2020 and shares mini courses every month on a huge variety of trending topics.
You’ve had some fantastic success stories over the years, in terms of students who have gone on to launch their own brands. Do any in particular stand out?
We have thousands of graduate success stories at Formula Botanica and we work very hard to capture as many of their stories as possible. Many of those stories stand out, ranging from the graduates who have raised over $8.5m in investment funding, to the graduates who have won backing on their countries’ respective shark tanks, to the graduates who have won prestigious awards for their formulations and brands, to the graduates who receive love every day from their customers.
Some of our graduates who launch brands aim for global domination and others purposefully stay small. We love and support all of them, but the one aspect I love most of all about our graduates is the stories they tell me about the way their formulations change their customer’s lives. We host a graduate gallery on our website where visitors can search by geographical region, so I strongly encourage everyone to visit and support their local indie beauty brand!
Formula Botanica has an extraordinary 300,000-strong online community. Do you try engage regularly with this community?
We engage with our community every single day, which is something I am extremely proud of. Formula Botanica hosts and moderates large groups of formulators and beauty entrepreneurs and we are extremely active on Facebook in our big free Skincare Entrepreneur Mastermind networking group, on Instagram with our 100k followers and now even on Clubhouse in our brand new Formula Botanica club! Formula Botanica employs a sizeable community team, which runs all of our groups and works closely together with our students and followers.
“The chemist myth continues to persist, no doubt upheld by many of the big beauty brands who have a century of pseudo-scientific advertising in white lab coats behind them, but I feel that we are slowly democratising formulation”
What impacts do think Formula Botanica has had on the organic cosmetics sector?
I think we have demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that you do not need to be a chemist to formulate your own organic skincare and haircare. The chemist myth continues to persist, no doubt upheld by many of the big beauty brands who have a century of pseudo-scientific advertising in white lab coats behind them, but I feel that we are slowly democratising formulation and making it accessible to everyone. The fact that we’ve been able to educate over 14,000 people in 179 countries in our organic formulation methods and that so many of them have been able to successfully start their own beauty brands means that we’re leading the global organic formulation movement and reclaiming a skill that has been around for millennia.
What are the hottest trends in organic beauty currently, and which do you think will be the most enduring?
I see a lot of trends come and go and don’t get particularly excited about any of them, as I prefer to focus on the larger shifts that the beauty industry undergoes. Ingredients come and go, but a seismic shift such as circular beauty will completely change the face of the beauty industry for instance.
I feel strongly that the beauty industry as we know it will look totally different in ten years’ time, as we will need to completely rethink the way we purchase, use and dispose of cosmetic products. And I think that’s a great thing, because the beauty industry is one of the world’s most unsustainable industries. This is also why I am dedicating a large part of my Green Beauty Conversations podcast episodes in 2021 to demystifying various circular and sustainable beauty topics.
Do you see evidence that indie beauty entrepreneurs are bringing positive change to the mainstream cosmetics industry?
I think the indie beauty sector has challenged the mainstream beauty industry in a way that took all of the big players by complete surprise. Whereas 10 years ago, natural beauty was something that wasn’t taken seriously, the mainstream brands are now having to rethink the way they formulate and advertise their formulations. Now I see that conversation shifting to sustainability, which is great as I think that the indie beauty sector will pave the way for a more circular industry by challenging big beauty for not moving fast enough.
Greenwashing has been a particular challenge for the beauty and cosmetics category, with the ‘natural’ sector not unaffected. Are we seeing progress in this area?
Yes and no. I believe that the mainstream industry is finally starting to make progress in terms of its environmental credentials, but it isn’t tackling the root of the problem: the fact that we all just consume too much stuff. Until beauty brands start to embrace multi-purpose, multi-functional and longer-lasting cosmetics that can be used in a circular fashion, whilst encouraging their customers only to buy what they need, a lot of the claims being thrown in our direction will still unfortunately not be enough.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges for the organic cosmetics and beauty sector in the coming years?
The biggest opportunity, as well as the biggest challenge, for the entire sector will be to embrace circularity and rethink the way that beauty formulations are packaged, delivered and consumed. I am so excited to see what the industry comes up with, as I think we are capable of incredible innovation and change. With over 120bn units of cosmetic packaging being manufactured each year and the average woman having a staggering 16 beauty products on her bathroom shelf, something needs to change urgently – and I can’t wait to see the industry lead that conversation.
The article was first published, and commissioned, by Bio Eco Actual