This week, we’re WERKIN with Andrea Pfeffer, founder of Pfeffer Sal a skincare clinic in Fitzrovia, often touted as a respite from the chaos of Central London. Andrea talked with WERKIN founder and CEO Hayley Sudbury about business, babies, balance, and the importance of washing London off your face each night.
A new model for skincare: experience and education
Before opening Pfeffer Sal, Andrea launched small businesses across fashion, marketing, and PR. While she learned a lot from her previous careers, she found herself “in a position where I'd worked so hard and was actually really unsatisfied. So I wanted to do something that not only made myself feel good and proud, but also made other people feel good.”
Having always been interested in skincare and overall health, the entrepreneur naturally found herself taking notes on what worked and what didn’t in the skincare services she personally used, “I had a lot of disappointing experiences for myself and I felt that the exposure that I had wasn't what I wanted to experience as a client.”
Andrea describes her frustration with the ways in which the beauty industry can attempt to exploit insecurities in order to sell products and services. But as she sees it, “the beauty industry has the most amazing power to make you feel incredible about yourself. It's such a perfect time to celebrate the uniqueness that we all have and to offer a business or a service that has the power to do that.”
She views skincare as not only a service or product, but a form of education such that clients can leave with a better knowledge of their skin and how to care for it. “Our primary objective is skin health through education advice and support, and that's probably the heart and soul of what the business is about.”
To change the model, there is no commission system at Pfeffer Sal, employees are not rewarded for selling products, “I don't want a team of salespeople. I want people making genuine recommendations on how you can improve your skin health without feeling that pressure we all feel when we're being sold to. It's not a great experience.”
Instead, Andrea has sought to create an experience for clients made up of “the little touches throughout the whole space, though we might not shout about them, but that demonstrate the heart and soul and integrity of truly believing in what we're saying.”
Your Business is Your Baby. Your Baby is your Baby.
What’s it like to create that client experience while going through your own transformational experience, say having a baby? As Andrea puts it, “your business is your baby and your baby is your baby. And I continually struggle with the feeling that I'm not giving it enough attention either.” But the challenge of navigating both “definitely teaches you to be much more efficient with your time.” Caring for a baby while growing a business, in many ways for Andrea, has given her focus to give her full self to each dimension when necessary, “having a baby or another little person that actually is your focus enables your headspace,” while switching from business mode to baby mode, “I just need to focus on this other person. It forces you to have a better work life balance and puts things in perspective."
For Andrea, the common skill she’s picked up for both parenthood and entrepreneurship is a strengthened intuition, what she calls “gut intelligence.” Every child is different, but what helps parenting is gaining the confidence to trust your gut. Similarly, “the intuitive aspect of running your own business is so important because you don't have time to sit there and think about one decision for two weeks. So you have to continually make decisions on the fly, and your gut intelligence, is absolutely vital to succeed, whether it's right or wrong, it’s at least moving forward and making a decision. For me I needed to listen to my gut more and when I knew something wasn't right, I needed to follow that.”
Wellness: A Balance of Participation and Pampering
Andrea’s business, Pfeffer Sal, started within a growing “wellness industry.” But what does wellness mean for her?
“It means a balance. Extreme wellness, 10 hours sleep every night; yoga every morning; 20 minutes mindfulness meditation every morning and night; noting down my feelings and emotions in my book on the side of the bed; never having a glass of wine; etc. etc. etc. That's never going to happen. That's not wellness to me. That is stress. But for some people that kind of discipline provides them with a sanctuary and security.
Wellness to me is equally about participation and pampering. Wellness to a lot of people is about participation. It's about setting very stressful goals and objectives. They have to practice yoga four times a week. They have to do this, they have to do that. Let's take London for example.
A huge amount of people in London have got a massive amount of participation down pat. We Londoners participate in everything, whether it's a brainstorming session, whether it's an extra two hours at work, whether it's a crazy commute. We know how to participate. That's not the problem. We don't know how to be pampered, and that's where I feel that there's a huge gap psychologically and physically. Pampering that you received from someone else. It could be a treatment, but pampering you also give yourself at home. Now I'm not saying you should have a 45-minute bath. I don't even have time for a 45-minute bath.”
How can you pamper yourself when you don’t have time for a 45-minute bath? It can be as simple as your two-minute, 36-second nighttime skincare routine. Andrea recalls a recent post she shared on Instagram,
“These are the seven products I use in my night routine, seven ‘steps.’ That's, quite high-maintenance isn't it? I timed the routine, and it was two minutes, thirty-six.
That's some pampering that takes two minutes, 36 seconds. That's realistic for most people in London. Wellness to me is a two-minute, 36 routine.”
Happy Parents, Happy Business
Apart from finding her own participation and pampering balance to manage a full life, how can larger institutions support women, parents, and anyone else with caregiving responsibilities to maintain their career progression?
“I have been very fortunate in that I haven't really experienced much gender discrimination in the workforce. I've always tended to always place myself in quite female orientated industries. From my experience of being a mum, what I would love is much greater financial incentives for businesses to set up childcare and support whether that's for dads or for mums. I think you and your business are going to win on so many levels because if you have happy parents, with happy children. Their productivity and their work flow is going to be more creative and more energized.
Society, which is in the government's best interest, wins because you're opening up opportunity to employ greater talent, a greater pool of people because you're able to offer that support and infrastructure.”
Finally, for those launching a business or a baby or both, what’s the one thing we can do to keep our skin healthy? Remember to wash London off your face.
“Honestly, from a skin health perspective, every night you need to wash your face with a cleanser. The best way to think about it is you're going to bed with London on your face, literally. You have to wash your face. That's number one and number two is change your pillowcase at least once a week. And your face is going to be so happy.
For more from Hayley’s conversation with Andrea, including how NASA air filters can help your skin, the value of tenacity, and how your inner circle of friends can be your most valuable advisory board, listen to the full podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.