‘It takes unshakable faith in your own abilities, sometimes raw guts’ – Wendy Ferguson

Posted on August 12th, 2014

'It takes unshakable faith in your own abilities, sometimes raw guts' - Wendy Ferguson

Company Profile

Name of company: Brilliant Skincare (Pty)Ltd.

Years in existence: 3 years

Position: Founder

Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?

When my two daughters left home to “make it in the world” and at the age of 40, I applied to study medicine and I was declined because of my age. A friend suggested I study skincare. I don’t do second best, but from my first lecture I was totally hooked and studied further with aromatherapy, reflexology, massage therapy and became a reiki master and opened the first of many skincare salons.

I also began marketing breast prosthetics to my patients who had undergone mastectomies, hence my interest in cancer care. Very unexpectedly, after 39 years of marriage, at the age of 58 I found myself single again, with R200,000 to my name for the rest of my life. So what do you do? You get up, dust off and go into action and I sold off all my possessions to get funds into the bank to sustain myself for a few months whilst I decided how I was going to support myself for the rest of my very long life.

I moved into a friends garage and ate oats for breakfast, lunch and dinner for many months while trying to find a way to sustain myself.

Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?

The chronic skin side-effects suffered by cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy and radiation are sometimes so severe that survivors will forego life saving treatments because they are scared that they will be unable to function physically, emotionally and psychologically. I set about formulating a safe, affordable South African set of skincare products, that would enable the skin barrier to remain intact, hydrated, cooled, soothed and protected but has a dry finish for radiation treatments.

“The vision for Brilliant Skincare is to become a major global player in the field of cancer care”

The product has Medunsa accreditation for non-irritancy, safety and toxicity testing by our incredible contract manufacturer and outstanding clinical trial results from our great team of oncologists, plus certification by Beauty Without Cruelty.

How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?

When I first created my skincare products, I knew it had to be totally South African, using our indigenous plant and marine sources as actives, plus the very best of what science has to offer to create a synergy like no other. I never doubted my formulations and emptied my banking account into Brilliant Skincare. Desperation, I found, was the very best teacher I have had in my life.

Among other achievements, I was a finalist in the  African Innovation awards for 2013. I am also a countrywide finalist in the Johnny Walker/Sunday times “Nation’s Greatest” in the inventor category for 2014.

How many people does your company employ?

I was still a one-man band and needed to find someone who had the passion, belief and enthusiasm about my brand as I did, to share my dream and help me get these products to market. I have employed a COO who has such an unwavering belief in the abilities of Brilliant Skincare, so I have chosen well. I now need to find representatives to service all these incredible customers and patients.

What is your overall vision for your business?

The vision for Brilliant Skincare is to become a major global player in the field of cancer care and our growth prospects are already being worked on with a further 8 products requested by the oncologists as they are urgently needed to ease the cancer patient’s journey, plus a secondary market for eczema, acne, rosacea, hives, psoriasis and any chronic skin condition, it even works on mange in animals.

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?

It takes unshakable faith in your own abilities, sometimes raw guts and never ever giving up. Become a master in telling people about your products at every opportunity. Your product has to be unique, and needed, and you simply have to have done the homework to prove this.

“By encouraging people to be the best, they can only do my company good”

How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?

I approached the IDC for funding through the SPII programme and went through a tough process before they finally agreed to give a research and development (R&D) grant but I had to put in 25% of my own funding to match. What I was doing felt so right to me I did not hesitate to empty out my banking account to add to the grant and we were on our way with R&D.

What are the three things you attribute your business success to?

Knowing that I had a gem. I had irrefutable proof that there was need and a market for my products. I have absolute belief in myself. I have also found Desperation to be one of the best teachers anyone can have. I also had eminent people on my team, who freely gave of their experience and advice and believed in me, not any product, but me!

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

I always had an unshakable belief in myself from when I was a little girl, but to put this belief into action has been one of the hardest tasks I have had to tackle, but so worthwhile because when you “get it” and believe that you can change the world, you become unstoppable.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I am a very straightforward person. I speak honestly and expect to work as hard as anyone else in the company to achieve our goals. By encouraging people to be the best, they can only do my company good, then everyone benefits.

What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?

You Can Have it All, Mary Kay; Feel the Fear and do it Anyway, Susan JeffersThe WOW Factor, Frances Cole JonesWaking the Tiger, Peter LevineNever give up, Joyce Meyer;  The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success, Brian Tracy.

What three pieces of advice would you offer to young entrepreneurs starting out today?

Don’t rely on anyone else but yourself. You alone are the master of your own future. I challenge you to do without anyone’s assistance for a period of time and learn how liberating it is.

If you have a great, proven product that is needed, do not listen to anyone’s opinions about you and your product.

Never, ever give up.  If everyone else can do it, so can you.

What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?

The worst – “Your products are unbankable”, from a DJ VC who owns a radio station in Cape Town.

The best – “You have no idea how much you are worth”, from a great friend.

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?

I can honestly say I do believe in luck and hard work. The lucky part was, if I had not been left virtually penniless at the age of 58, I would never had taken the drastic steps necessary to support myself for the rest of my life. The hard work becomes a pleasure when you have unmovable faith in yourself and your products and you have done your homework and know you have a winner.