SUCCESSFUL ONLINE WOMENPRENEUR IN GENEVA TELLS IT LIKE IT IS…
SWISS TONIQ – FIONA NICHOLLS
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN GENEVA?
I’m from Stratford upon Avon in the UK and have been living in Geneva since 30 years.
WHAT IS THE CRUX OF THE BUSINESS?
I’ve created a niche organic skincare company different from other organic brands. I hack the world’s top skincare products and use the same power ingredients they use (the natural ones only) and replace the chemical ingredients with ancient botanicals proven in clinical tests to produce long term results in anti-ageing and healing of skin problems such as dry skin, itching, patches and allergies.
I’ve taken it upon myself to educate women about the dangers of what they are putting on their skin and to expose the toxic beauty industry in an effort to initiate change.
HOW HAS SKIN TONIQ GROWN?
I started from scratch in 2017, spent the best part of 2 years learning how to set up a business and systems and formulating and testing products with the help of a well-known biochemistry lab. I started selling moisturising soap to start with in 2017.
Since completing my range (serums, body oils, shampoos, scrubs and masks) a year ago my business has not stopped growing and is gaining a lot of momentum through word of mouth. Swiss Toniq is not only available in Switzerland but also in the US, Canada, Europe and Korea now.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
I had been a showjumping rider, horse trainer and breeder my entire life and represented the UK at International level a few times. For the past couple of years I had started to dream of doing something else as in my forties I was getting physically tired of riding so many horses, competing and delivering foals at night but I didn’t know how to do anything else and felt stuck.
Then like a blessing in disguise, I broke my spine in a horse fall early 2017 and was bedridden for months.
Up til then I had only played at making homemade products for myself and family and then certain friends who came to me with skin issues they couldn’t get rid of. Organic skincare was becoming a big passion for me along side my horses.
I chose to use my accident recovery time to intensify my botanical and skincare studies and once I accidentally uncovered the forgotten benefits of raw ancient plants and started testing them on friends and saw such remarkable results, I became passionate that I needed to share this with as many women as possible, as women have no idea how to reverse ageing naturally and tend to use useless and harmful products on their skin, so I gave up my horse business, stopped horse riding and launched Swiss Toniq Geneva.
HOW IS YOUR BUSINESS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR BUSINESSES?
My USP is that, unlike all other existing organic skincare brands,
- I use zero bulking/filler oils or water so my products are highly concentrated and you only need to use a little.
- All ingredients are raw, meaning uncooked, unbleached and untreated to they contain 80% more nutrients than all other brands.
- I use zero chemicals, most other brands who claim to be organic/pure/natural actually use 5 to 10 percent chemicals and this is legal even in eco-cert certified brands!
WHAT EDUCATION, TRAINING DID YOU HAVE TO PREPARE FOR STARTING THE BUSINESS?
I left school at 16 to pursue my equestrian career and have no business background whatsoever. I’ve spent my life outdoors with the horses so when I finished my botanical studies and launched my company I realised I had no business sense or experience and had to take on literally hundreds of coaching courses to learn every aspect of business in a short time. It was fairly daunting and seemed never ending what I needed to learn still.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HARDEST PART ABOUT RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
One of the most difficult things in the beginning was the nay-sayers, I had to learn fast not to listen to them. Close friends and family mean well and think they know what’s best for you but they often don’t, so learning to shut that noise out and not be influenced by peoples opinions was imperative.
Another difficult thing was finance. There were a lot more hidden costs than I had not anticipated so I ended up wearing too many hats trying to do everything myself to economise. My advice for anyone taking the entrepreneurial path is to get a professional to go through the financial planning part with you before you start.
The most difficult thing was the time I had invest. For the first 2 and a half years I worked and studied literally day and night with maximum 6 hours sleep a night, all weekends and holidays included and the only time I was not working I was trying to be the perfect mother to my daughter. There was very little ‘me’ time and my friends and relationships suffered accordingly.
WHAT IS THE MOST ENJOYABLE PART OF BEING AN ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR?
Having the freedom to decide to do what I want, when I want and the excitement of all the possibilities online is simply limitless. If you’re anything like me and love being alone and working alone, this is very pleasant.
I also like the fact that if ever I’m ill in bed I don’t lose time, I just bring my computer under the sheets and the day is not lost. It’s amazing how much we can get done staying in bed lol!
WHAT DON’T YOU LIKE?
The fact that digital giants like Facebook and Google can change algorithms and rules when and how they please, leaving us rather vulnerable.
Another dislike is online bugs. When your password, or a link or software decides to misbehave and you can’t get access or fix a digital problem, which leads you to lose a whole afternoon. In those moments I feel frustrated and powerless.
WHAT ISSUES DO WOMENPRENEURS FACE?
Funding is probably a big issue and Switzerland is not as forthcoming to finance foreign start-ups as opposed to the US for example. Staff is another problem in Switzerland. When you start a new business and have limited funds, it’s not easy to pay Swiss salaries.
As a women entrepreneur I would say balancing work and being a mother is the hardest obstacle if you aspire to doing both well. When you have to constantly break your work day up between school trips, after school activities, meals, bath and bed times, not to mention when your child is ill, it becomes hard to accomplish tasks that need time investment.
YOUR TIPS FOR WOMENPRENEURS?
For me, 30 minutes meditation a day has been a life saver and enabled me to control stress, worry and fear. I resisted getting into mediation for years and years with excuses like it’s not my thing, it’s not for me and I can’t do it but once I started I very quickly felt the benefits. I think everybody should meditate.
Another great tip I swear by is to take a pen and paper (not keyboard) and 30 minutes of time each week to write down personal and business goals and dreams in detail. I’m not sure how writing them down brings so much focus and clarity but it does.
HOW DO YOU JUGGLE YOUR FAMILY WITH YOUR BUSINESS?
I am a mother to my 11 year old daughter whom I’ve raised alone since she was a year old. That alone is not terribly easy when you live abroad and do not have family near to support you. My daughter is the most important thing in my life and I try to always put her first so I have to wake up extra early, work late at night once she’s in bed and be extremely organised with my schedule to work around her.
ARE YOU MAKING A PROFIT – HOW LONG BEFORE YOU BROKE EVEN?
It took me 2 years to make money, despite planning to get there in 1 year. I put this down to the fact that I did not have a business partner or any business knowledge and had to not only do everything myself but to learn everything as I went along so it took way longer than planned.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT GENEVA?
From the day I first moved here in 1990, I loved it immediately. I love the weather (most of the time), the hygiene, order and efficiency and I love that it is a fairly safe place. I love the lake and the lifestyle that’s based around the lake and I love the small close by airport that makes weekend travel so easy. I also love that it’s so International and that you can meet many different and interesting people.
WHAT DO YOU HATE ABOUT GENEVA?
Hate is not word I use but some things I wish were different here are the high drinking and dining out prices, the ‘stiffness’ of the Swiss in general and the traffic congestion.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING TO DO IN GENEVA?
I love doing anything connected with the lake, this can be water sports, sunbathing, dinning, boating or walking.
WHAT DON’T PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I’m fascinated by neuroscience and how we can heal our bodies and achieve almost anything we desire using our thoughts. A few years ago I got into plant medicine, meditation, self hypnosis, visualisation and breathing techniques which has opened the door to an entire new world of understanding.
Interview done by: Chene Koscielny at Things To Do in Geneva magazineWoman's Day- March 8th 2020