Gaining Momentum: Jennifer Rock, The Skin Nerd

2019-04-09SkinNerdSR

In the latest in our series of briefings with influential Irish business leaders we feature Jennifer Rock, founder and CEO of online skin consultancy The Skin Nerd.


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It’s less than two years since Jennifer Rock created The Skin Nerd, the world’s first online, personal skin consultancy. Now the 34-year-old has clients all over the world, is the go-to beauty expert for, among others, Ireland AM, Today FM, the Independent, the Times and Image magazine, and her first book, The Skin Nerd: Your Straight-Talking Guide To Feeding, Protecting & Respecting Your Skin, was number one in Ireland’s non-fiction chart. You could say she has skin in the game…

What’s the unique selling point of The Skin Nerd?

“We’re an online, holistic and, most of all, independent personal consultancy on skincare. Through a one-to-one chat on Skype or FaceTime, wherever you are, we can give you far more considered and independent advice about a skincare regimen that suits you than the two minutes you get talking in a store to an assistant who’s steering you towards a particular brand. And we’re quirky and fun.”

What were your early breakthrough moments?

“I had quite problematic skin as a teenager. My mum treated me to a facial when I was about 13 and I loved it. I wanted to learn the science behind skincare and became quite the nerd about it – hence the name of my business.

“Early in my career I worked in the beauty industry in the UK and the US, but I’ve always been conscious of the emotional relationship we have with our skin, how it affects our confidence. Skincare is not a quick fix; it’s bigger than that. The skin is an organ, and it impacts who you are.

“The real business breakthrough for me – which might seem boring – was stopping and learning from my mistakes. I realised skin wipes do you no good, so I invented the Cleanse Off Mitt, a reusable microfibre mitt, to which you just add water to remove your make-up. I did a lot of work on the R&D but I didn’t organise the business properly, so it failed initially. It was when I started building an online presence and realised I could make a living from the Skin Nerd that I knew I had to have a proper business plan, taking into account profit and loss, legal requirements, HR, accounts, PR. For instance, I hired an HR consultant when I had fewer than 20 employees but I wanted to make sure every aspect of the business was done right. This decision has paid off.”

What do you think are the main challenges facing businesses, especially start-ups, that want to scale up?

“There are four challenges to start-ups looking to grow their business: money, time, resources and standards. You need to ensure all of these remain proportionately at the same level as you grow.”


“Everyone needs someone who isn’t a friend or family member to ask difficult questions, challenge your ideas and make you understand whether a risk is worth taking”

Jennifer Rock, Founder, The Skin Nerd


How has your business changed since you launched?

“I never imagined it would take off so quickly. Within days of our launch we were booked up for five months, and it’s snowballed from there. We have a great team of consultants (Nerds and Nerdettes), and we’ve treated people in the US, Canada, Australia, Dubai and even Mauritius. And we still sell the Cleanse Off Mitt – it’s a great product and still a part of our business.”

What about in terms of finance?

“This is the aspect of the business that has changed the most since we began. My boyfriend and I had saved €20,000 for a house deposit, but I was so passionate about this business idea that, with his blessing, I used that. But I’m glad we did – it gave us a very solid beginning.”

What attitude should entrepreneurs have towards financial support?

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our investors – it’s difficult to give some of your equity away but I was careful to choose people with the business experience I knew could help me, and they’ve been great. It’s not just about the money. It never is.”


Recommended Reading: Gaining Momentum: Niall Horgan, Gym+Coffee


What should an entrepreneur’s approach to risk be?

“‘Entrepreneur’ is an attractive, sexy word, suggesting that you’re following your dream, but passion isn’t enough on its own. Yes, you need a level of risk to succeed – we gambled our house savings after all – but it needs to be calculated. Everyone needs someone who isn’t a friend or family member to ask difficult questions, challenge your ideas and make you understand whether a risk is worth taking. You do need passion – and to make a business work you need to give your all – but take the time to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.”

How did you approach building a team?

“My team when I made the mitt was my mum and dad, who packaged them in their kitchen, and my son who’d run to the post box. They got paid in hugs.

“When I launched the Skin Nerd, I wanted very specific business skills. One of my first hires was a journalist because I felt it was vital to get the PR right, and another was a graphic designer for my branding. Our Nerds and Nerdettes are the core of our business, but every other aspect has to work well, too.

“We have a rigorous recruitment process – a telephone interview, a face-to-face, a meeting with HR and one of our investor mentors, a meeting with me, then a half-day’s trial. We have to ensure we hire people we enjoy working with and think the same way we do.”

What’s the best business tip you’ve ever received?

“‘Don’t be so emotional.’ I’d get very upset if an employee left or a customer was disappointed because I’d feel very deeply that I’d let them down. But someone told me to be led by my head rather than my heart. I had to learn that The Skin Nerd is not my baby, it’s my business.”

What’s next for The Skin Nerd?

“We are launching a really exciting new strand of the business later this year but I can’t yet


Momentum is a series of four breakfast events and a continuation of the successful Momentum Summit conferences that Dublin Chamber has run since 2015. The purpose of the Momentum series is to give Dublin Chamber members access to influential Irish business leaders that have successfully scaled their businesses.

The series is sponsored by Ulster Bank who understand the value of business networking and shared learnings for Irish SMEs and our customers. For more on how Ulster Bank could support your business, please visit www.ulsterbank.ie/businessmatters or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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