Words by Rebecca Small
The Female Lead speaks to Lauren Murrell, COO of BY SARAH LONDON. BY SARAH is a pioneering natural and organic skincare brand launched by Lauren and Sarah Murrell, in November 2017. Lauren is a qualified lawyer and has previously worked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in London & New York and Harneys in the British Virgin Islands. Lauren has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree from The University of Law and a Masters degree in Geography (MA) from the University of Oxford.
BY SARAH is known as The Transparent Skincare Company set up by you and your sister, Sarah. What inspired you to start your business together?
In the autumn of 2012, I was beginning my recovery from months of treatment for leukaemia. My skin was very sensitive and very dry. My sister, Sarah, and I were really frustrated that we couldn’t find skincare that we were confident using – even many natural and organic ranges had long, cryptic ingredient lists.
Sarah was working in the skincare industry at the time and since a young teenager, had been creating skincare at home. She then took her hobby more seriously and created beautiful, plant-based skincare that I could use. Which I loved! We started sharing her blends with friends and family over the years – and the brand organically grew from there.
Your plan and dream at school was to become a lawyer. Did being diagnosed with leukaemia stop you from achieving that dream?
I was a few weeks away from my law school exams when I was diagnosed, and I was hospitalised pretty much overnight, confined to my hospital room for weeks at a time. Once my treatment finished and I gradually built up my strength again, I returned to law school, qualified as a lawyer and went on to work in London, New York and the Caribbean.
There are pros and cons to having a plan. It can be a wonderful focus (as it was for me) but always keep an open mind and be aware of the doors that can open in front of you. With Sarah’s passion and the beautiful plant-based skin care she created and how intrinsically linked we both are to the products, there was no question that I wouldn’t help. I quit the day job and decided to go full time in launching the business with Sarah in November 2017.
What makes BY SARAH different to other skincare brands?
With Sarah’s knowledge of the industry, she saw a real gap in the market for total transparency of ingredient labelling. All of our skincare at BY SARAH has a full ingredient list on the front label so you know exactly what you’re giving your skin. No other skincare brand in the UK is doing this! And we love that our customers have found products that they can place real trust in using.
What’s it like working and setting up a business with your sister? Does that bring its own challenges?
Sarah was my stem cell donor, so we’re very close. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our skill sets complement each other really well - she is the creative brand visionary and I lead the operations and business side. We are blessed to have so much knowledge about each other. It’s a perfect partnership. We love it and wouldn’t change it.
What advice would you give to the younger generations on deciding what career to pursue?
Find something that you believe in, whether that is to become a lawyer or a doctor, or to create your own business. Try to find that something that really resonates with you and has purpose for you, and then everything else kind of falls into place.
If you do want to start your own business or join a start up, then you really need to know what it is that you want to do, what it is that fires you up, what gets you excited and then you can make that switch. Speak to people you aspire to be like and listen to podcasts – feed your mind with the best learning and inspiration you can find.
Why is it important to you and Sarah, at BY SARAH, to have organic products?
Natural products are great, but you can elevate that choice by choosing organic. At BY SARAH, we curate only the highest quality, natural and organic, plant-based oils, minerals and clays from ethical sources around the world. If you’re using organic, then you are using ingredients that have been grown in the very best soil, flourishing without any synthetic pesticides, artificial chemical fertilisers or herbicides.
Our benchmark was always skincare that was safe enough to use on babies’ skin - that was how sensitive my skin was. We’ve set the bar really high to deliver effective skincare that gives you the certainty that the environment has been respected and not stripped of its integrity and biodiversity. That’s the holistic life that Sarah and I lead, and it makes sense that it’s fed into our natural and organic skincare too.
Curiosity is a key driving force for any entrepreneur and is also a core theme at The Female Lead. Have you always had that initiative to learn more?
I studied Geography at university because I was curious about the world around us. I think it's why I worked abroad; it’s so interesting to experience the many different ways you can live your life.
A life-long love of learning has helped to give me a greater sense of perspective and maybe that’s helped with some of the decisions we have made at BY SARAH. I believe it’s great to keep your skill set as broad as you can for as long as you can. Keep a curious mind.
What do you like most about what you do? What gets you up in the morning?
It’s just so exciting, every day is genuinely so different. I had an email in my inbox this morning from a potential client in the US and I think for me, having travelled a lot, to see the global reach and potential of the brand, to empower people to make conscious choices in their skincare that not only benefits them but the environment too, is so thrilling.
Who is your role model?
Someone Sarah and I highly respect and look up to is Jo Malone. We were lucky enough to meet Jo Malone at a female networking event several years ago. Given how incredibly successful she is and how much she has accomplished, she was so down to earth, approachable and giving, we just naturally warmed to her. And one of Sarah’s first jobs was working in Jo Malone in London, so to meet her was amazing.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis to keep motivated and inspired?
Feeding your mind with motivational thoughts is so powerful. I find inspirational quotes and pin them up on my board, write them in my journal or share them with my friends on What’sApp – always surrounding myself with words of wisdom – hoping they filter into my subconscious! One of my favourite quotes is from Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive - “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favour - Rumi”.
What’s next for BY SARAH?
We’re really excited to keep growing the brand and helping people make the switch to natural and organic skincare. We dream of BY SARAH being the destination for all your skincare, lifestyle and wellness needs! With the amazing customers and followers we’ve connected with over the past few months, we’re excited to build on this momentum. Watch this space!
You can learn more about BY SARAH by visiting their website.
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