Mareike Peters turned her passion for beauty into a business. She began as an editor at a magazine writing about skincare and design, which she soon shared on her Instagram account. That became so popular that she was driven to start her own skin care business NKM instead of just writing about it.
Today her first store in Munich shows a wide range of products that fully reflects the actual Zeitgeist. Natur Kosmetic is the trend of the moment and she turned this into a profitable business. We visited her for a chat.
IRMA: You started as a (beauty) editor with a hobby of creating and mixing your own beauty products, how did these skills evolve into a profitable business?
MAREIKE PETERS: I always wondered how I can create skincare as a job, as it is not only my biggest passion but also something I can’t stop talking about. While marketing mostly highlights the surface and not the whole formulation structure itself, and product development contains mainly lab time without contact to customers I had to find something inbetween. Whatsoever, I felt like journalism could be my way to go. I thought of developing my own style of writing, in a very technical and recipe-driven way and I started an IG account to share my experience. That is how it started.
When I made the step to be an editor for interior and design, the first thing I created was an Instagram account: initially only to talk about the beauty industry, my thoughts on market developments and how to make your own skincare at home. After a few months, my Instagram account gained so many followers that when the opportunity presented itself to switch to beauty journalism, I abandoned that career path and focused full-time on NKM. Soon the readers asked if they can buy my creations and recipes, and so everything took its course.
IRMA: You just opened your first flagship store in Munich. What do you learn from you customers?
MAREIKE PETERS: For me, the biggest advantage of our atelier in Munich is that my creative space is open and visible for visitors. This is the place where the creation process happens and where I develop new recipes for my brand. While formulating a new product I can talk face-to-face to my target audience, share ideas and integrate feedback all at once. The customers feel needed and heard but most importantly they can see their given feedback blossom. This form of co-creation was only possible online before, as product development and flagship store usually aren’t at the same place.
IRMA: Why do you think a brick & morter store is also important when having a successful online brand?
MAREIKE PETERS: 80% of our website sessions this year were made through a mobile device. And if we assume these numbers are similar for all online-based start-ups, most of us only exist in this parallel social media world on our phones. The customers usually see us nowhere else than on a screen.
In our atelier people can experience our products and concept and also meet some of the protagonists they see every day on Instagram. This offline dependence really makes our brand real and credible, something people can see and visit. If, hopefully, the people feel the vibe and the characters are just as they are pictured through social media, they transfer the trust and credibility onto all aspects of the business.
And surely, as a skincare brand we know, people like to touch, smell and experience the products in their intended surrounding.
IRMA: How do you create new products, where do you get your inspiration from and how do you think will NKM develop in the future?
MAREIKE PETERS: Most of my products were a consumer need at some point. People come to me with product ideas all the time. I monitor the frequency of those ideas, and when inspiration comes, I collect these brief feelings and ideas in a notebook: for example a suitable ingredient, when I have a feeling for a formulation design, when I think I know what the theme will be and how everything will be packed and shipped.
Once the density of the idea collection phase feels satisfied I start with writing a recipe. I start by creating the product and meanwhile write down every step so I can recreate and duplicate every recipe I ever did. When I am finished mixing the product, I make comments on my observations and what I’d like to do differently next time, maybe what I’d like to change in the recipe. This process happens multiple times and over the course of many months, until I am happy with the result.
IRMA: Tell us a bit more about your store, it is designed by the architect Anne Schädlich and built by Sebastian Besler, how did this collaboration happen?
MAREIKE PETERS: I communicate many of NKM’s achievements and happenings online, as well as some problems and tasks we don’t yet know the answer to. And when I told my followers on Instagram I rented a store at Müllerstraße, with a beautiful 4 m ceiling in an old listed house and that I plan to fill it with fleamarket furniture for a cozy vibe, Anne called that very second. She and her partner are renowned architects and were following my journey on Instagram. She could not bear the thought of not treat the room with the attention it deserves. People on Instagram sometimes forget their followers have professions and specialties too. And as Anne already knew my values, what NKM stands for and what feeling the store should project. So working together was fun and the result was better than I ever hoped for.
IRMA:Your packaging and brand design has an international appeal and makes natural skin care looks sophisticated and elegant, what is the concept behind that strategy?
MAREIKE PETERS: Thank you so much! The branding is made by the design agency “KHOR”, which is founded by the sister of a friend. The connection we have on a personal level helps to transfer the motivation behind our actions into an open, unisex and friendly design language. I believe if you not just work as business partners, but as friends and equals, the results are so much better.
Our intension is to look different than usual natural cosmetics brands, while still looking plant based and local. And we avoid plastics and single-use-products along the way!
IRMA: Your instagram account is a learning and doing platform for everyone interested in NK , I think sharing your experience and knowledge with your followers is key for your success. Where are the next steps, I see you also have DIY sets available in your store.
MAREIKE PETERS: We are now building a cross-channel learning platform for our community, with videos, lectures and texts to build up their skincare knowledge and with that their confidence to rethink their skincare routine and try out their own recipe designs. We differ between simpler, easy-to-do recipes with fewer ingredients which we share free of charge, and the heavily tested, complex formulations which are effect-driven. We hope to fulfill every dream of our customers. The products can also be purchased ready-made, while we still suggest to, at least once, mix them yourself. So you can learn why the ingredients were chosen and how the product works.
IRMA: Tell us a bit about where you are getting your supplies and how they are manufactured before they are send out into the world?
MAREIKE PETERS: We are currently building a network of german farmers who produce fresh ingredients for us. We have two possibilities: we either find or support farmers who produce the plants we already use or find a farmer we want to support who has new local plant material to develop a product around that new ingredients. We do not look for certifications as especially small family-owned businesses often can’t afford the certification and lack the resources for the paperwork. Instead we look for farmers who produce for pharmaceutic purposes. We keep a close relationship, visit the plants and the farmers and do not restrict them to exclusivity, so they can build their own customer base.
In the next step the ingredients/plant materials are brought to our manufacturer east of Munich, where they produce our NKM skincare, partly by hand.
IRMA: What is your advise for everyone who wants to change his/ her skin care routine into complete natural skin care, including also hair and body.
MAREIKE PETERS: What I see is that the biggest change needs to happen in the mind. The main part of our skincare is to support the natural processes of the skin instead of replacing them. To treat your skin gently, kindly and lovingly instead of over-treating it with peelings and scrubs is the key. The adaptation phase from commercial to natural skincare can take up to 6 weeks where the skin can break out or be itchy, so it is important to be patient! This phase is important to adapt and to make the best out of your new routine. You will be rewarded with healthy skin and an all-in-all clean conscious.
IRMA: Your tipp for ultimate radiant skin , also to use when on the go ( not at home in your bathroom)
MAREIKE PETERS: Drybrushing is an ultimate tool when it comes to prevent loss of elasticity and promote cell turnover. I usually brush my whole body twice a day for two minutes. Studies show that drybrushing regularily makes a significant difference in the appearance of the skin long-term. On the go I make sure to carry three things with me at all times: a rose water spray (sometimes with added hyaluronic acid) for hydration as it is the number one factor for premature aging, a plum butter for under the eyes and a restorative body cream (e.g. Rosen-Mandel-Creme) to prevent scarring in case I get small scratches.
IRMA: Can you tell us one example why NK is healthier for your system than regular skin care?
MAREIKE PETERS: First of all, why should we produce ingredients in a lab if nature provides us with material that has an effect on the human body anyways? For me it seems like being in sync with the rhythm of the world, and to take part in the ecosystem earth, as humans and nature always have had a close bond, that we may have lost it a little in the 21st century.
After all, I can clearly tell from the ingredient list, for example sunflower seed oil: it is always sunflower seed oil. Plastics however, silicones and parabens have many names. And traditional INCI-lists get so complex with wordings at times, so “bad” ingredients can be easily hidden.
To pick up my argument from above – the typical formulation design of cosmetics differs as such, that natural cosmetics typically tries to support the skin where else commercial cosmetics often tries to replace the natural functions of the skin.
Last but not least: If I manufacture the skincare I use myself, which is what NKM stands for, I can decide week for week and day to day what my skin needs, how my skin feels and what ingredients can support my skin in the best way, right at this very moment.