Making it Work: Modern Botany puts the power of nature at the heart of its skincare range

The sustainable skincare start-up plans to double its headcount and expand into British and EU markets with €3 million funding round

5th August, 2021
Making it Work: Modern Botany puts the power of nature at the heart of its skincare range
John Murray and Simon Jackson, founders of Modern Botany, plan to release 18 new products over the next three years

Modern Botany, the natural skincare company, is planning to close a €3 million funding round by the end of September to allow it expand into the British and European markets.

The company, founded in 2015 by Simon Jackson and John Murray, employs 12 people and sells personal care products with a focus on sustainability and nature. It plans to double its headcount by 2024 as part of an accelerating growth plan.

It currently sells skincare oils, deodorants and diffusers and plans to release 18 new products over the next three years.

Modern Botany retails in Meadows & Byrne, Arnotts and Brown Thomas as well as a number of British stores, but pivoted during the pandemic to an online model which greatly expanded its digital presence, Jackson said.

“Ninety per cent of our sales now are direct to consumer, and just 10 per cent are in physical stores. So we’ve really improved our online presence, which is really exciting, because the margins are much better. But we still recognise that retail plays an important part.”

Jackson, who was born in England, has a PhD in pharmacognosy, the study of plants or other natural sources as a possible source of drugs, and previously founded Dr Jackson’s Natural Products, another skincare firm, in Britain.

Back then, Jackson was focused on creating “high-end luxury” products at the upper reaches of the price scale, but with Modern Botany he and Murray, who married when they came to live in Ireland a number of years ago, have built a brand that aims to get people back in touch with nature.

Having formerly worked in drug discovery for skin cancers, Jackson is a firm believer in the power of authentically grown ingredients.

“People don’t realise, but the World Health Organisation says 70 per cent of all medicines on the planet are actually derived from natural products,” he said.

Bidding to apply that model to skincare, Jackson and Murray have been creating products for six years from crops grown in their home town of Schull, west Cork.

The land in west Cork isn’t known for its fertility, but Jackson said it suited many of the plants used in Modern Botany’s line of products.

“People told us we wouldn’t grow anything here, but a lot of the herbs we use actually like poor soil,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do is very simple – it’s about connecting people with the natural world, and with plants, again.”

The Enterprise Ireland-backed company has enjoyed the fruits of its nature-based approach and is hoping to achieve a turnover of €10 million in the next four years.

“It just took off,” Jackson said of the company’s growth, adding that while Modern Botany is popular among women, it also has fans in unexpected cohorts too. “Even the old farmers in Cork are saying: ‘Your product is amazing – I use it every day.’ And fishermen in the harbour tell us they use it on their hands every morning.”

He said the product has become a “bit of a staple” among both Irish-based people and the country’s sprawling diaspora.

“We’re selling a lot in the US, particularly among the massive Irish community there,” he said.

Now Modern Botany is aiming to capitalise on its momentum and grow internationally. “In the next five years, we want to become a global organisation,” Jackson said.

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