The beauty of being in business

Client story  \  23 Apr 2021

Wellington woman Sarah Bacon traded her career as an entertainment lawyer to pursue a lifelong passion - creating her own luxury brand of natural skincare. 

Sarah Bacon jokes that she has millennials to thank for her fulfilling business life – given that they’ve normalised the mid-life career change. After many years working as a litigator, Sarah took stock and decided that her destiny lay in a different direction.

“It was an amazing career, and I loved it...but when I turned 40, I reassessed what I wanted to do for the next 20 years. And I wanted to build a business of my own.”

The wife and mother-of-three decided she would follow a long-held passion and turn it into a business.

“I remember on some of my toughest days at work, I’d go down to Mecca Cosmetica or Kirkcaldie & Stains in my lunch-hour and try on skincare…because there’s just something about it that’s joyous.”

And when it came to creating her own brand, Sarah knew exactly what she wanted. It had to be natural and ethical, and high-performing, but also have a sense of glamour.

Upon leaving her law job, Sarah did an MBA and set about researching her product from the kitchen table. She tested her beta product – a rejuvenating facial oil – on family and friends. Once she was happy with the basic formula, which included her signature jasmine scent, it was time to bring in the skincare chemists and find a manufacturer.

Fast-forward to today, and the Velettà skincare brand is a suite of luxury products, which are also 100% natural, vegan, cruelty-free, and halal-certified.

“I wanted Velettà to be an inclusive brand,” says Sarah. “Very few skincare brands are actually halal-certified, which is a point of difference for us. The halal market is huge globally, and the Middle East has been in my plan from the outset.”

Another distinctive feature of Velettà skincare, which proudly carries the FernMark, is that it contains ethically sourced indigenous ingredients. Totarol is a natural preservative that’s developed from the heart of Tōtara trees; while Mānuka oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The name Velettà (which translates as ‘veil’ in Italian) also has a fortuitous story behind it. Sarah was originally using another name – before she discovered there was an existing user of the name in Canada. Her original application for a trade mark was also denied due to not being sufficiently unique.

“My manufacturer was poised to start making my bottles and jars on Monday morning with this other name…and I literally had the weekend to come up with an alternative. The name Velettà was available as a trade mark, and I thought the word itself looked pretty. My designer re-worked the design, and everything turned out perfectly.”

The brand was launched in New Zealand around the middle of 2018; and with an eye on her future export markets, Sarah then approached AJ Park for help.

From left to right: Ben Williams, Associate at AJ Park, Sarah Bacon, Velettà creator and co-founder, and Penny Catley, Principal of AJ Park at Te Papa Store in Wellington (Photo credit: Grant Maiden)

According to AJ Park principal Penny Catley, Sarah quickly covered a lot of ground in gaining her international trade marks.

Sarah’s business has expanded quickly; and in just over a year we’ve obtained some form of trade mark protection across five markets – New Zealand, China, Australia, the USA and India. As her business expands further, we will look to extend protection to other countries.

As a lawyer herself, Sarah is the first to acknowledge the value of getting specialist advice.

“I used to do a little bit of IP law when I was in practice, but I wouldn’t have the first clue about how to start applying for a trade mark in the US. And things can go wrong very easily if you don’t know what you’re doing. One of the things I’ve learned in life is that it’s never cost-effective to attempt to do things you’re not an expert in.”

Importantly, AJ Park has local associates on the ground in each market, who can resolve many issues that arise. For instance, in China, the public trade marking body mis-read the ‘v’ in Velettà and recorded the mark on the register as being ‘Uletta’.

“Something like that would have been very difficult to navigate myself,” says Sarah. “But AJ Park got in touch with their local agents and it was very quickly sorted out.”

Similarly, when filing an application in India, AJ Park associate Ben Williams discovered there was an existing trade mark that had been applied for covering similar goods. “With the help of our Indian associate, we have filed arguments that Sarah’s company is the genuine owner of the mark by virtue of earlier registration of her trade mark in New Zealand."

Sarah is a firm believer in the value of trade marking. As well as being a tangible asset that adds value to the business, she believes it helps to pave the way when securing distributors and export channel partners.

For other business owners yet to go down the trade mark path, Sarah’s advice is that “it’s nothing to be afraid of.”

"It’s not as expensive or difficult as you might think…and it’s a really important asset for your business. For a relatively small outlay, you have a tangible asset that gives legitimacy and maturity to your brand."

Written by: Libby Schultz