One day in the 1980s, 23-year-old Terri Vinson found herself teaching an after hours class to Year 12 students on grooming and how to take care of their skin.
The newly minted senior biology teacher had just graduated from her science degree and DipEd and was eager to share her passion for skincare with her female students at a private girls college in Melbourne.
“I’ve always wanted to make people feel good about themselves from the inside,” Terri tells Women’s Agenda over the phone. It’s a Monday afternoon, and the entrepreneur of the successful skincare brand Synergie Skin® is opening up to me about how it all began.
“I had a few issues at school,” she says. “I was not as confident in myself as a school girl and I was a bit of a nerd.”
Vinson taught for a couple of years before letting her true passion guide her towards a career in cosmetic chemistry.
“I’ve always had a real passion for the beauty industry, and was frustrated that nothing I could find really worked on my skin or had the scientific evidence to back it.”
After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Immunology and Microbiology, Vinson began formulating her own products, which she would eventually sell through a boutique clinic in Camberwell Melbourne. The clinic was called Skinformation, and that’s also the title of her new book, paying homage to where it all began.
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It’s happened – the very first shipment of my book has arrived! I guess I’m a published author now! Writing my book has just been such a wonderful experience. Skinformation has been parked in my head for years and it’s great to have finally put pen to paper. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to all those who have supported me while I weave all I’ve learned into this skin bible. Skinformation will be officially released on 1 November and I am so proud to share this achievement with my team, family and friends, and everyone in my wider circle who has believed in me, so I could bring this to life.
It wasn’t long after she started, that Vinson realised she could make women and men feel more confident about themselves, and that would be her life’s intention.
“I realised that if I couldn’t find it, I could make it,” she says.
“I was always curious, and curiosity is important. I loved educating people about the skin, and about how my products would work on them. When I’m talking with customers, it’s often not just about the products. Rather, it’s about explaining to people what is being put on their skin and how it works. I’m not blinding them with science they can’t understand. I want to always be relatable and I want them to make their own informed choices.”
When Terri began creating her own line of products she was determined they not only be efficacious but ethical; evidence-based clean science and no animal testing was the foundation. In fact, in an interview with Business Chicks last year, Vinson said she coined the term ‘clean science’ as the guiding principle behind everything she’d ever do.
“Becoming certified cruelty free (CCF) and creating ethical, sustainable products is a major element of my core values,” she says. “My products are made to do good in the world beyond the consumer.”
Fighting perfectionism in business
While Terri’s brand is a globally successful one today, the business leader is transparent about the challenges faced in the early stages of selling her product. Letting go of control and delegating responsibilities was something she worked hard at.
“Relinquishing creative and administrative control has been a steep learning curve for me,” she discloses in her book.
“Over the past five years I have watched my business grow exponentially – larger than I’d ever imagined – yet the thought of letting go and allowing others to take on tasks filled me with anxiety in the early days.”
“I knew I had to build a team that would perfectly compliment areas that weren’t in my sphere of expertise – of which there are many! Now, I am able to entirely step back, delegate and allow my team to shine in their roles.”
She emphasises the importance of fighting perfectionism and trusting in your team as an entrepreneur.
“You cannot grow unless you are prepared to delegate,” she stresses. “You must understand that there are people who are smarter than you or you’ll never grow and develop.”
But while delegation was key to growth, Vinson was inevitably charged with wearing “many hats” (as she puts it) at the beginning of her business journey.
“Apart from being the formulator, I was also the trainer, the accountant, the graphic designer, the sales rep and the CEO,” she explains.
“I started formulating my range after I opened my clinic and also began promoting my range to medispas, salons and medical skin clinics around Australia. Selling was not my areas of expertise but I always tried to walk in my customer’s shoes so I could truly connect with them.”
Having owned her own clinic before building a skincare line, Vinson felt she understood the challenges facing salon owners and what would ultimately work for them. There was never a “hard sell” involved, her approach was consultative.
“I built relationships with them and that was fundamental to my business model,” she says.
“Looking at the bottom line has always been secondary to connecting with my customers. When you believe in what you do and commit to those you serve, the money will follow.”
Despite its monumental growth, Vinson runs her company as a 100 percent vertically integrated structure. This means that she has control over every element of the product. From formulating to concept design, product testing, manufacturing, and distribution. It’s all done through her team in Melbourne.
A book empowering people to care for their skin
Terri has accomplished another extraordinary feat, writing and publishing her first book, “Skinformation” A Clean Science Guide to Beautiful Skin” published by Wiley next month.
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Picking a favourite product from my range is almost possible, but I haven’t gone a day without Dermiotic since I created it. Dermiotic tackles the underlying causes of acne, ageing, sun damage and sensitivity rather than just masking them. Backed by clinical research, it is a game-changing substitute for the old fashioned ‘toner’ and a true cosmeceutical skin balancer. The addition of a fermented lysate (probiotic) restores the balance of good and bad bacteria on the skin, relieving and preventing signs of skin inflammation. In fact, all skin conditions including acne, rosacea, allergy, eczema, sensitivity and even ageing, have one thing in common – inflammation. All skin is prone to flare ups and imbalance easily triggered from a change in environment. Dermiotic will calm those symptoms by boosting the skin’s resistance to restore a youthful luminosity.
“There’s been a book in me for at least ten years,” Vinson shares.
“There were so many areas in the world of skincare and beauty I wanted to talk about, and myths I wanted to dispel. I had to have enough content to satisfy men and women of all ages and skin concerns; to reach everybody. And with this book, I have.”
Skinformation covers topics ranging from acne, to skin ageing, pregnancy, cellulite and enlarged pores, providing readers with scientific explanations of these phenomena and explaining which skincare products work and why.
“So many people self-diagnose, get caught up in trends, use products that aren’t suited to their particular skin concern or age and wonder why they don’t see results,” Vinson says.
“This book will teach people, both men and women, to figure out the skincare routine that will work best for their own unique skin challenges.”
“I want readers to finish the book and then to make their own informed decisions”.
Terri’s book is Skinformation: A Clean Science Guide to Beautiful Skin, published by Wiley and available here.