A complaint bears fruit for Human+Kind
Rene van Willigen was sitting at home one holiday listening to a conversation between his wife and sister when he came up with a business idea.
As the women complained about the number of skin-care creams they owned and that most of them contained chemicals, the serial entrepreneur thought about how production could be done differently.
"I started right away," says Mr van Willigen, 67, from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. "I researched and researched until I found all the right materials, all the right ingredients."
After working on the project on his own for about six months, he started searching for a marketing specialist to help with launching the brand. He had heard of a marketing specialist called Jeroen Proos, who had a good reputation, but Mr Willigen had only the specialist's mother-in-law's phone number. So he called, and five minutes later Mr Proos was on the line.
"We only lived about three miles from each other, and he was Dutch as well," says Mr van Willigen, who specialises in setting up and running small companies. "It was pure coincidence.
"We had a meeting and it clicked. We had the same ideas about running a company and working with natural products."
And that is how the Dutchmen, who were both living in Cork in Ireland at the time, set up a company called Human+Kind, which they later launched in Dubai.
As the number of people in the Emirates who buy beauty products continues to grow, so too does the pool of companies offering products in this market. Sales in the local skin-care sector are expected to increase at an average rate of 5 per cent annually through 2015, when they are projected to be worth more than Dh500 million (US$136m), according to data released in January by the research company Euromonitor International.
Mr Proos, who moved to Ireland three and a half years ago, says Human+Kind started researching a little more than two years ago, "because you can imagine that developing and researching all the products and getting the Irish Medicines Board's approval, etc, took a long time". Ten months ago, the Human+Kind brand was officially launched in Dubai, which next month will host Beautyworld Middle East, one of the biggest trade fairs in the world.
"You find a lot of distributors from all over the world that could purchase our products," says Mr Proos, 39, who is originally from Goes in the Netherlands.
Human+Kind has four products: an all-in-one eye, wrinkle and anti-ageing cream; a day-and-night cream; an all-in-one body oil; and an all-in-one family remedy cream that can be used to treat skin irritations such as sunburn. The company employs just 10 people in Irelandand also sells its products in the Netherlands, Singapore and Malaysia.
Internationally, Human+Kind's ambitions have received a significant boost from Enterprise Ireland, which promotes Irish exports.
"In Japan there are 10 distributors we can talk to [through Enterprise Ireland], so from that point of view it is very helpful. They are basically an extension of your office all over the world," says Mr Proos.
In the UAE, the company also received the support of the Irish Embassy - something Ciarán Madden, the ambassador, says he was happy to do, as Human+Kind is building on Ireland's reputation in the life sciences area, whose annual exports are worth some €40 billion (Dh196.38bn).
"We work closely with the state agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland, to ensure that the companies we work with are among the best in their field, have a good product and a good record, and are committed to the region," says Mr Madden. "The hard work is done by the companies themselves. However, if lending the backing of the embassy can help them in that, we are happy to do so."
Published: April 3, 2012 04:00 AM