Next time you’re flying off on your way to sunnier climes, keep an eye on the duty free. You might just see your favourite tanning brand there.
ALYSON HOGG - FOUNDER & CEO
Founder and CEO of Vita Liberata, Alyson Hogg, has enjoyed a professional life that spans broadcasting, academia, hospitality and politics – having held the position of Communications Director of the Women’s Coalition in Northern Ireland during the peace process. With a first class honours degree in the Philosophy of Psychology Alyson has a unique insight into what makes people tick and what it takes to create a brand from nothing and turn it into a global player.
Alyson established Vita Liberata in 2003, and since then she has been the inspiration behind the brand’s phenomenal success with retail sales doubling year on year across the UK and Ireland. Vita Liberata is also expanding globally, having secured an exclusive distribution contract with Sephora, launching across Europe in March 2012. Negotiations are in place with US retailers and distribution into the professional sector is well under way.
In the course of developing the range Alyson has become one of the most authoritative voices in the industry, taking an entirely new approach to the whole business of self tanning:
“The majority of tanning solutions on the market today are not without their downfalls: often the formulas smell, leave streaks, dry out the skin and leave users looking orange! We wanted to address these issues and once and for all change the public’s expectations and presumptions towards self-tanning. We wanted to create a tanning experience that was actually pleasant, and for once gave natural looking results that were kind to the skin. I ultimately believe there are two essential elements involved in achieving this: revolutionary skin chemistry, and a woman’s touch! It takes the combination of a great chemist and someone who uses and cares passionately about the end product.”
“To see people smile when they use the product is the real reward. I come from a country where people can be very pale indeed and where skies can be dramatic but rather grey. When people use this product they are reminded of that holiday feeling, glowing healthy skin, blue skies and sunshine! Those feelings are not interrupted by nasty smells, sticky skin and streaky results. It’s literally what Vita Liberata stands for – Free Life!”
Alyson’s passion and determination has afforded her an impressive knowledge of the industry, and tanning solutions in particular. For example, she can explain to you why being hungover or hormone levels will mean certain areas of your body (e.g. around your kidneys) will not absorb DHA very well, no matter how thoroughly you apply.
She is undoubtedly a ‘hands on’ CEO, and regularly tans VIPs when she can. When the brand was selected as the backstage tanner for the X Factor in 2010, it was Alyson who was travelling to and from Belfast on a weekly basis to give the contestants – including Matt Cardle – their tan fix, and clearly made an impression as Matt Cardle still has regular tans to this very day!
THE EARLY DAYS
Alyson’s vision for Vita Liberata came about from a desire to produce products that ‘actually work’. Sick and tired of buying products that promised the world and achieved very little, in 2003 she set about finding a chemist to work with to produce a line of ‘simple, but clever’ skincare products for women on the go. This was followed by a line of colour cosmetics, and using her experience in both of the former, moved on to develop the tinted self tanning range that has helped make the Vita Liberata brand a powerful player in the tanning industry.
In 2007, having signed a sizeable contract for UK-wide distribution with Boots, Alyson chose to focus the business solely on the tanning products, as they were outselling the other ranges and she saw potential to expand from tinted products to produce untinted products, gradual tanners, and spray tan solutions.
THE BUSINESS GROWTH
Vita Liberata achieved UK retail sales of over £5m during 2011, almost ten times that achieved in 2007. The brand was the third best-selling tanning brand in Debenhams last year, and is expanding its distribution with existing retail customers Boots, House of Fraser and ASOS, not to mention with the increasing number of independent salons that are turning to Vita Liberata on a daily basis as demand for quality tanning solutions grows.
2011 was also the year that saw Vita Liberata snapped up by European retail giants Sephora to take pride of place as an ‘exclusive’ self tanning brand, which will see the brand available in over 600 stores across Europe from March 2012. With US and Australian distribution contracts currently in negotiation for 2012, it’s looking like a world apart from the day she signed her first wholesale customer, a tiny Ulster beauty salon located above a chip shop in a village in the Mourne Mountains!
THE BRAND TODAY
Having started off with just one tinted gel (Rich Silken Chocolate), still in existence today, the brand now offers fourteen different at-home products that come in a variety of shades, in untinted and tinted formulas and in gels and mousses. The brand has also developed two different types of spray tan, the Original (tinted) and the Invisi-Tan (one of the only clear spray tans on the market), both of which are available in three different depths, to suit all skin types.
Alyson has worked hard with a dedicated team in the laboratory to ensure that the formulas are the best on the market. For 2012, the brand’s formulas are 80% organic, dermatologically tested, free from odour and packed with a new, super-nourishing moisture complex called Pentavitin, which ensures an even application and a perfect, non-patchy fade every time. All of the formulas are free from parabens, alcohol and perfume, and instead are bursting with organic, natural extracts such as Melon, Grape, Pomegranate, Gingko Biloba and silk proteins, which means the skin is pampered at the same time as being bronzed.
Because of the ‘clever’ ingredients that work alongside the active tanning ingredient (DHA) in the Vita Liberata formulas, the tans work with the natural skin tone, and are so versatile that they have won the favour of pale skinned celebrities like Erin O’Connor, as well as darker skinned beauties such as Alexandra Burke, Sinitta and Rebecca Ferguson. Not only that, but the brand is swiftly racking up a enviable list of male celebrities who are fans of the brand because of its unbeatable ‘natural’ appearance, including Olly Murs, Matt Cardle, Ollie Locke, Fredrik Ferrier and David Hasselhoff to name a few.
On the tanning industry, Alyson says “we’re determined to change the way people think about self-tanning. People are still wary of the tanning industry and the first words that spring to mind are ‘orange’ and ‘fake’. We do want people of all ages and with all variety of skin tones to see our products as the healthiest, most natural way to achieve a perfect ‘glow’. It’s not all about rocking the ‘I’ve just been dipped in Ronseal’ look!”
When questioned about entrepreneurship, Hogg’s ethos is to be as hands-on as possible and she has maintained a level head throughout her professional life, claiming, “in business you can’t take anything for granted – you have to interrogate, investigate and dig deep but most of all you have to be totally flexible, move with the trends and be completely in charge of what you’re doing and where you’re going. You must get ahead of the game!”
Alyson Hogg is available for interview and comments on the beauty industry, celebrity style, tanning tips and entrepreneurship.
Please contact Yolanda Cooper on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview.