Fed up of their pale skin, Laura Hawthorne and her mum set up Unreal Sunless- a range of tanning products- while Laura was in her second year of uni. Three years later, the 24 year old’s the PR Executive of Kiddimoto (a childrens' balance bike business) and her “bit on the side” just landed a contract to provide all the fake tan for the set of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film “The Counselor”. Yep Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem are all now using Unreal...
How did Unreal begin?
After trying lots of brands of fake tan and ending up various shades of orange, we wanted to develop something that would suit anyone, whether they’re pale or olive-skinned. Because we started out in the recession, it was funded entirely by savings and took about 18 months to get going as we relied on bloggers, PR and word of mouth- advertising was completely out of our budget! Sending makeup artists and journalists samples sparked enthusiasm, and so the coverage has steadily grown; we did loads of research and found a great team of cosmetic formulators to make sure it was perfect.
Did you have experience in PR before?
I did marketing at uni, which was really useful when it came to marketing Unreal but had no previous experience in PR, so had to pick this up as I went along. It took a rather long time and I worked hard throughout uni, going home fairly frequently and constantly keeping in touch via email. I learnt on the job and am still learning!
Describe your typical day…
At my 9-5, I handle the PR for Kiddimoto as well as exhibitions in the UK and across Europe. The rest of the time, I try and get Unreal into as many publications and websites as possible! I also handled the original brand design, literature, viral ads etc which was a great experience as I got to be really creative.
How do you balance your time now?
It's quite tricky! I usually check all my emails, Tweets etc during my lunch hour and make calls for Unreal then if needs be. I manage to carry out most of my work via email which is useful because it can be done on the go and after 5pm when I finish at Kiddimoto. I often do work at the weekends and arrange to automatically send them on, say, a Monday morning.
Do your Kiddimoto colleagues know about your bit on the side?
My boss is aware of Unreal Sunless, it's part of the reason he offered me my current job! In setting up a business from scratch I had an understanding of the difficulties and constraints facing small/medium sized businesses.
What’s been hardest part of having two jobs?
Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with more emails and work for Unreal when I get home after a day of working for Kiddimoto; I would advise anyone to prepare themselves for a lot of extra, unpaid hours; staring at a computer screen for 16 hours a day can be pretty mind numbing! These projects also take a LONG time to get going and the trick is to view setbacks as a learning curve. The whole experience is a process - no one has ever started up a business without some bumps and difficulties along the way.
Would you ideally like to go full time at Unreal one day?
That's the dream isn't it?! I'm not a huge fan of a strictly structured working life- I like being in charge of my own projects while having room to be creative. What I love about is that it's actually something I believe in. We're not about promoting the "Oompa Loompa" look, but have a deep rooted ethos in education and want to really raise awareness of the hidden dangers of tanning in the sun/using sunbeds.
What’s your number one tip for those looking to set up their own business?
The trick is to get behind something you're really passionate about- you're going to be spending a lot of time talking about it, after all! If you truly have a passion and a belief in what you're doing, that will really translate across to the consumer…