Made Up Careers ~ Sara Quilter
SARA QUILTER ~ Tailor Skincare owner, based in Wellington (29)
She imagined she might one day own a café with some friends, something fun.
It never crossed Sara Quilter’s mind that she would come up with
New Zealand’s first probiotic serum with anti-ageing benefits.
Bottles of New Zealand wine were being carted into Sara’s Wellington store ahead of the launch of her whizzy new skincare product Renew, when we spoke.
“I was quietly obsessing over probiotics since I started out,” the young businesswoman says.
“Last year I came across a cutting edge extract that stimulates the skin’s renewal process. The active
ingredient is the probiotic lysate ‘pro-renew complex’ and the second is grapeseed extract.”
That quote might have gone right over some readers’ heads, but Sara has been busy tapping away at skincare chemistry since she was an early 20-something, fresh from completing a psychology postgrad at Victoria University.
“I was working at the Department of Internal Affairs’ contact centre and I hated it,” she says.
“I said to Dad, ‘I want to do a degree in environmental studies’ and he suggested I go over to the States and stay with his friend Louie who was releasing a new fertilizer onto the market.”
‘Nek minute’ as the Kiwi adage goes, Sara was gaining valuable experience at an organic fertilizer company in Grass Valley, California.
‘Louie’ happened to be a former Wall Street pro-turned environmentalexpert. So not only did Sara get her environmental science education, she also learned firsthand how to build a start-up.
It was in California that Sara’s interest in skincare blossomed. “I began to question everything I was putting into my body and onto my body’s greatest organ, my skin.
“I did some digging into the ingredients in my skincare and didn’t like what I saw. I’m a control freak so then I had to make my own skincare so I could know what’s in it.”
Oily skin and acne were the bane of Sara’s teenage years, causing her to turn to the big brands “who could put anything in a pretty bottle and I wanted it” and prescription antibiotics. She reckons being on strong medication for such a time ruined her gut health, and she’s been doing all she can to repair it since.
Her daily routine is one of a classic health nut – yoga and gym in the morning followed by a homemade juice (carrot, turmeric, lemon and ginger) or smoothie (coconut yogurt, cacao, coconut milk, spinach and banana). She gives her face a quick oil cleanse (the idea being that good oils gently
wash away grime and bad oils without drying the skin like more conventional cleansers can), or cleans it with a hot flannel. She follows that with an application of Tailor Renew and a new moisturiser she and her boyfriend are testing which is due to hit the market in April.
But she does love a “cheeky glass of wine” and a bit of chocolate because “life’s all about experiences”.
Sara’s come a long way from creating the Tailor Masque with a Kenwood cake mixer and rubber spatula in her dad’s garage in New Plymouth.
“I graduated to a concrete mixer. I used to fill jars using a spoon but learned it was much easier to use an icing piper,” she laughs.
Discovering a source of quality bentonite clay - an ancient volcanic ash deposit which detoxes and smooths the skin - in the Hawkes Bay was the catalyst for Tailor Skincare.
Tailor because the products are ‘tailor made’, with Sara and her team only handing over the reins to a Christchurch manufacturer within the last year.
“The formulas were trial and error,” Sara says. “I started with the Masque which was a win, my friends and family bought it but it was hard to find genuine customers at first. That was disheartening.”
Sara almost gave up, with Tailor running at a loss in its first year. Working a 40-hour job on top of building the Tailor brand, the company became profitable just six months later.
Two and a half years in, she was able to quit her job.
Five years from woe to go, Tailor has nine products on the market, employs three full-time staff, two contractors and is the most popular New Zealand natural skincare brand on Instagram.
“We aim ourselves at a younger market, people who are tech savvy who want to look after their skin,” Sara says.
Her website is updated with blogs by herself and guests on such topics as the benefits of eating and wearing probiotics to what it means to live holistically. She’s also partnered with food blogger and clinical nutritionist Danijela Unkovich to create a free e-book on holistic skincare, which is available for download from tailorskin.co.
“A lot of people have issues with breakouts and they come to us when they’ve tried everything and are feeling disheartened and hesitant about trying something new,” Sara says.
“I’ve had some amazing feedback about the Clear Skin Routine or the minis with people saying ‘I feel confident enough to not wear makeup if I don’t want to’. Having customers say that to me just makes it all so worthwhile.”