Stefanie Bournazos and Olivia Koennecke of CILK Beauty: “Put your customer at the core of your business”

Put your customer at the core of your business. Listen to them. Engage with them. Bring value to them. Be a credible, go-to source of quality information that they can trust every time. As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had […]

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Put your customer at the core of your business. Listen to them. Engage with them. Bring value to them. Be a credible, go-to source of quality information that they can trust every time.

As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stefanie Bournazos and Olivia Koennecke.

Olivia Koennecke and Stefanie Bournazos are the co-directors of CILK Beauty, a 100% women-led brand based in Sydney, Australia.

Olivia and Stefanie met while working in Australia’s fashion and beauty industry; Olivia working in PR and Stefanie working in beauty media. Stefanie’s interest in beauty stems from growing up with an aesthetician mother and later working in the Australian beauty industry, while Olivia’s insistence for and interest in high-quality beauty and wellness products began when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Consistently searching for the best wellness and beauty products in the market globally, Olivia and Stefanie teamed up to create a modern nutricosmetics brand with a focus on sustainability and design, relaunching Cilk Beauty in the Australian market in late 2020. The brand launched into the US market in June 2021.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

We have both always had a passion for beauty and wellness.

Stefanie’s interest in beauty stems from growing up with an aesthetician mother and later working in the Australian beauty industry, while Olivia’s insistence for and interest in high-quality beauty and wellness products began when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

As consumers ourselves, we understand that wellness and beauty can be complicated — but we know it doesn’t have to be. After looking for products on the market that were simple and uncomplicated, we began to develop our own line that fit what we were looking for. So we set out to develop a brand and line of products that champion natural ingredients with the highest efficacy that support and enhance your body from the inside out. We take a holistic approach to beauty and wellness and believe that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It’s been a wild ride! However, starting CILK Beauty has been by far the most complex and rewarding thing we have done. Learning different facets of running a company while still being agile, adaptable, and innovative and receiving feedback from our customers from all over the globe, having truly wonderful experiences with our products, and feeling a difference is our why. We feel so grateful for our sincere and top-rating reviews, and it only makes us more passionate and more excited to develop products that work hard for our community.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

We have always had our customers and community at our core.

We are consumers ourselves, and we would love to be heard; what we are/ are not looking for. As soon as you listen to your community is when you will start to see a higher engagement. We don’t focus on being ‘the biggest’ — we want our community to resonate, feel inspired, and feel heard.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

We are fortunate enough to have a strong mentor and support network. People and teams we can look to and learn from.

Above all, we are most grateful for each other. We met while contracting at a Sydney-based PR agency, where we immediately connected over the desire to do more.

We really didn’t know each other all that well, but we shared the same aspirations, the same drive, and most of all, we wanted to be doing more and helping other women navigate through such an overwhelming market.

We only knew one another for two weeks before we started our first successful business together, where we had to register an ABN overnight and begin working on client work the next day!

We have been inseparable since. We encourage each other in both our professional lives as well as personal. We have been each other’s soundboards and really understand how one another works and how to get the best out of each other.

We started CILK Beauty from different places but with the same passion for innovation, creativity, and problem-solving in the beauty and lifestyle space. That has become our mission and has guided us in all decisions we make. As a result, we’ve grown so much as people and as businesswomen: learning to communicate better, run teams, collaborate and compromise with each other on a deeper level, which is easier said than done when you’re working off of different time zones, deadlines, and sometimes minimal sleep!

It takes a real level of trust to balance a give-and-take on big decisions when both were so passionate about CILK. For example, if we disagree on an idea, but one of us is super passionate or sure about something, then we’ll agree to test it, or maybe even go with the idea altogether.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?

Before we began developing our Daily Radiance Collagen Powder, we were both bride’s-to-be, researching and looking for quality products on the market that worked, were not confusing in their messaging, and that also felt like a premium product through their packaging and branding. It was after some time (and many products brought into our office and trialed!) that we were not satisfied. So much so that we started deep-diving into the world of Collagen, speaking with aestheticians and building on our already extensive knowledge from working within the beauty industry for many years. We set out to develop a brand and product that we know met the following criteria:

  1. Potency: Our unique formula uses premium, rich sources of type A & C Collagen with active proprietary enzymes to boost bioavailability and uptake by the body. Daily Radiance is up to 3x stronger than competitor brands on the market and 1.5x more absorbable by the body: requiring less action from the consumer and making CILK Daily Radiance Collagen the most affordable and results-driven per serve.
  2. Sustainability: Our commitment to sustainability touches all channels of our business. CILK™’s supply chain is certified sustainable and chosen with respect for not only the environment but the humans involved in the process of creating and moving our products into the hands of customers.
  3. Premium: Something beautifully packaged and branded that aligned with other brands in our beauty cabinet, that felt special, luxurious, and premium

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

  1. Community to commerce. Each business has a unique community. Individuals tap into specific brands because they like what they see, but more importantly, what they read and what the brand is about. It’s great to see that brands are listening to their audiences and giving them a) what they want and are asking for, as well as b) what they are engaging in most/showing a specific liking to. The way of the future is connecting deeply with your audience through communication and data.
  2. We see more modern beauty brands showing women and men that there is no such thing as perfection, which is a vast difference from what beauty conglomerates from the past, and so too some are known to express to this day. We love that there is more of an emphasis on self-care, a holistic approach to wellness, and the overall positivity campaigned throughout the industry.
  3. Brands are now leading with science and education. In the past, beauty brands have always marketed products promising to fix or solve every problem imaginable. Still, now shoppers are much savvier and are on the quest for those brands that have the science or the evidence to prove it. It’s exciting as this is weeding out the purely sensational brands and giving rise to the brands with research, science, and history at its core.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?

There have been some great initiatives in the beauty industry over the past few years, and although there’s work to be done, we have two in particular:

  1. Regulation in claims for brands: it’s confusing enough for the customer as it is, and with many brands claiming their products can support specific beauty goals but actually fall short. Part of the reason we started CILK Beauty was because of the fragmented, confusing space in the beauty ingestible industry.
  2. Sustainability: brands using less single-use plastic in their packaging, e-commerce shipments, and PR samples

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? What makes us feel beautiful can be completely different to what may make someone else feel the same way.

To us, being consistent with yourself, treating your body with respect, and educating yourself on anything that you read in mainstream media is empowering. When we feel empowered, we put less of an emphasis on wanting to ‘feel beautiful’ but feeling confident in the skin you’re in as well as your choices and actions as a person.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

  1. Take the time to build a team of experts in their own fields. It is silly to think that you can do it all on your own. We are so grateful and proud of team CILK Beauty and have handpicked each and every one of them based on their specific skill sets, knowledge, and passion. Our team has proven its worth to us through the increase in engagement, sales, SEO (etc.)
  2. You must be inclusive — gender, ethnicity, shape, size, location. There are to be no boundaries. As a modern beauty brand, we have a responsibility to speak and affect change.
  3. It starts at the source. Self-awareness and integrity are core to CILK Beauty, and as a small company, we know that even the smallest decisions can have a big impact on our customers and the environment. We do our best to minimize our waste and carbon footprint and partner with only the best manufacturers and certified socially compliant factories that prioritize premium, ethically sourced materials and ingredients.
  4. Be educated and educate your community. So long are the days where brands can just throw around any statement without being questioned by the industry as well as customers. Individuals are now smarter, and you need to be able to lead the conversation and bring confidence to your community.
  5. Put your customer at the core of your business. Listen to them. Engage with them. Bring value to them. Be a credible, go-to source of quality information that they can trust every time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

That is very flattering! We’re still a small company, but we have big goals. Our mission is to inspire and educate people on the importance of what you ingest for your skin, nail, and hair health; we want to support your beauty goals from the inside out — it all starts from within!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Stay committed. Stay passionate. Keep your head down, don’t give up, and don’t share news with people until you are READY to launch. You don’t need anyone confusing you with their opinions on something they are not versed in.

You won’t know until you try.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @cilkbeauty



Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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