melanie lawson | bare biology

Health supplements company Bare Biology was started up by Melanie Lawson in 2013. The brand’s story began when Melanie couldn’t find a decent omega 3 supplement for her family, so decided to create her own – despite her non-scientific background. The leap more than paid off, though, as the company celebrated its fifth birthday last month. We caught up with the entrepreneur to quiz her on business and Brighton (of course).

Happy 5th anniversary! So Bare Biology was born because you couldn’t find a pure fish oil that delivered on taste and efficacy on the market?
That’s right. I, like many other people, just thought a fish oil supplement was straightforward and I could buy any brand in Boots and it would be ok. But when I started really getting into fish oil and doing research, I found you have to be super careful with the quality. Partly because otherwise the supplement won’t do much for you, but more worryingly, a poor quality fish oil can be harmful.  You need to look at the actual amount of EPA and DHA on the label (in the small print usually!), what fish it is made from and evidence of purity – either test results or independent certification.

How much did you know about making omega 3 supplements before you started? Was it a very steep learning curve?
I knew absolutely nothing! I have a background in advertising and marketing and was particularly bad at science at school. However, I did know exactly what I wanted for me and my children from a fish oil, so I just had to find the scientists who could make it for me. It was a super-steep learning curve, and still is to be honest. It’s a bit like parenting, running a business – you think you’ve got one thing licked and then along comes another challenge you know nothing about.

But you still managed to get stocked in Liberty quite early on – how did you do that and was that the turning point for your business growth?
I’m not sure if they still do it [they do!], but Liberty used to hold an annual ‘Best of British Open Call’ where any British brand could turn up on a given day, queue up and then get four minutes to pitch to the relevant buyer.  So that’s what I did and, to my supreme joy, they said ‘yes’ halfway through my pitch and, a few months later, I was stocked in there (and still am).  That was four years ago now.  It really was a turning point, as it opened up many other retailer doors and it was easier to get journalists interested in trying the product.

What tips would you give to someone starting out in business today?
Really do your research on your market – your competitors, the kind of people that would buy your product and, if you’re going into retail, you need to spend time in those retailers to get to know them. Trust your instincts and trust in your ability to do it.  Anyone can start a business, you just need to believe you can do it. And just get started, don’t procrastinate or strive for perfection from day one.  Get going and learn as you go.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could do it all over again?
I would read up on production and logistics a bit more.  I’ve learned many things (and still am learning!) the hard way when it comes to the production of our products. We’ve never had any major disasters, but we’ve had instances where we’re out of stock or our bottles have leaked.

Why just omega 3, rather than omega 3, 6 and 9?
We already get a huge amount of Omega 6 in our diet.  In fact, we get too much, as it’s in most processed foods and in vegetable oils. Omega 9 is a good one, but most of us eat a lot of olive oil where you find it so it’s very rare you’d need to take a supplement. Omega 3 is the one we don’t get. How many people do you know who eat sardines or mackerel regularly?  Farmed salmon has much lower levels of Omega 3 than it used to, so it’s not always enough to get what we need.

Have you managed to get rid of the fishy taste that so many other brands are plagued by? What’s your secret?!
It’s down to the freshness of the oil and the purity. Our fish oil costs more because the quality is so high. It’s a painstaking process and it takes time, effort and a lot of expert scientists. We’re then super-careful when we bottle and encapsulate it, making sure it has very limited exposure to oxygen which can make it go fishy as essentially it oxidises.

I understand you’re working on getting your packaging to 100% plastic-free – what do you plan to use instead?
We have switched all of our bottles to glass. Our liquids have always been in glass, but we’ve also put our capsules in glass now, too. We still have plastic lids for our liquids, but are on the hunt for aluminium.  All of the rest of our packaging is paper, and we use a vegetable coating on our boxes so they’re recyclable.

Do you have any plans to offer omega 3 supplements for those who don’t eat fish?
Yes, I’m in the process of finding a vegan product that matches our quality criteria.

That’s great! Let’s talk about our city now – whereabouts in Brighton/Hove are you based and what do you like about the area?
Bare Biology is based in the North Laines. Lots of shops, cafes, restaurants and energy! It’s great for the younger members of our team, too as you’re right in the thick of it there.

Finally, please tell us about your favourite things to do in the city, any top tips and where you like to eat and drink?
I love sea swimming when I get the chance. Obviously I love walking along the seafront, who doesn’t? And I really like Cin Cin, Etch and Chilli Pickle for eating, Dukes at Komedia for cinema and the North Laines for gift shopping.