Kate and Bruce Moore-Gordon from Everton developed South Africa’s first organic baby care range in 2006 and, now, you’ll find it in stores from Cape Town to Copenhagen.
We were ahead of the curve, which made it difficult, but being first is good,” says Kate, who left her job as a CA to start her own business in 2006. “Working with a natural biochemist on a diabetic foot cream led me to the decision to develop an organic baby range. The more I found out, the more I realised that natural is the only way to go!
“I wanted to create an attractive and fun skincare brand that was free from potentially harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients. Being the first organic brand at a time when ‘organic’ had little meaning was tough, but we invested a lot in educating our consumers and, now, they are our best ambassadors!”
Bruce and Kate met at university in Pietermaritzburg and have lived in Everton since 2002. They have two young sons – Oliver and Nathan. “Having children makes you more aware of what you expose your family to and being involved in the skincare industry really opens your eyes,” Bruce says.
The average woman is said to use 23 products a day, which exposes her to up to 250 potentially harmful chemicals. “We started Pure Beginnings with the vision to provide South African consumers with safer, healthier products for their babies, children and themselves – keeping their skin as pure as the day they were born,” Kate explains.
There were a lot of hard lessons along the way and plenty of “school fees”, as Bruce says. The original idea for a network sales model (similar to Tupperware) did not take off, so Kate spent a lot of time on the road, getting the products into independent health stores. “That’s a small market, though, and sales soon plateaued.”
“Developing and manufacturing the products is relatively easy compared to getting them into stores and making sales,” Bruce continues. “We worked for over three years to build a relationship with Baby City. When they finally opened their doors to us, it was a big victory for our small family-run business.”
Pure Beginnings’ 30 products are manufactured near Pietermaritzburg using ingredients that are Organic, Cruelty Free and Vegan accredited. Many are fair trade and sourced from Southern Africa, such as marula, rooibos and baobab.
“We almost gave up a few times, but Kate’s dad, Rob Howard, who was a founding shareholder in the business, had faith in the brand and encouraged us to keep going.”
Being stocked in Baby City was a turning point for the business and they saw significant growth in awareness of the brand. “Interestingly, we saw sales increase in the independents too.” Since then, Pure Beginnings has also been taken on at Toys R Us and Dis-Chem, making its products widely available to the mainstream market.
Next up, Kate and Bruce set their sights on the international market. In 2016, the brand became EU compliant (no easy feat) and a warehouse was established in the Netherlands. Pure Beginnings is now successfully exporting to more than 10 countries, including Russia, Scandinavia, Germany, Taiwan and Singapore. “The export market is still relatively small, but we are excited about the potential for growth.”
Over the years, the couple have learnt a huge amount about organic skincare and are constantly researching the latest trends, looking for ways to enhance their product offering. The latest development – a probiotic baby range – has been born from ground-breaking research being done at the Human Microbiome Project in the US, which shows the importance of nurturing the micro-organisms in our gut and on our skin. This is especially helpful for people with sensitive skin.
“The aim was always to have a small, family business and – although the vision has evolved – we are happy to have kept it 100% family owned,” Kate says. “Now that we are known in the market, it’s about maintaining the trust we have earned.”