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Business woman at 17

28 June 2017

Rebecca Rusinovic Bahama Belle skincare founder

One night in March, Melbourne schoolgirl Rebecca Rusinovic (above) launched her Bahama Belle skincare site. It was 9pm and she had no idea what would happen. Orders came in within minutes. Surprised by the response and to cope with the demand, the 17-year-old had to up her all-organic sea salt face and body scrub stock order with her Australian manufacturer. (You can join us for a free webinar with Rebecca and her mentor, Nicole Jacobs.)

Bahama Belle is building its following and, depending on what has happened on social media or in traditional media, Rebecca’s orders can fluctuate wildly. It is one of the things in the business that Rebecca finds the most difficult to manage - the chicken-and-egg nature of ‘order and demand’.

How did this 17-year-old entrepreneur begin and what’s kept her going?

The idea for the business kicked off when Rebecca was around 14 years old, and came out of her own – and her peers - unmet skincare needs.

“If you want something other than pimple cream, that’s organic, doesn’t cost too much, is environmentally friendly and targets the skincare needs of girls and young women, there’s not much out there,” Rebecca tells me over the phone during her lunch break at school.

“I swim in chlorine a lot and my mum has always stressed the importance of skincare,” says Rebecca, who noticed that unlike many of her peers she wasn’t experiencing breakouts.

“I needed them to know about what I was doing [cleansing] because that could help them,” she explains of her initial inspiration to research and make a skincare product targeted at her age group.

Following on from that came a beach holiday with a friend and further inspiration: “I remember my friend saying to me: ‘You look fantastic. Don’t you wish you could look this great all the time?’ ”

The comment set Rebecca thinking about what she was doing differently, and how she could replicate it.

Besides the relaxation of being on holidays, the single-largest difference in her daily routine was the ocean, the salt.

“Bringing the beach to everyone, no matter where they live and what they might do, that was the inspiration for Bahama Belle,” she tells me.

Dog walking and cleaning, saving any birthday money, all this allowed Rebecca to put together enough cash to approach an Australian manufacturer to produce a sample product based on the research she had done.

What she received from the manufacturer bore no resemblance to what she had requested and the manufacturer, who was not under contract, took her money, supplied no ingredients list, and left her high and dry.

It was a cold hard lesson in what not to do.

“I’d surveyed 100 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 and I knew nearly half of those surveyed felt there was no brand on the market targeted at their age group, and of those who said there was a brand aimed at their age group, none of the options were organic,” Rebecca says, remaining undaunted by her production hiccup.

She began approaching established skincare and beauty brands with her research and product idea, and emailed possible investors.

“I got a lot of ‘Nos’,” she says.

Then one night, back in 2015, Rebecca was watching The Block on TV and saw Nicole Jacobs (below), a property expert in Melbourne.

“She was such a cool business woman and she’d made her name, and I thought, maybe she can give me some advice,” says Rebecca.

“I emailed her – a lot. We met for coffee and she liked my idea. Nicole helped me get from concept to manufacture to packaging and launch,” says Rebecca.

Funding Bahama Belle through sales of her scrub, Rebecca says this needs supplementing and she is still actively pursuing partnerships with existing beauty businesses, as well as looking for investors. To maintain cash flow she works on weekends at Sass & Bide and tutors year 5 and 6 children in English and Math in preparation for high school. She has plans to develop a moisturizer along with other skincare products, and get them to market on the back of the skin scrub’s growing success.

Nicole Jacobs property expert and mentor

On July 19, Ruby will run a webinar with Rebecca and Nicole. We will talk with Rebecca about starting and running a business and the importance of having a mentor. Look out for more as we get closer to the date.

Bahama Belle’s product is a face and body scrub that can be used two to three times a week.

The scrub “provides a smoother complexion, free from clogged pores, uneven skin tone and reduces blackheads/breakouts. Enriched with rosehip oil to hydrate and moisturise, green tea to manage oil production, lime oil as an antibacterial agent, and chamomile to soothe and heal, the scrub acts as a multi-purpose product”.