Zaffrin O’Sullivan, is the co-founder of Five Dot Botanics, an eco-friendly, gender-neutral, minimalist vegan beauty brand available online, on Amazon and across various online retailers. When not leading the minimalist skincare revolution, Zaffrin is an experienced TV lawyer and mother to three beautiful children.
Zaffrin is a first-generation British Bangladeshi, raised in London. She went to university to study English literature and then went to law school. She lived and worked in Hong Kong and qualified as a solicitor working in TV before moving back to London.
In an exclusive interview with Asian Voice, she shared the journey of becoming an entrepreneur while being pregnant and as a woman of colour.
Being a woman of colour and taking up entrepreneurship while taking care of a family, did that idea scare you?
To be honest, I wasn’t scared about the idea of entrepreneurship or starting a business. My husband and I share responsibility for raising our kids, we are equally invested, and it doesn’t just fall to me as the mum to do everything. Because of that mutual support, it made a huge difference in launching a business despite being busy parents. If anything, having children gave me confidence in my ability to juggle many things.
For me starting a business was always a dream and I didn’t want to wake up one day regretting not giving it a go. Five Dot Botanic launched when I was pregnant with my third baby and working full time in a day job. In fact, when I received the news of my first investor, I actually took the call while in hospital after being induced to give birth. My baby was born just hours after and he came with me to many board meetings after where I was breastfeeding throughout.
Internally, I never felt that my colour would impact my ability to start and run a successful business. However, statistically, I was aware that investment in women of colour is low and that women like me are underrepresented.
I ask this because entrepreneurship - capital investment and emotional support from the family in houses of colour is a tough task. What steps did you take to make this a success?
I think success for us comes from being fully invested in our products, being founder-led and being agile as a small business. I took out a hefty personal loan to launch Five Dot Botanics. Within a few months of launching, I took investment from Worth Capital. It was a pretty stressful run-up to the birth of baby number three and I definitely think the tension of doing an investment raise just before going on maternity leave had something to do with it!
We launched in late 2019 and had big campaigns in retail planned for 2020. When Covid hit, we were luckily in a position to quickly launch on Amazon, which ensured Five Dot Botanics could continue business using Fulfilment By Amazon throughout the lockdown.
How challenging is it to be a woman in such a cutthroat industry and also promote vegan products in the west?
It is wonderful to be a woman in the skincare industry even though it is very competitive. It never used to have people like me owning skincare businesses or building beauty brands. I love that it is changing and that launching a brand is more accessible. I took part in Sephora Accelerates in 2020 and it was designed to help women with beauty businesses accelerate their growth. I was one of 12 women from around the world selected to take part and they help loan my capital to grow my business (as a woman from an underrepresented group).
What is the future of this business and its relevant markets, given that climate change is a big deal right now?
We have made a pledge to be a part of the UK government’s SME Climate Commitment. This recognises that climate change poses a threat to the economy, nature and society-at-large and that Five Dot Botanics as a company commits to take action in order to reduce greenhouse emissions. We will also look to get B-Corp Certified and all our activities will be framed within this.