Purely for girls

Do you know how many chemicals and toxins you put on and in your body? One mother's quest to find pure products for young girls to use has led to her starting her own beauty company.Lianne Miller is very slim, has a fabulous figure and long dark hair ­- frankly it's hard to believe she's 40.

Do you know how many chemicals and toxins you put on and in your body? One mother's quest to find pure products for young girls to use has led to her starting her own beauty company

Lianne Miller is very slim, has a fabulous figure and long dark hair ­- frankly it's hard to believe she's 40. A long way from her native Capetown, she's married to Alex - whose family hold historic claim to having been the local Southwold funeral directors - and though they also have another house in Massachusetts, some 20 minutes outside Boston, they are based in a now much-extended house right on the edge of rural Reydon.

Only at the moment their Suffolk home (which incorporates the former chapel of rest) where they've lived for much the past 14 years when Alex isn't working abroad, has now been turned over to not so much a cottage industry as a half the house industry. The sitting room is presently her office, the back hall her distribution centre and that's floor to ceiling full of boxes of deliciously smelling beauty products, created specially for young girls.

This is nerve centre and HQ of 'young & pure', which is the name of the company she created from scratch and registered a mere 11 months ago. But it won't be confined to home for much longer - Lianne's got big, big plans - and while she's selling to local health food shops, independents and beauticians locally she's also in discussions with the big boy wholesalers, which will mean moving distribution to a warehouse next year.

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“It's non-stop at the moment,” she said. “We sent out around 1,500 samples before the launch and sold 1,000 products in the first three weeks of trading.

“I started this because I was really trying to find something to fend off my daughter Danielle's excema and dry skin. She's 12 going on 21 and there was nothing on the market which was a totally natural product. There are some organic, but quite pricey products, for older women or for babies but nothing for the in-between ages, the ten-to-21s, so there was a real gap in the market.

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“And with what was out there, I wondered what was really in the products themselves and found most contain preservatives and parabens and all sorts of chemicals. There has been some research coming out into links between parabens and breast cancer tumours and as 60% of what goes on the skin is said to go into your bloodstream, that put a scare into me. So I thought I needed to bring something to the market myself for Dani - and young girls like her - to use.”

A part-time business lecturer at the University of East Anglia, Lianne has very personal reasons for her real fear of the effects of chemicals and toxins on your body. “The reason I was so sensitive to the whole cancer thing, was than when my elder son Kregan was two he had cancer.”

That was 15 years ago and at the time they were living in Toronto. Alex, who met Lianne at the University of Capetown, is a mining engineer and was drawn to South Africa because of all the gold and diamond mining there. His job has also taken him to the States and Canada. “So we've moved there a few times as he now works as a consultant.”

Hodgkins Disease was virtually unheard of in children so young and when Kregan was diagnosed with it, it was the first case they had seen at the Canadian hospital. He was initially treated with chemotherapy and they adopted a homeopathic diet for him. “We felt they were trying to treat him as adult and after his chemotherapy all his hair fell out.” So after much soul-searching and deliberating they decided to stop the treatment.

“It was a real eye opener to me, it was the first time I really challenged the medical profession and we had to sign a disclaimer. We had to be very, very careful about standing up and saying what we believed in and how we were going to make different to his body. We didn't want that intervention because we were scared it would sensitise him to everything.

“We controlled Kregan's diet and when he went to school, he'd be the one with rice cakes and bags of cabbage.”

Today Kregan is a fit and healthy 17-year-old, studying in Boston. His ambition is to be professional skateboarder. “We took him to San Diego at the end of the year to look at the West Coast, which is where all the skateboarders hang out but we said he's got to go to college too. Our negotiation has been you have to qualify in something as well.”

But all the Miller children, including Dani and ten-year-old Zac have a healthy interest in what they put in their bodies. “When they go into a supermarket, they turn packets round and take note of all the E numbers, SLSs and parabens and say, oh we can't have that and put it back, it's been awareness process for them.

“Dani has hereditary excema which we do usually keep it at bay but she's noticed that it can flare up when she's stressed, like if her mother is away. I began to connect what was happening to her body with what happens on the outside and I realised that what we put on our skin is as important as what we eat. So I started investigating things like the Campaign For Safer Cosmetics. We don't hear a lot about what we put on our skin and it being absorbed.”

With her own areas of expertise and background she wasn't afraid of making such a huge commitment, nor of doing all the research and planning behind the business. After all she's a part-time lecturer in business psychology in the School of Management at the University of East Anglia and is also currently working towards a PhD in Entrepreneurialship herself, having already gained her first degree in Psychology at Warwick University an a Masters in Organisational Psychology in London.

It can't but help that when Leanne left school and went to Canada she worked in Nova Scotia in the world of business banking.

“I did think about trying to do it all myself but realised this is an area where you need expertise so I looked at manufacturers and talked to chemists because I particularly didn't want to any chemical preservatives or petroleum jelly based ingredients, but I did want some kind of shelf life. So here we used natural oils. Also I wanted high levels of aloe vera, not parabens which you find in most conventional products.

“Then a young girl's skin is light and fresh so we have gone for a blend of fresh citrus smells.”

Spreading the Young & Pure word is taking Lianne out on the road now, she's taken her products to the big beauty show in Norwich and was invited to do two talks a day at the Clothes Show Well-Being Show.

“I've been asked to talk to try to make people more aware of a healthier way of life. We've been in quite a lot of newspapers and magazines, which is part of our marketing, to get message out there, and it was one of the beauty magazines that found us for that.

“Then Young & Pure has been featured in CosmoGirl and Miz. Because of the age group and the gap in the market it's really exciting and here's something for young girls. Now there is something for them to use.

“I have also done workshops at St Felix school, which is where Dani goes, to try to get girls to understand labels and be more aware of what they use.”

Much of doing a PhD is about research and Lianne says that studying entrepreneurialship has meant she's had cause to read a lot of autobiographies and biographies about successful people, which has spurred her on. “A lot of it is down to people believing in what they are doing and it's that stage of my life for me. It's about wanting to make a difference.

“I have stopped using conventional products and weaned myself off them all now.

“This business is going to be absolutely huge. Our strategy is to go from national to international and with the products themselves it's about affordability and accessibility. I don't want it to be top end product that people can't afford to use - I think everyone should be able to afford the products.

“It's especially for teenagers, if it's too expensive parents wouldn't be buying it. So the big bottles are £4.99. It doesn't have to be a special kind of buy.

“There is passion behind the business. I believe as a parent I have really put everything else on hold in order to get out there and offer an alternative but it's also a business solution for me because I have the knowhow to start up a business and move it forward.

“Organics product can be very good thinking about our age group but I wanted there to be something that parents can afford to buy young girls. Then we've got a perfume coming out next - with all natural products again - and face cream, altogether seven new products coming out.”

There will be Christmas gift packs AT £14.99 with gold, silver and pink ribbons and travel packs and a smaller size retails for £3.50.

With a body and hair wash, face cleaner, body lotion and hair conditioner all full of natural ingredients and yummy zingy smells, young and pure does exactly what it says on the tin. Thanks to one mother's drive to produce something for her daughter that she simply couldn't find to buy.

www.youngandpure.co.uk or phone 01502 724226 between 8.30am and 8pm Monday to Friday and Saturdays from 9am to 4pm

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