From concept to reality: VeloSkin on creating a cyclist-specific skincare brand

Founder Chris Bairstow tells Rebecca Morley how VeloSkin stands out from the crowd

Identifying the best product to suit your needs can be challenging, especially when there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of difference between one option and the next. Skincare, in particular, can be a tricky category, with different products recommended for each and every weather condition. 

Launched in 2017, VeloSkin is the brainchild of founder Chris Bairstow. Discontent with the options on the market, he decided to create a cycling-specific, performance-based skincare brand.

“When I was training in different weather conditions, I found that sometimes the general products on the market weren’t performing as I expected them to,” Bairstow tells BikeBiz. “There were a lot of cycling-specific products on the market, but not many were very good. I began to investigate – I looked at what I wanted from different products and that’s when I started the development.” 

Premium quality
The ethos of the brand was always to create performance-based products, Bairstow explains; one that is ‘better than the competition and is able to make a difference to our users’ lives’. Since launching and creating its chamois cream, Veloskin has added four further premium skincare products to its range, including soothing gel and moisturiser, which are sold online and through a number of independent retailers. 

“When I first created the brand, I wanted to ensure we provided a premium quality and finished product,” Bairstow continues. “I could have gone out and looked at plastic tubs, but it didn’t sit right with me. People don’t recycle enough, and some simply don’t want to, even when it’s easy to do so. We looked at the options available, and felt the tins would be the best fit for our brand mission.”

It was important for Bairstow that the full Veloskin range accommodated vegan and plant-based lifestyles. “It’s something we’re looking to become recognised for, so we can endorse that on the various products we have,” he says. 

A very British brand
As with any start-up company, Veloskin’s initial launch was not without its turbulence. “Customers never experienced any of those issues, but it was difficult to grow the brand to a level that I was happy with,” says Bairstow.

By the beginning of 2019, many of those issues were resolved, and that’s when Veloskin started to take off. “We’ve had really good growth on Amazon, and we’ve also taken on some new B2B customers,” Bairstow explains. “We like to support local bike shops, be it through social media, event promotion, or to endorse them as a retailer of ours. The bike shop should be at the hub of any cycling community. Bike shops are a place to start your ride – a place where you can get advice and maintenance. That’s what people need to understand, and that’s what we want to support as a brand.”

One thing Bairstow is keen to improve is Veloskin’s gender imagery. The cream is unisex and uses both male and female testers, and it’s something the brand is keen to make plain. “We have influencers and ambassadors of both genders using the product,” he says. “That was very important to us – I see the female racing and riders as a great growing market.

“When we started out, it was just our friends helping us,” Bristow continues, “and as a result, it appears quite male-orientated. Once we [had a more established business plan] we introduced female ambassadors straight away, and have an equal number of males and females. But we also need to improve our imagery, which we’re going to tackle this year.”

Chris Bairstow (centre) with Chris Iredale (left) and Andy Banks (right)

VeloSkin is hoping to work with other brands that either share a similar ethos, or have a personal connection in some way. In December last year, having decided to sponsor a British continental team, it partnered with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling with the aim of maximising the professional riders’ performance throughout 2020.

Tom Timothy, Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling team principal, says: “We had a gap in our provision for a skincare provider and when VeloSkin approached us, as a passionate and forward-thinking British company, it felt like a great fit. With the range of VeloSkin products on offer, it will allow our team to be more comfortable during the day-to-day demands of training and racing, as we strive to continually improve every area of performance.”

VeloSkin is, after all, a “very British brand”, says Bairstow, with everything produced in the UK. He adds: “We thought that getting involved with a British team would be really cool, and would raise brand awareness for us, and Ribble Weldtite came out as our favourite option.”

Future partners
Bairstow says that because of the relative small size of VeloSkin, the brand is not yet “fixated on a certain path”. With that in mind, it’s currently in the process of growing its direct-to-business contacts, but is contemplating distribution partner options.

“We’re considering avenues both in terms of how we can grow and how to best serve our customers,” explains Bairstow. “Late last year, we had some very positive discussions with one distributor, and those communications are still ongoing.”

So, what else does the brand have in store for 2020? “We’re in discussion with various different local brands, such as Weldtite and OTE, about running competitions,” Bairstow says. “Yorkshire seems to be becoming a real cycle hub of different brands. We’re looking to grow both our direct-to-consumer and B2B sales; we can certainly see that as being a really important avenue. We want to promote local bike shops within our various channels, and we’ve also got upcoming products currently in the R&D phase. Once they’re complete, we’ll look into how they can fit into the supply chain.”

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