'I've learned that falling in love with an idea that isn’t working can lead to a disaster'

Tools of the Trade: Pestle and Mortar’s Sonia Deasy talks overnight success and thinking before you speak.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

EVERY WEEK, FORA gets inside the heads of some of Ireland’s top entrepreneurs to gain insights into what got them to the top of their trade. This week we meet designer Sonia Deasy, founder and CEO of skincare company Pestle and Mortar. 

Sonia Deasy doesn’t like to waste time on ideas that aren’t working – the co-founder and chief executive of Pestle and Mortar has learned that from past experiences.

Pestle and Mortar – which recorded sales of €3 million last year – was set up five years ago and earlier this year announced plans to expand into Russia, the UAE, Australia and sell online in China.

Earlier this year, the company won overall business of the year at the National Enterprise Awards and Deasy is a finalist for the EY 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

In our weekly Tools of the Trade series, we spoke to Deasy about scientific formulations, dinner with family and why business can be like a marriage. 

Here’s what she had to say:

What are the main principles that inform what you do?

Simplicity and consistency with a touch of luxury.

I’m driven by the core belief that skincare shouldn’t be complicated and that everyone’s entitled to skin that looks and feels as good as it can. I create skincare that’s easy to understand and simple to use. 

I’m consistent in what I do and how I do it. Long-term consistency will always win out over short-term intensity. 

Are you a specialist or a generalist?

I’m a generalist mostly in that I will never confine myself in terms of what’s possible. Having said that, when I do decide to do something, I strive to become a specialist in that area.

What makes you feel under pressure and how do you deal with it?

A certain amount of pressure is part and parcel of running a global brand. In some ways it’s the pressure that motivates me and I need to feel like I’m under pressure.

I manage my pressure levels by surrounding myself with a team who are 100% on board with my vision. 

What quality has helped you stand out?

I’m ultra-calm and I think before I speak. They might not seem like standout qualities, but you can never unsay what you’ve said. 

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Source: Pestle and Mortar.

What is the most important skill you have learned?

On a micro level, product formulation. My products are all created blending science and nature and they’re all inspired by my Indian heritage and natural healing.

A lot of formulations start out intending to be one thing and quickly disintegrate into something that doesn’t reflect the core motivation. I’ve learned to keep the heart of my formulation intact by a process that’s very scientific.

On a macro level – a philosophical level – I’ve learned that a lot of hard work and persistence will eventually make you look like an overnight success. 

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Where would you like to improve?

Everywhere. Continuous improvement is the cornerstone of my business strategy and it applies to all areas.

What tool could you not do without?

My iPhone. I travel a lot. 

What’s the most important part of your daily routine?

Dinner at home in the evenings with my family. I have five kids – they’re part of the reason for what I do everyday. 

How do you spot when something isn’t working? How long do you give it before changing?

We’re extremely systematised so I know immediately when something isn’t working. I change it immediately. From previous experience I’ve learned that falling in love with an idea that isn’t working can lead to a disaster. 

How do you judge deals?

We always meet whoever we’re dealing with face to face at least twice. That’s how I judge them. Any agreement we get into is like a marriage so we have to work well together and have the same values, goals and principles for the business. 

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