Meet UpCircle Beauty!
Anna Brightman, co-founder of the UK's number 1 upcycled beauty brand tells us everything you need to know about the Upcircle story and those must-have products.
What’s your role in the business?
I head up the marketing and warehouse team. Brand founders tend to wear a lot of hats, but I would loosely describe my role as “The Story-Teller”. I co-founded UpCircle with my brother Will. Put simply, he’s back of house and I’m front of house. If UpCircle ever needs a face or a voice, it’s mine.
What did you do before you started Upcircle?
My background was as an area manager for a well-known UK supermarket, managing several stores. It gave me fantastic insight into logistics, stock control, staffing and monitoring trends, but wasn’t necessarily something I could see myself doing forever. I didn’t want to be a small cog in a big machine.
What was the inspiration for Upcircle?
The penny drop moment happened when my brother and I asked a local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee. We were shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have the coffee grounds removed and disposed of on landfill sites. Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so…that’s when the thought came to us! Why not upcycle the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products? We began our journey collecting coffee grounds from one coffee shop, we now collect from hundreds of coffee houses across the city – our list is always growing! Every day we’re contacted by coffee shops all over the country asking if we can collect their grounds. There’s clearly no shortage!
How long have you been in business?
6 and a half years. It’s been a rollercoaster from day 1.
What is the story behind your brand name?
Our brand name succinctly brings together 3 things: Upcycling, promoting the circular economy and our core value of always having an uplifting tone to our messaging, the vibe that every little helps, rather than a doom and gloom approach. This is also alluded to by the upward tilt of our logo, representing positive progress. The loops around the logo represent our determined push towards circularity as opposed to a linear approach.
We believe in making something better from things that already exist. That’s our “why”. It’s been a gradual process and each product from our range has its own unique provenance given the circular economy element. Their unique story is part of what makes them so special.
What is your brand’s mission/ethos?
UpCircle has grown to be the UK’s #1 upcycled skincare brand. We are challenging people’s perceptions of what they consider as waste. Rather than bombarding people with doom and gloom headlines about the scale of environmental issues, we focus on positive change and that we can all make a difference in small steps. Rather than saying 500,000 tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill in the UK each year, we say, each of our face scrubs rescues the equivalent of four espresso shots from being discarded. It’s tangible, it’s uplifting, it makes you feel good, it’s something to be proud to support. We like sharing our ideas for making things better, we like asking questions of our audience, we like being held accountable, we like discussion – we pride ourselves on transparency!
At UpCircle we’re not trying to save the world, or scold others for not doing more. We're never preachy about what we do. We're conversational and down to earth. That's why people listen to us, and it’s how we make an impact.
What is your most popular product and why?
Our Face Serum. I think it’s the best-seller firstly because it has an amazing impact on your skin, secondly because it’s ridiculously good value and thirdly because it’s very versatile. It can be used by any skin type, tone, gender or age. The serum is only £14.99 and yet it’s 98% organic, 100% natural, housed in a glass bottle and packed with beautiful ingredients. It is delicately scented with geranium and rose essential oils. High in caffeine and antioxidants, the upcycled coffee oil in our serum fades dark spots and under-eye circles. The serum is packed with powerful actives which help create soft, dewy, nourished skin. It can also be used as a cuticle oil, a hear / beard oil or blended with foundation for a more glowy makeup look.
What’s the best product for dry skin?
Our Citrus Blend Face Scrub and Cleansing Face Balm with Apricot Powder.
What’s the best product for oily skin?
Our Fennel + Cardamom Cleansing Bar or our Kaolin Clay Face Mask.
What’s the best product for sensitive skin?
Our Night Cream with Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide and our Face Serum with Coffee Oil (the best-seller mentioned above!)
What are the products you’d recommend to someone who is trying the brand for the first time?
What hints/tips do you have for using your products?
Do what works for your skin. No point starting a 15-step skincare routine if that’s not what your skin needs. Focus on products and ingredients that nourish and protect your skin’s health.
Do you have any certifications/awards that our customers should be aware of?
Gosh, where to begin? We’re certified Organic, certified Plastic Negative, Vegan Society, B Corp (pending). We have loads of awards which we couldn’t be happier about, you can view those here.
How is Upcircle standing out from the crowd?
Skincare is a crowded market. Lots of skincare brands can claim to be vegan, natural, handmade, organic, cruelty-free etc. and so can we.. but we want to go a step further. How many brands can claim that their products have saved literally hundreds of tonnes of valuable skin-loving ingredients from ending up in landfill?
We say, “natural” is the new “normal” and normal is boring. To stand out you have to go a step further and that’s why we create waste-fighting formulations. We are the only brand who recycle coffee grounds into skincare products at scale, so the range is the definition of innovative! Our tagline is “Pioneering skincare that’s regenerative by design”.
No other beauty brand is doing what we do. We’re the only brand to scale up repurposing ingredients into skincare. The pioneering nature of what we do is illustrated by the extent of the opposition to our idea at the start, mentors and investors told us that the industry wasn’t ready, that tackling issues of waste in the “shallow” beauty industry would not work. Our rapid growth has proven that not only is it possible, it’s extremely popular! The circular element to UpCircle is what makes journalists write about us, retailers stock us, and customers try our products.
How are Upcircle products made?
Our products are made by people instead of machines using simple methods such as melting, blending and whisking. We do use some machines for filling and labelling larger volumes, but the bulk of our products are still simply made by real people. All UpCircle products are made in the UK. Our soaps are made in Scotland and the rest of our range is manufactured in Dorset. We’re also about to relaunch our candles which are hand-poured in Yorkshire. The coffee shops that we collect from to make our scrubs are all in London where we are based. We now have several collection routes – the largest is in Hackney, then we have another two routes in South London – one around Clapham and Dulwich then another in the Battersea and Pimlico area. We anticipate that these routes will expand geographically as our brand continues to grow.
What’s the best thing about having your own brand?
Knowing that I create products that make people feel good about themselves is the best and most inspiring feeling in the world. When customers take the time to email or even send letters, showing before and afters of their skin and letting us know how much they love UpCircle – those sorts of things that make me most proud.
What’s been your biggest learning?
As a founder you set the tone for your whole team, so there can be a fair bit of putting on a brave face! My resilience is helped by my ability to find humour in any situation – when the world is crashing down what else can you do but laugh?! Then, just roll your sleeves up and get it sorted!
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