We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Stephen Aikman, the founder of All Natural Advice Skin Care, who shared his journey as a creative Canadian business owner, corporate executive, and founder with more than 25 years of experience holding key positions at RBC. He also discussed his thoughts on how Amazon assisted his company in growing and succeeding in the market, the challenges he overcame on his path to becoming an entrepreneur, and his advice for businesses looking to expand their customer base.
Stephen Aikman is the Owner and President of All Natural Advice SkinCare, which has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing skincare companies in Canada and the leading skin care seller on Amazon Canada. Visit the storefront, here: www.amazon.ca/AllNaturalAdvice
In addition to being an innovative entrepreneur, Stephen is a proud father, husband, and Canadian, hailing from Oakville, Ontario.
How will you describe your journey as a creative Canadian business owner, corporate executive, and founder with more than 25 years of experience holding key positions at RBC?
Challenging, rewarding, and exciting! I am immensely thankful for the journey, and everything I’ve learned along the way. When I first my career, I never knew where it would take me. It was an honor to be accepted into a world-class organization like RBC, which provided me with every opportunity to learn and foster my growth. Eventually, after spending many years at RBC working on and supporting small businesses, I was inspired to start one myself.
For me, it was about keeping my head up, not down, and being a sponge of information. It was about taking calculated chances, learning from great leaders, and applying these lessons to forge my own path. It was exciting to take this wealth of knowledge and apply it to my own business, build my own brand and be resilient as an entrepreneur!
How does it feel to be the founder of the #1 organic skincare company in Canada with a combined market cap of $30 million?
It feels surreal but incredible. Personally, I wanted to build a brand that would have a legacy, something that could live on from one generation to the next, and so I really put in the work to achieve that.
Success is not about being lucky or holding the ‘winning ticket’ – it’s about building something you’re passionate about from scratch, learning from all of the challenges that come with making that decision, and then applying those learnings to recalibrate, improve and sustain growth for years to come.
How did Amazon assist your company in expanding and succeeding in the market?
I could not have built my company into what it is today without Amazon, no questions asked. Amazon provided a trusted online marketplace with unequaled access to potential customers. They gave my small Canadian businesses an opportunity to scale with lightning speed and allowed my brand to compete alongside some of the world’s largest beauty companies.
As an independent brand, we wouldn’t have been able to sit next to the L’Oréal or the Cetaphil’s on a store shelf at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Being an e-commerce brand, Amazon enabled us to be on that hypothetical ‘shelf’ for millions of consumers, not just in Canada, but in over 12 other countries.
What are the hurdles that you faced on your road to entrepreneurship? And how did you overcome them?
All entrepreneurs are bound to face similar challenges, and I was not immune to any of them! Looking back now, some of the biggest hurdles turned out to be small bumps in the road, and if I had not persevered, my journey would have ended before it even started.
Making a great product or service is always the most important and challenging factor, but it’s also the “small” things, like the importance of effective back-end operations, shipping and logistics, properly allocating capital to grow your brand, and understanding compliance and tax regulations for every marketplace.
Most importantly, overcoming the greatest challenges came from actively listening to client feedback, and pivoting fast when I missed the mark. As I started to scale, I surrounded myself with great advisors and asked a ton of questions! I also learned not to be a jack-of-all-trades, but to be strategic: prioritize my resources, build talent, and focus on a few ideas rather than trying to be everything to everyone, all at once.
What specific recommendations do you have for companies looking to expand their online presence?
I would definitely recommend that every entrepreneur leverage the many online marketplaces available today. Take advantage of their logistic support, branding/marketing capabilities, and the ability to connect with customers from coast-to-coast, and beyond.
You don’t need to jump in – start with your top 3-5 products, monitor how they perform, and learn the nuances of that marketplace to inform how you market.
Above all else, listen to your customers. While I love positive feedback, I appreciate constructive feedback, because that is what helps me know where to improve and be better as a business owner.