Pestle and Mortar: From big idea to huge success

4 min read
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Wooden table with brown book on the left, with cooking ingredients on the right

How does a brand generate 100% growth year on year? We talk to Sonia and Padraic Deasy from skincare brand Pestle & Mortar, to find out what it’s like to be on the inside of a global success story.

Four years ago, Pestle and Mortar was just one of several projects run by ambitious entrepreneurs Sonia and Padraic Deasy. Today it’s their shining star. Like the best business people, they know how to back a winner; a strategy which includes a ruthless focus on precisely which business to develop. Sonia recalls the early years: 

“We started with just myself and Padraic, and for the first six months it was just both of us. We also ran our portrait photography business at the same time, which we closed 18 months ago." Closing a business is always a hard decision (especially for Padraic, a successful photographer) but having the courage to make those hard decisions is what leads to success and the global growth that follows. Sonia and Padraic now have a staff of 20, serving approximately 800 B2B customers across the world.    

Influencer marketing, the way it should be

It’s a method with its fair share of detractors, but for Pestle and Mortar, it was influencer marketing that catapulted them to success1. Influential QVC USA presenter Cameron Silver gave them a mention in a New York Times article and, as a result, stock of their first and now iconic product sold out within three days across the US.

Sonia tells the story of working with Silver: “He’s pretty well known in the fashion world. He had emailed saying he liked supporting new brands, and wanted to know where he could buy our product. We said to him, ‘don’t buy it, we’ll send it to you for free,’ but he wouldn’t accept the gift – he went in and he purchased it! The minute the New York Times article hit, our website got hammered. The distribution center was packing and shipping the orders, so it didn’t matter how many were coming in because they were going to be fulfilled.”

Cooking tool with spices inside with a black bowl on the side

When success arrives, be prepared

In the four years the brand has been growing, they’ve learned to prepare for big spikes in demand, with 35% of their business happening in the period around Black Friday.  The sales curve is anything but even and preparation is everything. “We have a Christmas box called the ‘All I Want for Christmas’ gift set. We start planning for that box in January. This is the first year that we are actually ready. Last year we were late!” Sonia explains, “It’s a three-month lead time for us to manufacture and finish a production run. It has to be planned out months and months in advance.”

A brand with a story to tell

The Pestle and Mortar brand has two distinct dimensions. Its packaging is a sleek, modern presence in the world’s most stylish department stores2. Its back story is a tale of intoxicating aromas, of the medicine men in Sonia’s family heritage grinding spices, all guided by traditional knowledge. So how does the packaging carry the story? With great copy and an authentic tone of voice. Sonia supports this with a strong social media presence and good old-fashioned face-to-face contact, “I’m asked to speak here in my own market, at women’s enterprise events. We’re from a place called County Kildare in Ireland and I’m the ambassador for women in our area this year.” When you have a lot to say, it helps to be a great speaker.

Man gesturing in front of a macbook and a notebad and iphone on the desk

Keep the conversation flowing

Although the brand’s big break in New York came quickly, keeping up the global momentum is a relentless task: “It’s grassroots. That’s how the spread of marketing works – speaking and building brand awareness.” For Sonia, “it’s all about building relationships. We’ve never actually had a huge launch party or anything like that. It’s very much ‘get on a plane and meet them, tell them our story and connect with them’. From day one we were focused on social media but our momentum today still arises very much from a word-of-mouth following3. It’s getting out there and influencing press, meeting clients, customers and the broader team and just building awareness of the brand.” 

For Pestle and Mortar, bricks and mortar are still important

Perhaps the biggest lesson to learn from Pestle and Mortar is that e-commerce brands sometimes need a physical environment to bring new consumers to their products, especially in the tactile world of cosmetics. Their presence in upmarket shops gives the Pestle and Mortar brand credibility and the customers the opportunity to sample4. The figures speak of a strong on-the-ground presence. Of the total units sold in 2017, 60% went to retail stores and 40% were sold direct to consumers. “It’s really worked for us that we have a presence in the likes of Liberty of London and Bloomingdale’s,” explains Padraic. “It does two things: one, it gives us a presence for consumers to go and test our products and that then translates into us growing our online business. It’s important to get someone to actually sample our product. Once they’ve tried it, we experience huge click rates.”

Bloomingdales store front

An ambitious brand needs global reach

Pestle and Mortar’s distribution operation with DHL is seamless. Wherever in the world the order comes from, the brand knows that DHL will get it there. Padraic explains, “I was in Australia a few weeks ago, and just flying from Melbourne to Sydney, you realize how vast the country is. When you see an order coming in from Australia and it gets there in two and a half days, you’re just shocked by how quickly DHL can actually do it.”

DHL are glad to have helped bring Pestle and Mortar to the far corners of the earth and to do it as rapidly as this fast-growing brand deserves. If you'd like to enjoy the same kind of partnership, you can open a DHL Express account here.