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The Interview: Maria Hatzistefanis, Founder of Rodial and Nip+Fab, on finding your niche and making actives accessible...

Chloe Burney
06 June 2024

Maria Hatzistefanis is the Founder of skincare sister brands Rodial and Nip + Fab, who has been creating bestselling skincare for over 23 years.

She started her career as a beauty writer - no wonder she had the expertise to launch two best-selling beauty brands. Hatzistefanis founded Rodial in 1999 after identifying a gap in the market to find a results-driven brand with an edge. Over ten years later, Nip + Fab followed to bring complex results-driven formulations to the high street, at an accessible price point.

To this day, she owns both Rodial and Nip+Fab 100% without external funding. The entrepreneur also uses her voice to help other brands, whether it be through her book ‘How to be an Overnight Success’ or as a Dragon on Dragons Den Greece.

Maria Hatzistefanis spoke to about her finding a sweet spot in the over-saturated beauty market and how H&M's designer collaborations inspired her to bring active ingredients to highstreet beauty.

Can you tell us about your background and what led you to launch Rodial in 1999?

I was always passionate about fashion & beauty. My first job while at university was as a Beauty Writer for Seventeen Magazine. When I graduated, I was really curious about the world of business and got a job in Finance. I enjoyed it for the first couple of years and was learning a lot but it wasn’t fulfilling me creatively so started losing my passion. Until one day, I was fired!

It was at that point that I took a step back and thought about what I wanted to do next. There was a part of me that felt like I could see a gap in the market for a results-driven, active and more fun skincare brand. Back then, there were only the really big brands on the market and the selection of products was really simple and not active. So, I decided to create Rodial, a high-tech ingredient-led brand that was filling a niche in the market.

Getting fired was devastating at the time, but ultimately it’s a lesson in trusting that setbacks are not failures, they put you on a path to a different kind of success. I explore this in my book ‘How To Be An Overnight Success’, which is all about how I started in the industry and advice on how to motivate yourself to succeed.

How did Rodial differ from brands on the market at the time of its launch?

The first product that caused a stir for Rodial was the Snake Serum, a skin-freezing serum which works to instantly smooth the appearance of fine lines. There was nothing like this at the time, especially the name as the industry was quite soft with simple names, anti-ageing serums etc.

I called the product Snake due to the ingredient Syn-ake in the formula, which works to freeze facial muscles like being bitten by a snake. I wanted the product to be exciting and eye-catching. It is still one of our bestselling skincare products, along with Dragons Blood and Bee Venom, which again we were the first to innovate this kind of ingredient skincare.

Rodial’s Lowlighter is a fan favourite. What made you decide to branch into colour cosmetics?

I first decided to launch 'complexion' around seven years ago. I targeted the modern woman who is busy and wants to look put together without spending hours doing her makeup. My aim for Rodial complexion has always been to have a small, curated capsule collection that women can use every day.

I think if you have limited time to get ready and you want to quickly elevate your complexion, it can be overwhelming to shop brands that offer 200 lipsticks and eyeshadows. This is a collection of the essentials.

Banana Lowlighter, a brightening complexion enhancer, is the global bestseller for Rodial - we struggle to keep it in stock. Banana was part of our original complexion collection with a different name and packaging, and has been re-invented around three times before it became the cult product it is today - another lesson that you don’t always get it right the first time!

Today, we have an effective range of complexion, with a newly launched Latte Lowlighter to add to the Lowlighter franchise, Lip Oils which became immediate bestsellers and Glass Powder which is another of our top complexion products.

You launched a more affordable range, Nip + Fab in 2010. How did you bring complex formulations to the high street?

So much of my inspiration for beauty and business comes from fashion and I was impressed with some of the designer/high street collaborations happening at the time like Karl Lagerfeld for H&M. I wanted to bring the ingredient stories that you find in Rodial to the mass market at an affordable price point.

Nip+Fab is available at Boots and has grown into a brand that stands on its own over the last 10 years, with really great launches from Ceramide to the latest Peptide Fix, which is the first of its kind for the price point.

I own both Rodial and Nip+Fab 100% to this day, with no outside funding or investment. We strive to create great quality products for our customers, and both brands are still creating competitive innovation, despite the amount of brands that currently flood the market.

Nip + Fab recently launched its Teen Skin Fix Range. Teens using actives and skincare designed for more mature skin – thanks to the influence of TikTok – is a hot topic right now. Can you tell us about this range and why it’s an important solution for teenage skin?

I think that TikTok has encouraged education around skincare for the younger generation which is great, information is more readily available now than it ever has been. The flip side to this is more around the hysteria to try products that are viral that someone young may not understand and only wants to use because it is trending without realising the effect it could have on young skin.

The Nip+Fab Teen range is a gentle blend of active designed to combat breakouts and problem skin. We do not market the range to teenagers, all of our marketing and outreach is actually to parents who are looking to find solutions for their children’s skin concerns and we find this to be a very effective strategy.

Nip + Fab and Rodial are both available at Sephora UK as well as others. Are you looking to expand into more third-party retailers?

Our key stores for Rodial are Space NK, Selfridges, Harrods, John Lewis and Harvey Nichols. Since the pandemic, our D2C ( has grown exponentially getting both new customers who hear about the brand and want to explore the full collection and repeat customers who want to easily reorder their favourites and have them delivered to their door.

In the UK we are in the places we need to be, and our expansion is more global. We are currently available in over 35 countries worldwide and we’re now exploring new global markers in South America & Asia.

The skincare market has grown immensely since 1999. How has the market changed since and what advice can you give to those launching a brand in the beauty space today?

I think launching a brand today is tough as the industry is over-saturated. The best advice would be to carve out your niche, find something that nobody else is doing and be ready to believe in yourself and your ideas. When I started 25 years ago, I faced a lot of challenges. Many buyers would tell me no and even my friends questioned if starting my own business was a good idea. You have to cancel out this noise and keep going, keep pushing. If someone says no, wait and ask again. You need to have a thick skin.

Have you got any exciting launches on the horizon you can tell us about?

We have the current launch of Latte Lowlighter which I am excited about and I think people are going to love. Also, our new Bee Jelly Mask which is one of my favourite products. I am obsessed with masking and this is just the most effective mask I have ever tried.

Our full complexion range will be launching into Space NK stores in the next few weeks, which is exciting for customers to be able to have more opportunities to play with the products in-store.

For me, I am continuing to lead the growth of Rodial internationally over 2024 with many new markets on the horizon. I have written three motivational books and thinking of writing my next one. I also have been a Dragon on Dragons Den Greece for two seasons, moving into filming of season three later this year which has been an amazing experience to work with new businesses and start-ups.

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