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Tech Wizard Trades Working On Million-Dollar Projects For Creating Homemade Skincare Products

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

This tech wizard working on multi-million pound projects for global brands has described the “eureka moment" at a Turkish baths when he decided to quit his job to make cleansers, face masks and soap.

After a 20-year career, Simon Driscoll, was at the top of his game – developing new software and search algorithms for broadcaster Sky – when a spa day during a summer holiday to Turkey in 2016 with his wife Liz, changed his life.

“After visiting the Turkish baths it was like I had this sudden eureka moment when I used the soaps," Driscoll said.

Simon Driscoll (UXB / PA Real Life)

“They had soaps for sunburn and dry skin which actually did what they said on the tin. I was so impressed I decided I wanted to make them myself," he said.

“I told Liz, 'I have a business idea, I'm going to set up my own skincare brand.'"

“She thought I was crazy, but I did it and now, a few years on, I think she's pretty impressed."

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

Soon after returning to the UK, Driscoll started researching ways to start a skincare “side hustle," alongside his day job, in the hope of one day leaving his tech career behind.

And he went right back to basics – learning how to cook up cosmetic formulae at home – which he soon realized he had an excellent skill set for, having gone into technology when it was a fledgling industry.

“Back when the internet was a new thing, I taught myself how to program and code websites in my spare time," he said.

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

“It was like learning a foreign language, and because the internet was so new, there was no Google search to help me – it was all through books. I really got into it, started off with a data entry job and went from there," he said.

“And I had to do much the same to learn about skin care products."

Applying the same determination to learning about cosmetics, he signed up to a soap making boot camp in London in 2017, followed by a second course on how to make cleansing masks and shampoo and a third learning the art of perfumery.

“If I was going to delve into the world of beauty, I wanted to make the product from scratch," he said. “So, I went on loads of courses and learnt how to make all the different products."

Then he would practice his skills by cooking up products at home.

“It's a bit like cooking food, you try out all sorts of different recipes and have to heat the cream and oil together and wait for it to set," he said.

Simon Driscoll (UXB / PA Real Life)

“I was still holding down my day job, but in my spare time I was in the kitchen cooking cream. My wife hated it – there was ingredients everywhere," he said.

“Although the house did smell lovely for a while, because I was mixing fragrances every night."

It took Driscoll almost two years and more than 100 trials to perfect his beauty recipes, using feedback from friends, family and colleagues to ensure his products were up to scratch.

Simon Driscoll (UXB / PA Real Life)

“I wanted to make a luxury product that was at an affordable price using the very best ethically sourced ingredients, that would appeal to everyone," he said.

“My wife was like my guinea pig – she was always the first to try the products and tell me what she really thought, which wasn't always good."

“I also tried everything out on my family and friends, as well as my colleagues. I did get a bit of a ribbing in the office, because I was this computer guy who kept coming in with different creams for people to try."

For many years, Driscoll had wanted to run his own business and he had finally discovered an area outside tech where he believed he could excel – selling his first batch of cleansers at craft fairs in late 2018.

Spurred on by the positive feedback, he started selling online in January 2019 after first devising a suitable brand name.

“It took me a while to think of a brand name. I know a lot of people name brands after themselves or a place they know, but 'Simon's Skincare' or 'Uxbridge' wasn't really going to work," he said.

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

“But the shortened version of Uxbridge is UXB and I thought it made a really good name for a brand. It was symmetrical and when it came to designing the label it looked really unique on the bottle, so I decided to go with that," he added.

And in January 2019, with his craft market success and a website up and running selling products costing between $8 and $37, he bid farewell to his 20-year career in tech, investing some of his savings into his new venture as CEO of skincare brand UXB.

“My employers were a bit shocked when I said I was leaving, but it wasn't a big secret, because I'd already spent the last two years coming into the office with cleansers for people to try," he said.

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

“I'd spent 20 years working with complicated data science and developing everything from software to search algorithms for brands like Channel 4 and Sky, and loved it," he said.

“But it was time to start my own business – although I've always been very science minded, so if you'd told me two decades ago that I'd have my own skincare firm, I would never have believed you."

Driscoll also readily admits that his wife had to twist his arm before he reluctantly visited the spa that changed his life.

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

“I'd never been to a Turkish spa and baths before in my life," he said.

“When Liz suggested we went, I reluctantly agreed, as I'm not a huge fan of being pampered."

“Getting a massage and having someone use exfoliating cloths was an odd experience for me. It sounds weird, but it made me feel a bit like a dolphin."

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

“It's definitely not something I'd have chosen to do myself – I would never have gone unless Liz suggested it," he added.

Once there, though, he was totally inspired by the products they used.

“They had all these soaps for dry skin and oily skin, and they all seemed to actually work, so I was really impressed," he said.

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

Deciding the best way to gain a true understanding of the beauty business was to learn how to make great products, he then spent hours in the family kitchen designing the lotions and other cosmetics himself.

Since the beginning of the pandemic his sales have gone up.

“I've made every item myself – from scratch," he said.

“I've created a range of cleansers for sun damage, anti-pollution, dry skin and oily skin – so there's something for everyone – as well as shower moisturizers, soaps, bath salts and face masks."

Now working from a warehouse near his home, where he employs one person to help him cook up his cosmetics, Driscoll has no regrets about his dramatic career change.

“My products are gender neutral, although most customers tend to be women," he said.

“I don't mind who uses them, as long as they like them. I'm so invested in my products now I could bore you senseless talking about them."

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

“I always wanted to do everything myself from start to finish, although, I admit, when I was cooking up a batch in my kitchen, I'd sometimes think, 'Oh God, I really don't know what I'm doing.' But it's been worth it in the long run," he added.

Now Driscoll hopes his business will go from strength to strength.

“I'd love it if in five years UXB was recognized as an affordable luxury brand. But, most importantly, I want to help as many people as I can with their skincare regime," he said.

Simon Driscoll (Collect / PA Real Life)

“I absolutely love my business and what I've created – it's one of the best decisions I've ever made," he concluded.

“So I guess I have my wife and that trip to the Turkish spa that day to thank for my newfound passion."

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