Our Story UR
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS 2009>2011
URBAN RETREAT by Acti-Labs is a family run business born from humble beginnings.
Initially created in 2006 as a small, bespoke manufacturer of luxury professional products for a number of exclusive Spas across the world, but primarily in Russia.
Three years after launch, just as the business was starting to grow the global financial crisis hit in 2009, with nearly 80% of the Lab’s international client base going out of business or falling on hard times almost instantly. Suddenly there was a production workforce without enough customers.
Just like everyone else at the time we could not understand how the world economy could change so drastically overnight, so initially, we hoped that our remaining customers would re-order whilst we tried to find new customers, but it soon became clear that was not enough to stay in business.
The company we know today started out as a family mission to keep a small laboratory and its employees afloat amidst this crisis.
After a lot of deliberation and many sleepless nights, we came to the conclusion that the only way out of the crisis was: the lab had to create its own brand, become its own customer and sell its products direct to consumers on its own terms. In turn, the success of the brand would allow the Labs to regain profitability and look after its staff.
The new mission was not without risk, creating a cosmetics brand from scratch involves time and money even for a manufacturer, but an undying belief in the performance of our products enabled every member of the Laboratory to thrive. From mopping floors to R&D, no one considered themselves above any job in a group effort to ensure the launch of the Lab’s own Brand. Still shocked by the disintegration of life as we knew it, the new hopes and dreams of this battle-worn team were intoxicating. Lessons had been learned. Our determination was unwavering.
THE FOUNDATIONS 2011>
By now all money had run out. Still based in France, working 2 jobs to pay bills and with no knowledge of Direct Sales, armed only with determination and belief in the products, the owners made regular visits to the UK to recruit a sales force.
ActiDerm was launched in the UK in June 2011 with just 11 great skincare products. The brand quickly became popular enough to achieve our goal of keeping the production staff employed. We are eternally thankful to the founding sellers who joined us at the beginning, and we are very proud to say that a good number of them are still with us today.
THE EXPANSION 2012>
Initially, the relief of being able to stay in business was overwhelming. We did not have any goals beyond avoiding failure, but now we had achieved that, we very quickly focussed on creating security, to avoid ever being in the same situation again.
Driven not only by a devoted team of laboratory personnel but also a community of passionate consultants, the brand advanced. Some of our existing contract clients started to see renewed success and place more and more orders for their products. Suddenly we had the opposite problem: a production workforce with too many customers! We also had our own plans to expand our range beyond just skincare and re-brand to become known as ‘Acti-Labs’. We separated Contract Manufacturing and opened our new laboratory facility which is exclusively dedicated to developing and producing our own Acti-Labs branded products.
During 2016 we expanded into the United States and in 2017 we expanded into Canada.
THE NEXT CHAPTER – DARE TO DREAM 2021>
Today we find ourselves amidst another global crisis, the world is turned upside down again, reeling from a global pandemic. Luckily for us, this time, our business is thriving as the online world started to boom! Because of this, the logical business strategy would be to steer away from bricks AND mortar and focus solely on our online business, but we want more... we can see more!
Founded in 1993 by Hair and Beauty entrepreneur George Hammer, URBAN RETREAT started as a Spa, Hair and Beauty service provider within the UK Aveda business. Following the sale of Aveda to the Estée Lauder Companies, Hammer relocated URBAN RETREAT into the Harrods department store in 2000, as the store’s exclusive spa operator. 20 years later URBAN RETREAT has found a new home at The White House 2-4 Hans Crescent, a former aristocrats mansion in the heart of Knightsbridge.
Acti-Labs has now acquired the product trademark URBAN RETREAT and entered a collaboration partnership with ‘The White House London’ who specialise in Professional Beauty and Wellness services, located just 50 metres from Harrods. URBAN RETREAT is our first flagship location where our products are used by professional aestheticians, MUA’s, dermatologists, and doctors whilst our online shop and network of Beauty Consultants ‘bring our Spa directly to customer’s homes’
We don’t want to just “expand”, we don’t just want to “grow”... we want to EVOLVE!
The next chapter has begun.
MEET THE TEAM
FOUNDER URBAN RETREAT
AT THE WHITE HOUSE
HEAD OF LOGISTICS
QUALITY & REGULATORY MANAGER
HANNAH FAY PEARCE