Features - Entrepreneurial Alumni

Mandeep Dhillon & Jemini Desai

Mandeep Dhillon & Jemini Desai

Posted 24 July 2017

New York Programme

September 2009 Intake


Mandeep and Jemini are the co-founders of peleonorigins, a luxury organic skincare line infused with potent mountain plant botanicals. Their partnership began when they sat next to each other on a coach ride heading to the Big Apple on their Mountbatten year, "wide eyed ready to take on NYC and the world. We instantly connected like we had known each other in lifetimes before… since NYC we have voyaged mysterious lands and taken stock from our experiences. Our friendship and bond has become a sisterhood that has transcended the peaks and troughs of life and created @peleonorigins. A labour of love, determination, hard work, strong will, ideas, creativity, sacrifice and a synergy that makes our products truly magical and powerful". Read on

Describe your business and your role within it.
Our business strategy is twofold. To educate and engage people to adopt a greener beauty regime and lifestyle, and secondly to launch a luxury organic skincare line infused with potent mountain plant botanicals. Whilst organics is fast becoming a saturated market (a US$15 billion industry); we truly believe Peleon is an authentic brand, a true labour of love because our plants and herbs come from the home of medicine, known since antiquity and we have grafted to bring you a premium brand from two entrepreneurs who believe in influencing people to understand how they affect the environment and what you put in your bodies.

We are founders and directors of Peleon, therefore as a small enterprise our roles are everything from sourcing, production, botanical formula, complying with regulation/governance, packaging, branding, maintaining relationships with stakeholders and blogging. We hope to recruit an intern when we are in full swing, however our overheads are out of control currently what with regulation, website and packaging, so we need to take baby steps and take stock as we only "sell one batch at a time” and our ingredients are seasonal.

In terms of roles, whilst Mandi is the subject matter expert on organics, Jemini's role is the vision creator and the business model designer, we jointly implement the Peleon vision/ journey. Mandi discovered the supplier on an expedition to the mountains and brought back an organic herbal cream, which within days gave me supple, elastic and even toned skin. It was then we had a lightbulb moment; we thought 'we have to share these ancient potions/practices with people" and Peleon was born.

In terms of day to day aspects of our roles, both Mandi and I bring complimentary skills to the table; Mandi is very good with the farmer/supplier relationships and working on the formulas whilst Jemini is focused on the numbers and regulation; as you can imagine selling organic skincare in the Eurozone is no mean feat; there is a lot of red tape and geopolitical uncertainty to overcome as Britain enters BREXIT negotiations. However, Peleon has full faith in us because of our love of organics, combined with our creative energy, the Mountbatten experience, and wearing our lawyer hats, if anyone can do this Mandi and I can. Our first range is small with natural face creams, a hair oil and a range of bees wax treatments, possibly some soaps. We are excited to see how this range will be received.

How did you get into this line of business?
Being a Mountbatten trainee enabled us to be very savvy. We have learnt how to work, study and create a network in a year. This experience has proven invaluable as we find ourselves working in full time careers, working on Peleon and learning new concepts on the way. Without this tenacity at an early age, we would be quicker to stifle or take the first no as the final answer. NYC really builds a resilience you can only get from working in the Concrete Jungle. We truly have the Empire State of Mind built in to our DNA.

India is the home to ancient beauty rituals. Observing our grandmothers and mothers pass on these natural beauty regimes means we have an innate understanding of the power of natural plants and herbs.

Adversely, the reliance on expensive heavy 'contouring' makeup which clogs our pores and is generally not very good for our skin and wellbeing. Social media filters have made it ‘normal’ for people to post pictures that really don’t embody who they are. Today we have observed that major makeup brands are focused on playing on these insecurities, such as MAC creating the infamous 'Kylie Jenner' generation who have been taken full advantage of. We noticed people would rather use a filter than actually work on their inner being and change their routine which in the long term will be much more beneficial to the mind, body and soul.

We have made a pledge be involved in the end to end process from "soil to jar" as we like to call it. We are also in the early stages of creating a blog around skincare routine. Our website will be launched soon.

We urge women (and men) from all walks of life to follow us and help us as we embark upon our movement towards "make up free skin." and away from contouring makeup blogs. So we try to refrain from calling Peleon a business, as it implies our only incentive is to generate profits, but it is not, in fact we started this to start a movement of sort, inspired by great role models such as the Alicia Keys of the world.

How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
Setting up and getting established was a very intuitive process. We both work for the Big 4, equipped with skills to help clients with either distressed companies, or setting up new enterprises, combined with our legal training, we understand the requirements and diligence that goes behind setting up a business. We started with scribbling down ideas in our notebooks, contacted an accountant to incorporate and deal with other registration required, and the rest is history. Also, we both come from very enterprising Indian families, Jemini's parents first business was a fish and chip shop in the Midlands, when East African Indians arrived in the UK in the 1970's; and Mandi's Dad was a rags to riches story, working in the road aggregate business to becoming one of the first Indians to own a franchise and a healthy fleet. We have leveraged all their knowledge and discipline to work hard, stay focused, and cut down social life to focus on Peleon, which is really important to us.

What else is in the pipeline?
The phrase "if Mohamed will not go to the mountain" is apt for Peleon. We are at the embryonic stages of our business venture, our research and development into potent botanicals has already taken us to remote parts of Europe, Cuba, and soon to be Nepal. It was thanks to Mountbatten where we met our dearest friends from Nepal (Nawang, Tenzing, Badu and Omi) the reason we have this valuable opportunity to why we are visiting the foothills of the Himalayas. Our pipeline activity is to focus on conquering mountains on other continents to better understand mountain botanicals and their healing properties and health benefits.

What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
Our proudest moment has been establishing Peleon Origins whilst working in our demanding full time careers respectively. There has been a lot of sacrifice involved and the ultimate balancing act. There has been a lot of working long hours and turning down social events because we have been focused on ensuring we put our all in to Peleon, especially at its embryonic stages. In fact this is something we mastered whilst interns in NYC. We were living by the New York minute-working, studying and socialising.

What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
Our biggest learning curve has been working with people who have an ulterior motive. In the world of Enterprise, things move very fast. We’ve discovered upon trusting people/service providers to find there is a level of undermining/ulterior motive involved. It can be hard to decipher authentic from scam artists but we have heightened our intuitiveness/experience which has really helped us tenfold and taught us valuable lessons about business i.e. ensuring you have an audit trail of communication, using secure transaction methods and overall trusting your gut instinct.

Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
Nike puts it so eloquently, just do it! Understand the business arena, do your research on what is going in the relevant marketplace. Don’t be afraid to ask people for favours, this could be people who know someone in packaging, or is a useful contact that can give you some subject matter expertise. You will make mistakes, but learn from them rather than dwell on them.

It’s exciting having your own business, but the dark side of business is it’s a lot of work and personal investment. If you are prepared to work like a work horse and sacrifice ‘play time’ and you have a good idea-go for it!