In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating our very own Founder & CEO ~ Joy Isaacs. Read on to discover how Joy balances work with being a mum and her intuitive advice for aspiring female founders.
In the beginning
Q: You started ARgENTUM 10 years ago. Has your career path always been a straight line?
A: No, it definitely hasn’t. I came to the United Kingdom from South Africa to travel, actually, to backpack around the world, which I did. I’d run out of money by the end, and I thought, I’ll just stay and work, then I thought, I’m not going back ~ and that was that.
At that time, we had the opportunity to have work visas, and I was able to apply for residency since I had British ancestry. So that’s how I ended up staying here, in London.
I stepped into the work market doing all sorts of temporary bits and pieces, so I’d say that the first part of my career was working for many different companies across various industries like banking, government agencies, pension funds, and HR. I actually ended up getting a lot of experience in lots of different areas. And at that stage, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I just carried on flowing with it.
All of this ended up being seeds planted for the bigger picture later in my life when I wanted to start my own business. So that time in finance, HR, merchandise stock management, and marketing helped me, and although I was thrown all over the place and it wasn’t a straight line, I feel they were the building blocks for running my own business.
Q: Did you always know you’d be an entrepreneur?
A: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know how or when. Some people have their career nailed down - straight off the bat. They know exactly what they want to study, and they step into their career and build their way up. Other people are just late developers ~ I’m definitely one of those. I don’t believe I could ever have done this job in my 20s or 30s. Even now… I’m learning loads, but I had to have my experiences in the past to get me to where I am.
Q: What was your experience as a female founder when you first started?
A: All the companies I had worked in up to that point had been male-dominated. But for me, I started the business from home ~ I wasn’t in a ‘normal’ corporate environment. I still had my young children around me; I really could create my own destiny that worked around what we were doing.
The cosmetic world, the beauty industry, is dominated by women. Most of the new skincare indie brands have female founders… Beauty is the groundbreaking space for women entrepreneurs ~ maybe because it’s a place where they feel braver and more knowledgeable than men. I think feminine energy has always dominated this arena.
Q: Were you always drawn to beauty and luxury?
A: I wasn’t consciously aware of the beauty industry and cosmetic products, but I’ve definitely always been drawn to creating beauty and harmony. Even as a young child and teenager, I would do people’s hair and my friend’s make-up. I would want to make them look beautiful, and that gave me joy.
I certainly had the intention to build a global, luxury lifestyle brand. And the connection to luxury was the idea that a lot of thought goes into the creation of something beautiful. And the fact that we are storytellers? The depth of storytelling is very much in line with our feelings around luxury.
Q: Do you remember your first expensive face cream? Your first expensive perfume?
A: I do… My first expensive face cream was probably in the late 90s. I remember buying it at Harrods ~ it was a massive purchase. I was in my mid-20s, maybe 25 or something? I really enjoyed it. I didn’t need it so much for my skin, but I thought it was great.
Fragrance goes back further. There were a few, but fragrances often react with me. I was super-sensitive to some of the overpowering scents. Some synthetic fragrances would give me headaches and make me feel quite unsettled. As a result, I was very hesitant (initially) to allow scent into our products. But we went to France and met Delphine, our perfumer, who worked in natural and organic fragrances, and it just felt right. She was wonderful to work with, and I insisted that our fragrance was unisex and welcoming ~ to everyone.
Q: Can you tell us about your own skincare routine?
A: My routine simply involves ARgENTUM. Our products allow me to go fast when things are busy or take my time ~ those moments are rare. Our hero product la potion infinie is the one cream I can’t live without. It was designed as an eye cream, moisturiser and serum ~ truly all in one. I don’t need or want anything else as the instant tightening and firming results are incredible ~ not to mention the longer-term support it gives my skin.
The best beauty tips I’ve picked up have evolved along the way and have become innate. I believe in using your intuition when choosing and applying products, so my advice would be to choose your skincare and cosmetics intuitively. I believe less is more and do not subscribe to layering skincare, especially as some active ingredients can affect one another negatively.
Q: Can we talk about your dream that led to ARgENTUM? Of course, it all started with a dream, but can you share any more details?
A: The idea came to me in 2010 when I had a nighttime dream about using Silver in skincare because of its extraordinary antibacterial and healing properties. Before this dream, I experienced a severe infection after surgery that only healed after doctors used silver mesh wound dressings ~ this must have stayed in my subconscious, only to resurface later. Over the years, I’ve had many dreams and ideas, but this one had a lot of energy behind it ~ it was one of those ideas that stuck. Since then, the journey has been an inspiring one.
Q: How did you come up with the archetypes?
A: ARgENTUM is about finding the balance in everything ~ combining the powers of feminine intuition with masculine energy. At the very core of beauty is balance; it’s only once we have achieved this within ourselves that beauty can truly radiate. At ARgENTUM, we have created a world ~ a place where our poetry (feminine) and science (masculine) come together as one.
We use this world to tell our story and reveal the 12 archetypes who depict some of the people and energies involved in creating ARgENTUM. We call this journey 12 BECOME 1. We believe the key to inner beauty is finding a balance between all 12, and so with every product, you receive one archetype card ~ delivered by chance and always with love. That is the energy drawn to you ~ the archetype within you that needs focus or balancing.
Q: Tell us about your love of Tarot:
A: I started to ramp up with Tarot in 2010 and immersed myself in the imagery and symbolism. I don’t think it’s some magical oracle in the sky. Instead, I believe we all hold our truth buried in our subconscious and are willing to project it onto many things, for example, people, life circumstances, poetry, music and of course, imagery (art). It allows us to project what is just below the surface and access what is really going on ~ with our own personal truth.
Q: In the Tarot journey, where would you say you are right now?
A: High Priestess just came into my mind. But then again, you’re never just one. That could be today ~ tomorrow I could be somewhere else.
At the start of the journey, it was very much about the Strength card. When you look at the card, it’s a woman taming a lion. The thing could bite her head off and eat her, but she’s managed to work out how to tame the beast. And that is potentially a female entrepreneur coming into this world to try and present something to the world ~ a business, which is the beast ~ and how she persuades it to be a pussycat rather than a lion.
Q: What does success look like to you? Is it different from 10 years ago when you first started the brand?
A: It’s not different. I think I was very clear that success isn’t about the money. It truly was about creative expression. ARgENTUM is a very creative company, and the beauty runs not just in what we’re selling but much deeper ~ the beauty and the harmony ~ within the creative side of everything.
I think success is something that can elude people. I don’t feel good or bad about it either way, other than to just immerse myself in the present day-to-day of what I’m doing. I haven’t failed by any stretch, but I haven’t completed what I set out to do yet.
Q: Is there a piece of advice you wish you could go back and give yourself when you were first starting ARgENTUM?
A: No. Because it’s the not-knowing… It’s the naivety that drives you forward as an entrepreneur. If I had given myself all the answers, it would have undermined my confidence levels at the time. What’s revealed to you is revealed at the right time, always.
Q: Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
A: It’s not so much the idea you have; it’s your passion, drive and determination. There will be times when you feel alone or afraid, but that’s when you pull on fearlessness because there is no such thing as a wrong decision; there is just making a decision weighed up by what’s in view.
Go for it, and don’t be afraid to fall. All the best do, but it's those that get back up again and carry on regardless that always seem to break through. Trust in your intuition; it's your guiding light ~ you should never stray from a gut feeling that takes you to your dream.
Motherhood and business
Q: Can you talk a bit about your family and life at home?
A: My eldest son was born in 2003, and at that time, I decided to stop working and focus on being a Mum. To my absolute surprise (a nice one), I fell pregnant with my second boy 13 months later. I was very busy with these two; they were full-on, it felt like having twins, although they couldn’t be two more different characters.
I didn’t have the pressure of working, and I was very privileged to be able to immerse myself in motherhood. At that stage, I didn’t feel (within myself) that I could be the best mom I wanted to be AND focus on my career. I had to get to that stage to decide to say ~ I CAN do both, and I CAN do both successfully. And only when I was ready to make that my truth and move forward with that was I able to start ARgENTUM.
I thought the baby shop was closed, but life had other plans, with another surprise (a good one) when my 3rd son was born in 2009. Those three children were from my first marriage, so it was a BIG surprise (for everyone) when I had another baby boy at the beginning of 2020 with Sam, my husband now. We met and fell in love through ARgENTUM, so that was a little like a love story journey through the business and our destiny with that. Sam has a daughter who’s 21, so I also have a step-daughter ~ she’s the precious girl who balances things out with all these boys!
All the kids absolutely adore their baby brother ~ it really has been wonderful to see. He was a bit of an unplanned surprise ~ we’d decided to focus a little more on our career as our kids were growing up, and having a baby wasn’t something we felt we had to do, but life had other plans… He just happened, and like all things, when it just happens ~ it’s meant to be.
Q: Do you have any family rituals you all enjoy together?
A: You know, it would be nice if we were one of those families that sat around the table and had dinner together and chatted ~ that happens once a year at Christmas-time or when there’s a birthday… Even then, it doesn’t last long! One of the things we share is a sense of humour, so we’ll have a joke, wind each other up and play one off the other in the name of fun! We love our family holidays too; they’ve become a bit of a yearly tradition. We might even try to sneak in more than one if there’s time and everyone’s free!
Q: How does your marriage fit into the balance ~ especially since you also work together?
A: It’s very intense for us because Sam and I do everything together. We’re best mates, do business together, create together, have a child together, Sam’s step-dad to all the boys, and I’m step-mum to his daughter, so it’s all really integrated. At the same time, we are very different people, and we allow each other that. I encourage him to do his thing, and he encourages me to do my thing.
Sam and I also met in a working relationship… I think it’s very different when you’re in a relationship and THEN decide to build a business together and don’t know what it’s like to work together. Sam and I worked together first, so respect was there before any other relationship. I think that might make it easier.
Q: Do you have time for yourself?
A: I have very little time for myself, but I am precious about my sleep, and I haven’t had much of it in the last two years with our toddler. It’s been an enormous amount of no sleep, and I don’t function well on that. Sam seems to perform better on less sleep, so I will do the nights, he will do the mornings and let me have a lie-in or power nap in the afternoon to cope.
So for me, sleep is the most important thing—sleep and potentially a bath, and when I get time for a facial or indulge in a bit of a skincare ritual ~ that is a real treat.
Q: You’re clearly a pro at juggling at this point ~ do you ever share experiences with other women?
A: Absolutely! I’ve aligned with quite a few different female entrepreneurs over the years. We’ll talk and share and help each other. I love to share. It helps to nurture a network of support ~ it’s an energetic exchange that is always good.
Q: In honour of Women’s History Month ~ who are some women you look up to in business or other life aspects?
A: There’s no one I particularly aspire to be like; I just see good things all around. We’re all completely different, so I admire aspects of women everywhere, in all cultures and walks of life.
I’m also inspired by people not on the corporate ladder, people who are just being exceptional mums because that’s what they’ve chosen to be. A stay-at-home mum’s job is tough, too. I admire all these facets of whatever skills someone brings to wherever they choose to be in their lives.
Q: On having it all:
A: Women can go and get whatever they want now. We’re in a perfect spot. We want it all, and we’ve got it all because we can do both. And this is where women have the power. The challenge is when they do it, how they do it, and how they fit it in ~ that’s where I feel the challenges are.
“I feel women have enormous power ~ arguably more than men. I’d vote to be a woman any day of the week because I can be a Mum one moment and a badass career woman the next.”
Q: Do you have any advice for other moms on balancing work and life?
A: Being a mum when your kids are small is a very short amount of time in your life, whereas your career can span a very long time. There will be times when you will have to take your foot off the gas (a little bit) ~ you’re not doing 150 now; you’re going to do around 80. It’s still enough! You’re still moving forward! You are always where you are meant to be.
The point is a lot of things can go wrong. You will slide down some snakes, but you’re also going to climb some ladders. Take the good with the good, accept the bad for the bad and just keep moving forward. It’s all about growth, and it’s all about the journey.