Fam­ily busi­ness

The twin sis­ters be­hind Dr. Roe­buck’s skin­care on the joys and chal­lenges of be­ing en­trepreneurs


Aus­tralia-raised iden­ti­cal twins Kim and Zoe Roe­buck have taken a fam­ily con­cern—skin­care made with pure, re­spon­si­bly sourced in­gre­di­ents, ini­tially made by their two physi­cian par­ents to treat their own eczema— and de­vel­oped it into a beauty brand sold around the world. De­spite shar­ing the same sunny de­meanour, quick­talk­ing Aussie ac­cent and sun-kissed­blonde hair, the 39-year-old sis­ters have dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sional back­grounds: Zoe worked in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Kim in me­dia. So when they joined forces, they needed to not only bal­ance their ex­pe­ri­ence, but find a way to run a com­pany to­gether while liv­ing half way around the world: Zoe lives near Bondi Beach in Syd­ney, while Kim is based in Vancouver. We met up with them in New York to find out what it takes to build a global brand from the ground up. Kim: “In most work en­vi­ron­ments, you need to have a fil­ter, but not when you work with your sis­ter. Things hap­pen a lot faster and more eas­ily.” Zoe: “If you’re work­ing with your sis­ter, you don’t give up—you keep go­ing.”

Kim: “It’s a tough game. I have so much re­spect for women like Jo Malone who have done it alone. We love it, but it’s tough, so if you’ve got some­one you’re work­ing with to keep you mo­ti­vated, it’s a lot more fun.” Kim: “You can find like-minded peo­ple around the world. We try to find many, many ‘us’es that like to do any­thing and ev­ery­thing. It’s a cer­tain type of per­son who wants to be part of this jour­ney—we’re very hon­est in the in­ter­view process that this is not a nor­mal job or en­vi­ron­ment.” Zoe: “Very rarely. I’ll call Kim and say, ‘ We’ve been work­ing for three months straight, so not a word about Dr. Roe­buck’s or I’m go­ing to hang up the phone.’ You have to set bound­aries, but it’s hard. Then some­thing Kim: “Some­times we take a male fi­nan­cial ad­viser [into meet­ings]— ev­ery time we bring a man into the room it makes a dif­fer­ence. You can’t get an­gry about it. You just have to [fo­cus on the] tools you have. If you’re ag­gres­sive, it’s even worse and gives them a rea­son to say, ‘Oh, they’re emo­tional women.’”

Zoe: “You can’t get up­set. That’s what they want you to do.” Kim: “Our mom’s phi­los­o­phy was about holis­ti­cally car­ing for your­self, less from a van­ity per­spec­tive, but more about want­ing to be well in to­tal­ity. You need to worry about core el­e­ments, since skin is the most ab­sorbent or­gan of your body. When we were chil­dren we would layer head to toe in 40-plus SPF sun­screen when no one else did.”

Zoe: “That’s all we’ve ever known and that phi­los­o­phy goes into our cream.”

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