E2E Member Judy Naake MBE, DL – Queen of the Self-Tan

Queen of self-tan, entrepreneur extraordinaire, Judy Naake MBE, DL, is the beauty and cosmetics industry pioneerresponsible for making the tanning brand, St Tropez, a household name.  The St Tropez mastermind built the fake-tan brand, from humble beginnings, into a multimillionpound business, in just 10 years. 

After surviving breast cancer – twice, Judy sold St Tropez in 2005 to LDC Private Equity for £70M, making her one of the most successful women in British business.

Judy left school at 15 with no qualifications.  Her first job was as a John Player girl, which she describes as ‘very glamorous,’ and where she gained her training in sales.  During the 3 years she managed Decleor boss, David Leiber’s health club, she had her first son.  She recalls ‘once you have a small child you need to make a living, but have no time, she quickly concluded, the only way to manage, was to work for herself.

Judy became a freelance sales agent for Decleor’s first aromatherapy range.  She started with 3 accounts, earning no wages, with no expense account, just 10% commission on anything she sold.  Her first pay cheque was £75; 3 years later her commission was £75,000.  ‘I had no idea what an entrepreneur wasback then, when people asked, I used to tell them I just bought and sold, she remembers with amusement.

Judy had also taken on the Midlands distributorship for Australian Body Care, becoming a brand leader, but David Leiberwanted her to work exclusively for Decleorwhich she did not want to do.  She left Decleor, and emerged as a successful agent for Darphin UK.

‘My lightbulb moment was when I noticed a gap in the market for self-tanning,’ Judy says.  ‘St Tropez didn’t have a UK distributor, so I went to LA to meet the owners, placed the order and sorted the contract, pouring all my savings into the business.’

On arrival of her first delivery, Judy packed up her car and went out to sell her new cache of St Tropez, signing up 4 accounts on her first day.  She says, ‘it was quite difficult as no one used fake tan in those days.  set up workshops every Sunday and Monday to train the beauty therapists to use it, as if not correctly applied, fake tan tended to appear streaky.’   She muses, ‘I spent the first 3 years with one white leg and one brown leg.’

Judy engaged a PR agency to promote St Tropez.  Vogue editor at the time, Cathy Philips liked the product and celebrities started using it, such as Victoria Beckham, having a big influence on its popularity.  Judy remembers ‘we never advertised except for trade ads, selling through celebrity endorsements and mentioning them in PR articles.’ The gamble had paid off.

After surviving breast cancer, Judy concluded there was more to life than working tirelessly, so decided to sell her UK distributorship and the US main company also decided to sell alongside her, as the UK represented 80% of total sales.

After selling St Tropez, Judy has further developed her reputation with interests in a wide variety of businesses.  Having spearheaded industry-dominating businesses, Judy knows what it takes to thrive and succeed in a fast-paced industry.  She now actively supports the development of entrepreneurs, as well as many charitable organisations, including the hospice and cancer charity, Maggie’s in Nottingham.

Judy is the former high sheriff of Nottingham and a Fellow of Burton and South Derbyshire College.  She has an honorary doctorate from the University of Nottingham and is currently a Deputy Lieutenant for Nottinghamshire.  In 2018, Judy received an MBE for services to entrepreneurship, the community and philanthropy.

Judy was one of the first people to join E2E, impressed with the support everyone gave each other, she says ‘I wish E2E had existed when I was a young entrepreneur setting out.’


Written by E2E


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