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Inside Job: Millie Kendall MBE, co-founder of BeautyMART
April 19th 2015
Photo credit: Kirstin Sinclair
The brand creator, retail maven and beauty expert gives us the lowdown on her amazing job, provides her top career advice and shares how she tries to balance work with family
Awarded an MBE in 2007 for her long-standing contribution to the cosmetics industry, Millie Kendall is one of beauty and business’s most respected names.
With a supreme knowledge of what consumers and companies want having worked with a wealth of huge brands during her career, in 2012 she joined forces with renowned beauty journalist Anna-Marie Solowij to launch BeautyMART and set to create a unique retail concept providing an expertly edited array of some of the most innovative products around. What you’ll find is a carefully curated selection of tried and tested recommendations - the ones that really deliver as opposed to entire ranges, to make shopping for your beauty products a far less overwhelming process.
We caught up with Millie to find out what it’s like to be at the top of your company, her tips for career success and whether there actually is such a thing as a work-life balance...
GTG: What does a typical day look like for you?
MK: I wake up quite early and usually do the school run before work. I tend to do a lot of social media before the kids even wake up and I answer emails - as I live an LA/London life, I wake up to a lot of correspondence from friends and family in the States. I am often the first in the office in the mornings and I get a lot done then. I rarely have lingering emails unattended to and tend to clear my inbox by 10am. I am a bit like an octopus and do 8 things at once and I complete tasks quite quickly so jump to other things - but I guess I manage mostly by delegating a lot. I like to let people tackle tasks and want them to never feel afraid to make mistakes, mostly everything can be resolved if issues arise.
GTG: Could you tell us a little about your background and how you broke into the industry?
MK: I am the daughter of a hairdresser, I left school quite young, I wanted independence and the only way to achieve that was by working and making my own money. My dad helped me get job after job - at Toni & Guy, Bumble and bumble and Shu Uemura. But Shu stuck. Mainly because although I love hair, I was a rubbish hairdresser and loved colour. My boss at Shu Uemura quit one day and I was offered her job. Simple as that really, right place, right time.
GTG: What's the best piece of career advice that you've been given and who gave it to you?
MK: My dad convinced me to not make impulsive decisions. One of my most abhorrent traits is my lack of patience and wanting everything done yesterday. My father convinced me to put off making decisions and to give myself time to think things through and I try every day!!
GTG: What’s the most challenging project you have worked on?
MK: Every single project has been a challenge. Probably in all honesty the beginning of Ruby & Millie was most challenging. A lot was at risk and I was pregnant with my first child. There was a major amount of work involved and I really had to stand my ground on a lot of design and branding elements.
GTG: How do you organise yourself?
MK: I don't, Anna [Marie Solowij, fellow co-founder of BeautyMART] does it for me! I actually am at one with my Mac calendar. I have a massive oversized doodle pad that I write endless lists on and I also hold Monday morning briefings.
GTG: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do what you do?
MK: Don't do what I do! It has been a long hard struggle. Be patient and be determined and be goal driven. Know what you want, learn to spell, be clear on the phone and be confident in meetings.
GTG: How do you achieve a work-life balance?
MK: I have NO balance because it all merges. When you have been a brand and you put a lot of yourself into that brand, you become used to expressing yourself in all areas of your life. So even if I am at the school gates, I live and breathe the beauty industry and people ask me what the best mascara is whether I like it or not.
When my phone is on, I use it constantly (and I have two computers on my desk - one for design and emails and one for spreadsheets). I do a lot of work in the early evenings and early mornings, but I turn my phone off around 9pm every night. I have no electronics in the bedroom. I do reserve my weekends for fun and family, I try to avoid work at all costs then. I spend a lot of time outdoors at the weekend too.
GTG: What 3 things do you do to maintain energy, focus and motivation throughout the day?
MK: I am never unfocused, lacking in energy or motivation. I know that sounds odd but I have tons of all of those - what I probably don't have enough time to do, is relax.
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