What it takes to start a beauty start-up

March 7th 2015 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ What it takes to start a beauty start-up


We spoke to 4 inspirational beauty businesswomen to ask how they discovered the key to start-up success

What does it take to start a beauty start-up? Between funding, building a team, forging dynamic partnerships, finding a USP and making it as profitable as possible, starting a business can prove to be one of the riskiest and stressful experiences that anyone can go through.

So what’s the key to success? We spoke to 4 inspirational women about their journeys so far. From their biggest successes to their biggest challenges, let their top tips for start-up success act as ample inspiration when it comes to creating and building a lucrative business and staying one step ahead of the competition.

Susannah Taylor, Editor-in-Chief, Getthegloss.com


The inspiration behind Get The Gloss...

I was on maternity leave with my second child when I started up a small blog called Get The Gloss. I had left Vogue about two years before and was very aware that I had a Little Black Book filled with the best beauty and health experts in the world. I thought “Since I know these people personally, wouldn't it be amazing to be able to make their advice accessible to everyone?” So I started up this stylish, simple blog interviewing the best personal trainers, makeup artists, hair stylists, doctors and brand owners.

It was soon after this that I was introduced to the journalist Sarah Vine (now at The Mail, formerly at the Times). Sarah had a vision to create a much bigger website which she wanted me to edit, so we began building a much bigger site that would include live chats with experts, a shop section, video tutorials and daily news within beauty and health. We wanted it to become a go-to authority in the business. It soon became obvious that I wouldn't be able to manage the blog and the bigger site and so we called the bigger site Get The Gloss. We launched in October 2012 so we are currently 2.5 years old!

The aspect of the business I’m most proud of...

Wow that's a hard one. I am a very visual person, so I am very happy about the way it looks - I like to think it's stylish, clean and engaging, (I didn't want it to feel cold, I wanted people to come and hang out with us!). I still vet virtually every single image that goes up and we are about to launch a new homepage too which will look even better (Sarah McGinnis our Art Editor is totally amazing).

I am also hugely proud of the content which I think is on-the-pulse and it takes a very holistic viewpoint - a new foundation may be a quick fix but to really look amazing you need to eat well and have a good fitness regime too. I am also proud of our tone of voice - in the beginning we set out to be very real and not paint a picture of a woman that is unachievable. I like to think of us as a brand with style but with a sense of humour too. We may workout hard but we also like to have copious cocktails with our friends. I feel like we champion women, support them, and empower them - this is actually the thing I am probably most proud of. I am also very proud of the fact that half the traffic to our site is about beauty and half is about health and fitness. Oh and Get The Job - our platform for jobs within beauty and wellness - this is amazing, and ground-breaking too.


My biggest challenge to date and how I overcame it...

Tech. Full stop. When I started this project I had never dealt with technology properly as I had only ever worked in print and I am very much a pencil and paper creative kind of girl. It literally was a case of feeling our way, of working with a tech team to try and create a vision of something we wanted. I would sketch out ideas to them and then say “How do we create this?” And sometimes we wouldn't get back what we wanted as what they see and what I wanted from an editorial standpoint can be very different. Thankfully, a wonderful member of our team joined - Judy Johnson - who crosses the line between editorial and tech. I still find it very hard talking to the tech team about the functionality of the site...they use a lingo that can make my brain freeze (sorry guys!).

My top tips for anyone looking to start a business in the beauty industry...

Find an idea that's totally new, whether it be a new beauty brand, a new website, a new app or a blog. It's a hugely competitive market now and something really needs to stand out. There are some amazing bloggers out there such as Zoella, Pixiwoo and Michelle Phan with an enormous audience and many people think they can replicate that - if only it were that easy! These guys are one in a million.

My advice would also be to engage in all social media and also make sure you have the technology nailed... people are so savvy these days and expect really fast, easy-to-access websites with the latest functionality. Also think about how your idea transfers to a phone screen - iPhones are an extension of our arms these days and about 60% of our traffic comes from mobiles and tablets.


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Anna-Marie Solowij and Millie Kendall, co-founders of BeautyMART


The inspiration behind BeautyMART...

MK: For me, it was about being able to purchase beauty in a physical environment that gave me the pace that I enjoy online. I am busy, have no time to be SOLD to and I know what I want so BeautyMART for me was about that (among other things of course!).

AMS: A more fashionable and fun way to shop for beauty. Everything else was either very brand dominant, or posh, or clinical, or cheap and it felt that no one was celebrating the fact that beauty is ultimately about how you look and integral to how you dress.

The aspect of the business we’re most proud of...

MK: I think I am a pretty good brand builder, I think I market a concept well and I get the message across in a reasonable amount of time and in a fairly clear way. This is always what I am most proud of: hearing customers, work colleagues and press tell people what we are about and getting it right.

AMS: Apart from the fact that we actually did it and have survived more than 2 years, I'm most proud of the brands we work with. Without them, our shops would be empty and there'd be no BeautyMART. They break the rules for us, are prepared to roll with our unconventional way of operating, are endlessly encouraging and just great to work with.


Our biggest challenges to date and how we overcame them...

MK: Payroll, I simply hate it and board meetings I have no words for those. You can overcome all of it though if you have a great business partner and broad shoulders.

AMS: Worrying - about everything - from finding £1 million to launch, to covering staff sickness at 10 minutes’ notice, to choosing the right shades of nail polish from our brands for summer, to apostrophes being in the wrong place (no one in our office seems to know where to put them!), I went through months of sleepless nights and I was really not happy and decided I had to change my attitude. So now I sleep, I enjoy myself and I've got my worrying down to about 30%.

Our top tips for anyone looking to start a business in the beauty industry...

MK: Trademark your name if possible - don't presume a URL is a trademark. Always get through the things you dislike first and don't delay those. Have a good accountant and an even better lawyer.

AMS: Sufficient funding - you'll need more than you think so ensure it's in place. Support - work with someone you know and trust. Recognise your weaknesses and if you can afford it, employ people who know what they're doing, otherwise you waste time and resources trying to do everything yourself.

Be prepared to get your hands dirty - despite the apparent glamour of the industry, there's an awful lot of grubbing around behind-the-scenes. On top of choosing products, writing copy and helping to run the business, I am also in charge of cleaning, laundry and changing lightbulbs. I am also the fastest barcoder in our office and I've got pretty good at building IKEA furniture!


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Claire Vero, founder Aurelia Probiotic Skincare


The inspiration behind Aurelia Probiotic Skincare...

My inspiration to launch Aurelia Probiotic Skincare came from insights I gathered from working in pharmaceuticals. I was seeing more and more women who demanded scientifically proven results but who had a growing awareness of ingredients and historically, you tend to get one or the other.

I was consulting on a treatment for patients diagnosed with chronic plaque psoriasis and came across probiotics. It was through this work that I realised the impact and importance that skin and its condition can have on every aspect of your life and how intrinsically linked self-esteem and skin health were. I had always been passionate about skincare and, having discovered how the power of probiotics can balance the skin’s inflammatory response, I set about creating a scientifically proven skincare range for all skin types that would focus on radiance, glow and age prevention while maintaining a strict free from ingredients policy formulated in a very natural and sustainable way with luxury at its heart.

The aspect of the business I’m most proud of...

One of my proudest moments has to be selling out on Net-A-Porter in just 72 hours only four months after Aurelia launched. We were one of only 15 brands to be selected as part of their initial beauty edit, and the moment when my team and I crowded around the computer to watch the first products entering customers’ baskets on Net-A-Porter Live was one I’ll never forget! Another moment I’m so proud of and that came as a huge shock to me was winning the new CEW Digital Achiever Award last year. It was incredible to have been picked among such leaders in the beauty industry and the award takes pride of place in our office!


My biggest challenge to date and how I overcame it...

One major challenge we faced was very early on in 2013. Our carton manufacturer had glued 10,000 boxes together with a glue that wasn't strong enough to hold them together and because we use glass jars and have a thick, luxury card liner, the products were heavier than they had assumed. We had a few customers email to say they loved the products and couldn't believe they had discovered the range but that some of the products boxes had popped open in the post! A major headache which took a lot of time, energy, money and tears!

My top tips for anyone looking to start a business in the beauty industry...

The beauty industry is an amazing one to be part of and one that really rewards hard work. It is incredibly supportive and I have come across so many people willing to bend over backwards to help. My advice would be to follow your gut instinct; opportunities will arise if you, your service or your product are desired.

It's important to remember to challenge every opportunity that arises and don't be afraid to say “no” sometimes - the first opportunity is not always the best. Make sure you’re constantly looking at the market too. The industry is vast with trends changing the whole time so keep an eye on new innovations. One really important tip would be to build your network by joining organisations like CEW. I have met so many wonderful people and been able to hear many interesting talks since joining.

Lastly, make sure that once you do start employing, you are surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Skills and experience will of course need to differ but everyone must share the same passion in order for your business to grow.



Follow us @getthegloss and Ayesha @ayesha_muttu.


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