From the table to the top

When I think about what I want to be when I grow up (I say ‘when’, but it’s about time I admit – I am grown) I don’t exactly know what it is I want to be, but it’s safe to say that if I was as successful as Sophia Amoruso, I’d feel pretty good about myself. Or better yet, who’s seen the Devil Wears Prada? I’d settle for being Miranda Priestly. But at the moment my life is a lot more like Andy’s before she got the really good bangs and the jeans that made her go from a 2 to a 10.

When I snap myself back to reality, catch myself on and accept that bopping about New York in Louboutins is a bit farfetched… I can take some little bit of comfort in the fact that some of the most successful business women in the world, turned their kitchen tables into booming brands and became leaders in their industry.

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Huda Kattan: Founder of cosmetics line ‘Huda Beauty’

The Huda Beauty story began when Kattan followed her lifelong passion of beauty and enrolled in a makeup training course in LA, resulting in gaining a massive clientele including Eva Longoria, Nicole Richie and even members of the royal family. She then set up her blog, HUDABEAUTY.COM in 2010.

So how did blogging result in Huda producing some of the best make up in the industry? Basically, she never liked any of the eyelashes she was using on clients. She was constantly cutting them up or stacking different styles on top of each other to reach the desired look. It was then that her sister, Mona, who had the light bulb moment. Why not create your OWN lashes? So she did. They launched at a Sephora store in Dubai Mall in 2013 and sold out the same day.

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From that very day the Huda Beauty brand has grew and grew, resulting in Huda being approached by investors, having been offered $1.5m for a 60% share in the firm in 2014 – which was turned down as Huda had her own vision for the company that she didn’t want anyone or anything to interfere with,

“I was so afraid of losing the magic of Huda Beauty if we took investment,”

During an explosive growth period, Huda Beauty literally couldn’t keep up with demand. Orders grew and grew, so much so that they didn’t have enough products to distribute, and they couldn’t even increase production as they didn’t have enough money to hire more staff. So it was in 2017 that Huda Beauty partnered with TSG Consumer Partners investment firm,

“It was truly a long process in finding the right partner for us because we wanted to partner with a company that really understood our company’s vision… but it has honestly been such an amazing partnership and they’ve allowed the brand to flourish.”

Huda Beauty is now the number one Beauty Instagram account with over 26 million followers, the 61st most followed person on Instagram.

Ella Mills: Food Author and Entrepreneur under the brand ‘Deliciously Ella’

The Deliciously Ella story began in 2012 whilst Ella was in University and had just been diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. In the simplest of terms, she had digestive issues and chronic fatigue and was fed up with her medication not having any positive effects. This resulted in her hitting rock bottom both mentally and physically. Not really what any university student needs.

So she took it upon herself to find other ways to manage her condition and soon realized it heavily depended on her diet and lifestyle, in which she had to massively change. Although there were a few problems:

“1. I couldn’t cook.

2. I had no idea about plant-based food

3. I had lost all of my sense of drive and passion”

(honestly Ella, SAME)

So… she decided to combat this and used a blog as a way to keep track of her culinary efforts and people LOVED IT. Hits began to grow and her audience wanted more. She soon began hosting cookery classes and “supper parties”. Her blog successes resulted in publishing opportunities, with the first Deliciously Ella cookery book being published in 2015, becoming the best-selling debut cookbook ever in the UK.

She then met her husband Matt and it was a true culinary love story. They joined forces by using her creativity and his business mind to open the first Deliciously Ella Deli in Seymour Place, London. This lead to the launch of the Deliciously Ella food range including energy balls, granolas and frozen meals that are sold in over 6,000 stores in the UK including popular food stores Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barrett

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Sophia Christina Amoruso: Founder of ‘Nasty gal’

From an online eBay store to the CEO of one of the fastest growing companies, Sophia Christina Amoruso has had her fair share of success… so much so that she was named one of the richest self-made women in the world by Forbes in 2016. Sophia’s success story started at the age 22, when she started an online eBay store selling vintage clothing and other items, which she named “Nasty Gal Vintage”. She handled the whole thing herself, from buying the products, writing product descriptions and taking pictures of the products to share with her customers. Two years later she moved the store off eBay onto its very own website, rebranding as “Nasty Gal”

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This was just the beginning of Nasty Gal’s growth. Each year it grew and grew from opening its headquarters in LA in 2010, reaching $24 million revenue in 2011 (11,200% three-year growth rate) to opening their first brick and mortar store in 2014 in the famous LA Melrose Avenue.

Despite her evident success, Sophia’s journey was not smooth sailing as she called herself a “young, naïve founder.” Sophia stepped down as CEO of Nasty Gal in 2015, after admitting “she felt incompatible with the demands of being a CEO”. Soon after, Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy, resulting in Boohoo Group purchasing the brand for a whopping $20m.

Although it was the end of Sophia’s Nasty Gal journey, it was not the end of her. After stepping down as CEO, Sophia had time to reflect and wants to pass on the wisdom and hard-learned lessons. You gotta learn from your mistake, am I right? She used her own experience to help others and founded GirlBoss Media in 2017, named after her best selling memoir #GirlBoss.

“Girlboss is a community of strong, curious, and ambitious women redefining success on our own terms. We are here to inform, entertain, and inspire action through the content and experiences we create. We are unapologetic in our beliefs and values of supporting girls and women who are chasing dreams both big and small.”

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So yeah, as much as our biggest career goals may seem totally out of reach – if there’s anything that the twenty-first century constantly teaches us, it’s that business opportunities are literally at our fingertips. It only takes a blog or vlog to build a public persona, Instagram to forge a brand, and eBay to have a proper business from home. It’s not impossible and our idols prove that. I wouldn’t suggest giving up the day job…  but don’t give up on the dream either. After all, the expert at anything was once a beginner.

Catherine Maguire is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

Business Owner at 18 : Promotion through Social Media

OM1At the tender age of 20 years old, one might ask what words of wisdom could a fresh-faced student have for a world of entrepreneurs? Well I can tell you that after turning 20 in June and going through a roller coaster of a year and seven months in business, that social media is your best friend!

After turning 18 in June 2016, I headed off to University, confident my life was on the right track. Prior to opening my business, I grew up making myself money. By selling my old clothes on eBay, cleaning anything I could around our house for extra money. I always enjoyed the idea of being my own boss. After completing 4 long years of GCSE & A-Level Art, I realised my passion was Make-Up. (queue many readers switching off).

I opened my own freelance makeup business in March 2017 at the rare age of 18 with possibly £200 to my name, a chair and a Facebook page. I had absolutely no clients and no clue how to get them. Now, over a year and a half on I have a big client base, my own premises and thankfully looking forward to the next few years, as well as being able to blog my thoughts on social media.

So firstly – 1. use Facebook as a promotional tool

I began posting up pictures of my work on my Facebook page to achieve higher engagement. In the first few months of business I done a lot of free work to get myself noticed in my area, to build a client base. I worked at a loss and I made so many mistakes. Facebook for me was a great client builder. I was able to post client photos, allow them to post reviews of my services and it formed a base for my business.

  1. Instagram is your best friend!

In 1 year, I gained over 6,500 followers on my Instagram page from posting content. Now I’m the first to say its not all about follows, likes etc. however in my business, I thrive from engagement. If you’re opening a business which focuses on visual aspects Instagram is where you need to be! Using Instagram as a marketing tool is one of the best and easiest ways to strengthen your business and interact freely with your audience. By using Hashtags to raise awareness & advertise your company.

For me many of my clients are young girls under between the ages of 13 and 20, so as you can imagine Instagram is the perfect place for me to grow my brand. Choosing a platform that connects with your target audience is the key to success.

  1. Post good quality pictures

Nobody wants to see blurry photos that look as if they’ve been taken on a toaster. Everyone on social media is upping their game which means you should too! Take a look at what your competition is posting as a way of bench marking. Studies show that users on Instagram decide whether to follow you or not based on the 3 most recent posts on your profile – so every post counts.

Try to take your pictures against plain (ish) backgrounds & make sure not to upload things nobody wants to see, try to link your uploads back to your business.

  1. Get Tagging

By tagging bigger brands, influencers etc. this encourages them to re-post your work which in turn gets your page more engagement, which is what counts. If your business creates products, posting pictures and tagging relevant Instagram accounts will help your account reach a larger audience.

  1. People want results!

For me as a makeup artist, I gain clients through posting pictures of my makeup on myself and others. As well as posting before and after pictures which shows your skills. This doesn’t just apply to businesses like me, consumers want to know that your product works / creates results before they’ll purchase. Sharing testimonials, reviews and pictures are a great way to show off your products/services on social media.

  1. Choose your social media according to your audience

For me, I want to target all ages. I post on Instagram, Facebook & Snapchat, each for different reasons. I find the older generation use Facebook more than Instagram and this is my method for advertising to an older clientele. Younger people follow me on Instagram and snapchat, therefore I market myself differently due to the difference in followers. With snapchat I feel I can be more open as its not as public as the likes of Instagram & Facebook, however I find snapchat to be the most effective in terms of selling power.

 

So, I hope you might have gained some insight into the world of social media, for me social media has changed the way we are able to promote ourselves and business. It has enabled us to target different people in ways that are engaging to them.

Olivia McVeigh is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – @oliviamcveigh_ ; Linkedin – Olivia McVeigh ; WordPress – https://oliviamcveigh.wordpress.com/blog/ ; Twitter – @McveighOlivia

 

Keeping up with Kylie’s PR Blunders

Kylie Jenner has been in the public eye since she was ten years old, but in 2016 when she launched her own cosmetics brand, she finally began to hold her own in the spotlight.

Of course, something that comes with every business venture that any of the Kardiashian/Jenners embark on, is bad publicity, and this was no different for the youngest of the clan.

From the very beginning of the brand, there has been constant backlash of everything that the young entrepreneur has launched. Not long after the first LipKit launch, beauty vloggers began to review the first of the products, and gave very honest, very brutal reviews.

Not only had the products themselves been receiving the awful feedback, the company itself had been getting dogged with complaints of missing products, with customers waiting months and months for their order to arrive, some customers even contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for advice. The BBB website actually displays information about the complaints it’s received of different companies, and of the 136 complaints filed about Kylie Cosmetics, the majority fell under the categories of delivery issues and problems with the products. During this first major PR blunder, the BBB first rated them an F, which then changed to a NR (no rating).

Not exactly great PR for an up and coming business. The company has since had their rating improved to a B, but the negative reviews from customers still overpower the positive, out of 348 reviews, 199 of them are negative, a whopping 57%.

“I placed an order on 12/2/17 for the Koko set for my niece and they have yet to send it out. I have e-mailed them on the 7th but receive a generic response that didn’t answer any of my questions. There is no customer service backing this product . I don’t understand how they are at a B+?”
“I purchased the KoKo Collection lipsticks on 10/24 at around 9:22 p.m. After doing some research on the colors I decided they wouldn’t be a good fit and at around 9:45 p.m. I emailed Kylie’s customer service to cancel my order. I received a response on 10/27 informing me that my order was already placed and I couldn’t cancel my order. I somehow was hopeful that I would be able to use some of the product if not all. Well yesterday (10/30) I received the ripped kit with used lipsticks which was clearly returned by another customer. I emailed customer service right away and provided pictures of the used lipstick tubes and broken package. Customer service got back to me today and notified me that they didn’t accept returns of broken products! will be tossing these in the garbage and will never recommend this cosmetic line to anyone. Buying products online without being able to swatch them is difficult enough and risky on the consumer and therefore buying from a cosmetic line that doesn’t do returns or refunds is ludicrous.”

Other than the ongoing negative customer reviews, the company has had no major PR mishaps in the last couple years. Until now.

With the most recent launch of her brand involving an entire new range of concealers, lipsticks and a brush set, 2 out of 3 of the products have come under fire on the Internet.

Firstly, a lot of the make-up community have criticized the make-up mogul for copying Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand with the new concealers. Before the Fenty Beauty launch a few months ago, not many brands had put out products that was inclusive of all skin tones across the board, and this is why Kylie’s concealers have had backlash. Many believe that Kylie has copied Rihanna’s shade range. So, I suppose you could be criticized for worse things than being racially inclusive, right?

However, another criticism of the same product is that Kylie Cosmetics is developed in the same factory as much cheaper e-commerce brand ColourPop, so many are slating the concealers for being the exact same as the ones ColourPop released not so long ago, just with Kylie’s name on it.

Kylie Cosmetics, for the first time since launching in 2016, also released set of brushes, sold separately and as a collective on the website. The collection includes 16, silver/chrome “real hair” brushes, which according to the reviews made by beauty vloggers in the last week, perform well. Although, the thing on everyone’s mind is not how they perform, or how they look, it’s the whopping $360 price tag.

Controversial make-up artist and owner of cosmetic brand Jeffree Star Cosmetics, Jeffree Star published his very honest and brutal opinion of the brushes as soon as the brushes were available to purchase. In a review posted to his youtube channel, Star first of all, described the ‘silver brush roll’ that the brushes came in as ‘tin foil’. He stated to his fans that for what you’re getting, and paying $360 (plus tax and shipping), you’re really paying for a over-hyped celebrity name.

And many other YouTube famous make-up experts seem to agree with this opinion.

Kylie Jenner took to Twitter to defend the price tag, and compared her brush set to the sets released by legendary make-up brands such as MAC, Artis and Kevyn Aucoin, which actually made things worse for Kylie, as many believe someone who has only been in the make-up industry for a few years, simply cannot compare her products to those luxury brands that have been around for a lifetime.

It would seem that Kylie Cosmetics, and maybe Kylie Jenner in general, need a PR professional, and stat.

Hollie Thomson is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/holliethomson/ or Facebook: Hollie Thomson

Being Cruel to be Cool- Exploring makeup for those that love animals

Being Cruel to be Cool- Exploring makeup for those that love animals

How do you feel about animal testing? Have you ever heard of it? Let’s begin with a fact: I have always been a bit of a makeup snob. When I first dipped my toe into this colourful world, I would have turned my nose up quite quickly at lower-priced drugstore brands. My personal goal was to own the entirety of Bourjois Paris makeup. My reasoning was very simple; it was French, it was chic and most importantly, they make Chanel makeup and because I couldn’t afford luxury lipstick on a pocket money budget, I settled on second best. But several hundred pounds worth of products later, I have moved on. I voyaged out further from just Bourjois Paris. I went to Kiko Milano, Rimmel London and even ventured across the water to Maybelline New York. Though, many others are still very selective when it comes to shopping for cosmetics.

Cruelty-free products are becoming more about a choice rather than a suitable option for the vegan/vegetarians lifestyle. Thankfully. These types of products are making a steady advance to greater mainstream audiences due to an increased awareness of animal welfare issues. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) conducted a public opinion survey in order to gain an insight into people’s opinions about animal welfare.

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As the graphs show, many believe that testing cosmetics and personal care products on animals are unethical, and a large majority believe such testing should not be allowed. This definitely reflects that there is an interest in the idea of animal welfare as 58% stated that they are likely to purchase products that were cruelty-free. Whilst this study was conducted in America, I feel like this really can reflect on a much larger population interest- the idea of anyone seeking animal welfare rights can be universal regardless of location and to back this notion up, on the 11th of March 2011, the European Union banned animal testing to both cosmetics products and their ingredients in Europe. Fantastic!

Let’s get down to basics; what is animal testing and why does it exist? It exists due to ensure consumer safety at the cost of animal welfare when a product is made, it is hauled through multiple tests in order for it to be deemed safe. It is tested for skin sensitization, skin or eye irritation as well as less immediate effects like reproductive development and inhalation toxicity.

Here’s an example for you: when a product is being tested for skin irritation, animal testing labs will apply the test substance to the exposed skin of a shaved rabbit. They then leave it for a period of time and “record if their skin shows any signs of redness, rash, lesions, scaling, inflammation, and/or other signs of damage” according to The Humane Society, a non-profit organisation that reviews animal safety. This test is usually done on numerous rabbits at once over a period of time to make results more valid. Should beauty be forcibly made skin deep for these animals? And yet, there is a simple alternative that exists. Cruelty-free organisations use “reconstructed human skin models”. These are grown in a laboratory from skin cells left and are the replacement to live test subjects. They highlight the potential dangers caused by a new product and are more accurate at predicting how human skin will respond to an ingredient or product.

And that isn’t the only benefit from using reasons cruelty-free products. Many everyday household brands are full of harsh chemicals, such as parabens and fragrance. For instance, aluminium is an ingredient found in antiperspirants that may be linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Cruelty-free products provide a gentler, more natural substitute for our skin to absorb.

On doing a quick google search of ‘Cruelty-Free makeup’ for my research, I was hit with a vast number of articles-most about which brands are listed as cruelty-free. But that made me think;

  • Why do you have to check these lists in order to be informed?
  • Why do so few of these companies actually make that clear?
  • Shouldn’t companies be proud to be recognised as a cruelty-free brand?

Companies such as TooFaced Cosmetics, Wet & Wild Beauty and NYX Cosmetics are proud to show their support towards the protection of animals as they print the Cruelty-Free bunny logo onto all their packaging.

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Personally, a brand should not be approved as a cruelty-free brand unless they are willing to display it on their product’s packaging. For a lot of brands, it seems to be that you have to do the research yourself to find out information about their animal testing policy. I find this to be true with a lot of brands because nowhere on their packaging, mentions “cruelty free” or even has the cruelty free bunny printed on it. Which is ironic because most brands have been certified by both PETA and The Leaping Bunny Program. To name and shame a few guilty brands: Hourglass Cosmetics, Urban Decay, Charlotte Tilbury, ELF Cosmetics. I think this is an awful shame because I own products from each of these brands and would deem it an attractive trait for the brand to demonstrate its beliefs to oppose animal testing.

When looking at this issue from a PR perceptive, these companies are losing out in my opinion. Customers dictate the market. If consumers are buying into the concept of supporting animal welfare and begin to shop with a more to ethical mindset then brands with outdated packaging and philosophies will crumble. By tapping into this idea of identifying as a cruelty-free brand, I feel animal caring customers would want to engage more. By understanding that the consumer is now actively choosing cruelty-free over animal tested products, it should set alarm bells ringing for organisations to change their ways. Now I am not expecting the CEO of these companies to become extreme animal activists but I feel owning up to the title of an animal right supporter should be enough for customers to feel more informed and connect to the brand as they share the same beliefs. This can be as easy done as printing it on packaging or training staff on the company’s ethics.

Personally, I believe the more attention we give to cruelty-free brands, the quicker more legislation is brought in in order to protect all animals. China is a perfect example. With little to no regulations set in place about animal testing, there is no framework to ensure Asian companies will uphold these documentations. Therefore, companies don’t need to make an effort to ensure animal welfare is safeguarded which leads to a higher potential for abuse. And so, hundreds of thousands, probably even more-rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and rats are still subjected to painful tests each year to bring the likes of eyeshadow, shampoo and body lotion to store shelves.

If we can do our best to avoid cruelty-free brands through research and selective purchases, knowing which brands we stand by or boycott- then maybe the directors at these companies will get the message that all lives- from men to mice- are equal and deserve to be treated with respect. I hope that further awareness and rapid change to how testing is currently performed will change for the better- animal abuse is an ugly affair, so why should they be harmed in order for us to feel pretty.

 

Nicole Service is a third-year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-service-056016130.