Have you ever wondered what it really takes to be a successful beauty boss? The OK! Beauty Box has teamed up with some of the industry’s most brilliant women to put together a limited edition Female Founders Edit, and of course we just had to ask how they’ve managed to build their own brands. Well, we can dream, right?
This week we’re talking to the leaders behind NEOM, Mii Cosmetics, Sensory Retreats and Emma Hardie. You’ll find these brands, and many more, in our girl power edit, which is worth £255 but is yours for a bargain £55 right here.
As well as bagging a fantastic haul of 12 beauty products, you’ll be helping to support the work of Refuge in protecting women against violence and living in fear. 10% of all box sales will be donated to the charity.
Here’s what four of our inspirational lady bosses had to tell us about making it in the world of beauty. You can also read the advice we got from the founders of Balance Me, Floral Street, Dr.PAWPAW and Bouclème right here .
Nicola Elliott, founder of wellbeing brand NEOM Organics
I set out on this journey because.. I was working 60-hour weeks and started suffering from anxiety. I decided I needed to look after myself better, and as part of that, I bought essential oils and began creating blends to help me, depending on how I felt at the end of each day. “Self-care” wasn’t in our vernacular then, but that’s what I did.
I was inspired to set up my business by… looking around and thinking, “Gosh, it’s not just me. My friends are having problems with stress, sleep, energy or mood too.” Those are the four pillars for keeping your wellbeing in check.
The secret to NEOM’s success is… helping people to feel better in small, easy ways. You don’t have to do yoga at 6am with a green smoothie. Neom is more about getting into people’s blah moments and giving them a boost. That resonates with me because I’m not a natural wellbeing bunny at all.
I’m very proud of… the way we've become a big content hub, with loads of expert advice. Wellbeing is a huge topic, and I'm really mindful that we have a responsibility if we're talking to people about these issues. We crack open a bigger conversation and offer them other help, because there is no one silver bullet.
If I’m having a confidence wobble… I use our Real Luxury De-Stress Oil Blend. I still get panic attacks sometimes. Being away from the children can be a trigger, or if I have a big meeting and I’m like, “God this is going to be a mess if I don’t perform.” I always have the oil with me for those times.
The thing I’d do differently would be… everything but nothing. We've made every mistake in the book. We’ve been so unprepared, it’s been like walking up Mount Everest in flip-flops. But the only reason I know so much now is because I did so many things wrong.
The advice I’d give wannabe entrepreneurs is… go for it. Done is better than perfect. You can iterate when it's live. And don’t wait for THE idea. If you’re trying to think of something people have never had, you’re going to spend half your time explaining why they need it. If it’s something that already exists, you can do that, but just do it better.
My beauty faves include… Jones Road lipstick, rosehip face oil and Ultra Violette SPF sunscreen.
My secret for balance is… living in two places. When I’m in Yorkshire we’re literally in a field with a horse, while London is more work, friends and culture. People ask “How can you live half and half?”’ and I’m like “How can you commit to living in one place?”
Nicola’s OK! Beauty Box product: Perfect Night's Sleep Pillow Mist
"Perfect Night’s Sleep was actually the first ever official NEOM essential oil blend, and this pillow spray was the natural progression from the essential oil. Sleep is our customers’ biggest wellbeing need, and the pillow mist is one of our iconic products for a good reason!”
Susan Gerrard is the founder of make-up and nail brand Mii Cosmetics
I decided to set up my own brand because… I have so much experience in the beauty industry. Having been a manicurist for many years, I brought nail brand Jessica into the UK from America and it revolutionised the nail market. Before then, manicures were only done at the hairdressers, never beauty salons. After that success, I decided to found my own make-up and nail brand because I could be master of my own destiny and deliver what I knew women wanted.
The inspiration behind Mii is… to make the most of what you have, and don’t try to change who you are. It’s the best beauty tip I have ever received.
The best thing about being my own boss is… the self-satisfaction of achieving my goals. The worst is some sleepless nights worrying over something that will turn out to be completely unfounded the next day. Somehow night-time always magnifies worries!
The best compliment I’ve ever had about my brand is… that it has the “wow” factor and our products are addictive. People always say that the products are so easy to apply and there are shades to suit everybody.
The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is… breast cancer which I had 28 years ago when I was just one year into developing my business, and 12 years ago when my daughter was also diagnosed. Thankfully, all is well with both of us but we certainly make the most of every day.
I get the balance between work life and home life by… having my husband, our two daughters and our son in the business! So we have family time all the time which is great.
If I need to pick myself up… I do something positive then I feel better. Retail therapy is magic!
My advice for anyone wanting to set up their own brand is… do thorough research and make sure there is a gap in the market for it.
A typical day in this job is… something that doesn’t exist! We are blessed to have many leading spas and salons who embrace our brand, and sometimes I travel to meet them. I am involved with new product development and seasonal shades. The list is endless and I am never bored!
My motto is… life is not a dress rehearsal so make the most of every day. I like to remember what I’ve achieved and think about what I will achieve tomorrow.
Susan’s OK! Beauty Box product: Mii Cosmetics Feature Length Lash Lover
"It’s our number one best-selling mascara, so I wanted to share my secret with everybody. It really does what it says. It makes your eyelashes look dramatically longer and thicker, and it opens up the eyes."
Clare Anderson, founder of at-home spa brand Sensory Retreats
The moment that set me on this course was… the pandemic. Fourteen years ago, I’d launched Lava Shells into spas and salons, but when Covid happened my whole business shut overnight. I’d always wanted to launch a retail product so I just used that moment to go for it.
What makes my brand unique is… it goes way beyond beauty. We launched with a multi-sensory heated eye mask at a time when everyone was stressed, and it felt so important to give people a feel-good moment they could use anywhere.
The thing that drives everything I do is… the memory of my younger brother, who took his own life at 19. It’s why mental health is so important to me, and why my heart has always been about giving back. It’s the reason why I went on to launch Elfland UK, a children's well-being range with eye masks and books. If I can create a product that can help to improve somebody’s mindset and sleep, and make them feel good, that’s ultimately all I need.
The best compliment I’ve had about the brand is… a nurse told me that they found our eye masks so relaxing they no longer needed medication to sleep. That was pretty humbling.
The best thing about being the boss is… being able to come up with an idea and make it happen, fast. The worst is that I can’t switch off. I have a really efficient and steady team, and then I come in like a whirlwind. They must dread the words “I’ve got an idea!” If I had a boss, they’d try to rein me in – I don’t think I’d like that!
If I need to pick myself up… I remind myself that it’s not the first time there have been bumps in the road, but everything will work out OK if I refuse to give up.
My tip for anyone wanting to set up their own brand is… grab every opportunity to get your product out there. I’ve carried a Lava Shell in my bag for the past 14 years, and I never leave home without our eye mask! I’m always prepared.
I get the right work/life balance by… not being tied to a computer or an office. I can combine work with my love of travelling, or walk in the countryside with my dog while I’m doing conference calls.
My ultimate “lady boss”’ moment was… winning The Great British Entrepreneur Award 2022 for the health & beauty category. It gave me validation as a business leader, but it also made me reflect on just how far I’ve come from being someone who struggled with dyslexia at school. It shows that dreams backed by a strong vision and plan really can come true. I want my daughter Siena to grow up knowing that she can shoot for the stars and achieve anything she puts her mind to.
The best lesson I’ve learnt from doing this is… be brave about your decisions even if they feel scary. Good stuff happens when you’re outside your comfort zone.
Clare’s OK! Beauty Box products: Sensory Retreats Divine Glow and Divine Eyes self-heating face and eye masks
"These masks combines gentle heat with a soothing aromatherapy scent, creating a spa-style pampering experience at home. Each pack comes with a link to download a free guided meditation and crystal singing bowl music to enhance the wellbeing experience."
Jane Foulston, brand director and ambassador at Emma Hardie
Emma Hardie co-founded her brand with my husband in 2009 and I became brand director… when Emma sadly had to retire for health reasons. I had always been in the wings as my husband was co-owner and MD, and I had a wealth of knowledge and experience from owning and operating ITEC, an international training board in the beauty industry. When Emma became ill it just seemed natural that I would take on a senior role.
Beauty is so important in the world at the moment because… if you treat yourself, you make yourself feel good and you look good too.
The secret to a glowing DIY facial is… facial massage. The first step is to cleanse with Emma Hardie Moringa Balm, using the brand’s linear technique. Instead of working in little circles, it’s a slide method, so you really work with the facial contours. It’s like Pilates and yoga for your face, and it drains away tension and puffiness.
To set up a successful brand you need to… be absolutely certain that you have the USP that makes you different.
The best thing about being the boss is… you can drive the business where you want to go, while listening to other opinions along the way. The worst is that sometimes it's very isolating. You can't be friends with your team if you’re going to have a clear direction and keep steering that ship forward.
Getting the balance between home life and work life is… pretty tricky when you live with the MD! We do try to have a work watershed at 8pm though.
If I’m having a crisis of confidence, my solution is… basically, to get on with it!
To me, having a spa treatment is… a bit like a busman’s holiday. I was in the industry for so long, training people, that I find I’m thinking “you didn’t do that bit right” and “you haven’t set up your trolley properly”! It drives me crazy.
My make-up rule for a big meeting is… to always put my posh foundation on. Best face forward! I wear By Terry, and also the Laura Mercier primer.
My power fragrance is… a bottle of Chanel. Either No5 or Mademoiselle, but always Chanel.
The mantra I live by is… great things are achieved through small steps.
Jane’s OK! Beauty Box product: Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm
"It’s the ultimate ‘spa-in-jar’. It was created by Emma to not only deeply cleanse, refine the pores, and condition the skin but also provide a relaxing, sensory experience. It has consistently been our best-selling product since its launch in 2009 and is adored by beauty editors, makeup artists and VIPs. It’s about removing not only makeup, but also the stresses of the day.”
If you would like to get your hands on these brilliant products and eight others, including Rodial, Childs Farm and Niré Beauty, make sure you click here before it sells out. And as one final bonus, you’ll also receive a voucher to redeem four copies of OK! magazine, worth £13.60 and featuring even more inspirational women.
*OK! Beauty Box will donate 10% of the sale of every female founders edit Beauty Box to Refuge (registered charity number 277424). The total donation is expected to be a minimum of £7,800
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