Beauty and the business woman

Creativity in the beauty business is back and being led by enterprising women, says Caroline Neville, president of Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW)

As I have travelled daily to my office by train over the last five years, I have been fascinated by the number of women of all ages retouching or completely applying their daily make-up while we jolt along. At first I asked myself, how are they managing not to poke their eyes out with a mascara-wand, but then I wondered, why are they doing it?

For someone like me whose postman has never seen me without lipstick, surely putting on your “face” is one of the last private moments of a woman’s life. Old fashioned? Perhaps. But there are real reasons. I feel it is the changes that many women are coping with on a daily basis in their lives that is partly responsible for this make-up on the train phenomenon.

The multi-tasking mother who works in a good job, the women who run their own businesses, women who need to look good for their jobs are all struggling for time.

During any week at the offices of CEW we have young women entrepreneurs coming to tell us about their new beauty line and many have written business plans while at home on maternity leave. For example, hugely successful business founders, such as Vanita Parti of Blink Eye Brow Bars, and sisters and founders of Balance Me, Clare and Rebecca Hopkins, who started the business in their kitchen, juggled motherhood while establishing their businesses.

Then there’s Thea Green, founder of Nails Inc, who has established a hugely successful global brand, as has Charlotte Tilbury, the international make-up artist who launched her successful eponymous range last year, and Charlotte Knight, founder of Ciate, a nail art queen with a very successful business.

Investor interest in beauty is growing because there are high margins and repeat purchases

What is it that makes the beauty industry a good place for ambitious women brand owners and working mothers?  After all it is fiercely competitive, but still remains a hotbed for talented females.

Since 2008, I have come across many women who have been made redundant or left city jobs to follow a dream, using their business acumen to start something “in beauty”, or women who were driven to develop a brand because they personally could not find what they wanted.  For example, Sarah Brown created organic brand Pai for her problem skin and now she has an export-award-winning company and product range.

To solve the problem common in the medical profession of the constant use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers which caused cracked skin, paediatric nurse Antonia Steven co-created Yes Nurse. Hairdressers, whose hands are constantly in water, have become loyal customers too.

Creativity is back – the ideas, the innovation combined with the extraordinary research and science behind ingredients. Consumers, fed up with recession, are looking for new products, dual-benefit products, beautiful products and fragrances.

The good news for the independent brands is that investor interest in beauty is growing because, compared with other consumer-product categories, there are high margins and repeat purchases. The dynamics are all there.

So next time you meet a rather cynical man who thinks beauty products are bunkum, tell him to get lost. The creativity and innovation rife in this sector rivals any corporate powerhouse or technology giant – and is only growing in strength and presence.