As a model, Alexia Inge became frustrated by the art of illusion in celebrity make-up endorsements, says Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. Models would put their name to one product, but wear another. “It was endemic in the industry,” says Inge. In 2008, following a stint in a newspaper’s fashion department and a period as a public relations adviser to the fashion industry, Inge teamed up with an American friend, Jessica DeLuca, to launch Cult Beauty, an online beauty products retailer. The proposition was simple: sell brands the experts actually believe in.
Inge invested £20,000, while a further £50,000 came from friends and family and DeLuca’s savings. Her experience working as a nightclub bouncer while at university gave Inge the confidence to say “no”, she says – the pair turned down overtures from several venture-capital investors. “You look like lunch to them,” says Inge. It was a decision that paid off.
In 2011 Mark Quinn-Newall and Murray Salmon, founding partners of online clothing retailer Net-A-Porter, bought in and gave some much-needed help in sorting out the accounts, with Salmon also becoming co-chief executive. “It was the financial equivalent of a teenager’s bedroom,” Inge admits. North London-based Cult Beauty has raised £1.8m to date and last year made a pre-tax profit of £3.6m on sales of £37.6m. It sells 200 brands, from the well-known Charlotte Tilbury make-up and skincare range to new names such as Huda Beauty (see below). “Value yourself and your opinion,” says Inge. “Don’t be intimidated by people who seem to have a lot of experience or power.”
Pet food to tempt even humans to the bowl
“They laughed at me – they literally thought I was mad,” Henrietta Morrison, the founder of pet-food brand, Lily’s Kitchen, tells the BBC’s Chris Johnston. Morrison wanted to use fresh meat in her pet food, along with vegetables and even blueberries, but struggled to find a factory that would make it. When the recession hit in 2008, one factory finally showed an interest.
The idea came to Morrison after her dog, Lily, fell ill and went off her food. To tempt her back to the bowl, Morrison prepared special meals with lamb, lentils and vegetables in her north London kitchen. It worked, and got Morrison thinking: “Why doesn’t pet food smell delicious and have human-grade ingredients?” She quit her garden-design course and remortgaged her house. “I had this sense of urgency,” she says. Today, the business turns over £40m a year and employs 85 staff, all with a stake in the firm.
Two’s company, seven’s a family-run brewery
Working with six siblings has its challenges, says Matthew Caines in The Daily Telegraph. “You think that you know your brothers, but… you [really] get to know them when you run a business together,” says Keith McAvoy. He was working as an engineer in Oslo when he was “blown away” by a bar he saw there. “Their brewing equipment wasn’t shoved down in the cellar; it was right there in front of you,” he says. After returning home to Manchester, he pitched the idea to start a brewery to his brothers – “they all went for it”.
They gained some commercial brewing experience, sourced a bit of kit and launched Seven Bro7hers in 2014. Last year the firm, which employs 15 staff, turned over £850,000. Not to be outdone, McAvoy’s four sisters started their Sis4ers gin distillery along similar lines. “I’m pretty sure that we’re the most number of siblings in the world who work in alcohol,” says McAvoy.
What would Oprah do?
“The first influencer species evolved from the millennial”, first appearing on YouTube seven years ago, says Eleanor Halls on GQ.com. Now they exist “in their millions on the glossy plains of [photo-sharing app] Instagram”, posting selfies while “wearing athleisure and drinking turmeric lattes in an attempt to lure their primary source of sustenance: followers”. The influencers’ Holy Grail is a “paid-for-partnership”. Total advertising spending on influencers last year was £750m, according to marketer Mediakix. That looks set to double by 2019.
Chiara Ferragni (pictured), for example, was studying law near Milan when she started fashion blog The Blonde Salad, says Anna Temkin in The Times. Now 30, she has a multimillion-dollar business, a huge home in Los Angeles, 11.8 million Instagram followers, her own line of shoes (up to £800 a pair), and she is the new face of Lancôme. She is a “super-influencer” – but she’s a hard act to follow. As Bloomberg News notes, 97% of aspiring “vloggers” (video bloggers) will struggle to earn any sort of living, with the other 3% attracting just £12,000 a year on average
Now the Advertising Standards Agency has said that influencers must highlight which products they have been paid to endorse by adding hashtags (such as #ad) to their posts. Beauty blogger Huda Kattan, who also owns her own range of make-up, is not happy. “Once, I got offered $185,000 to do one post, and I was so close to doing it – I genuinely loved the product,” she tells Lydia Belanger of Entrepreneur. “We were just about to post it, and my team said, ‘This is the caption,’ with ‘#ad’. And I just couldn’t do it… I was like, would Oprah do that? No, she wouldn’t.”