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Follow Your Passion : Key Steps To Developing Great Cosmetics

26 Aug

I was struggling to put together content for my next blog post because as you know I can get really technical (and ultimately pedantic!) on the formulations we receive and come up with every other day and I really would like this blog to serve those of you who aren’t necessarily cosmetics chemists (for those of you who are, ChemistsCorner is a great resource), and who would just like to either start their own cosmetics business or peek into the everyday life of So Susan Cosmetics and what we get up to.

This morning, the struggle continued as I stared at a blank screen trying to decide whether it would be better for me to write something (as I’ve now committed to publishing a post every 2 weeks), or wait till inspiration hits and put something out there that will really benefit you (and ultimately myself as I too learn so much with every thought and action I put down on “paper”). Of course the Universe always gives us a reason to pause and put things on hold no matter how hard we try to be productive so I waited till I got to work. And what should pop up in my email the minute I opened it this morning was none other than an excellent piece on the Foundation of Good Formulation Development from Innovadex (another amazing resource for ingredient suppliers).

I thought it was such a great, comprehensive list but so totally focused on just formulators that I’m just going to take little excerpts from it, and add a few of my own especially when it comes to the aesthetics of the final product since I believe beautiful, functional packaging and the right pricing is just as important as the formulation of any great cosmetic product. So here is my Key Checklist to creating a product that I believe in and am inspired by :

  • Formulations must be cosmetically appealing and delight the consumer. When beginning a project, put together a formulation strategy outlining the various approaches you are considering along with a technical rationale. Ensure also that you have researched the right packaging for a consistent brand story.
  • Don’t fall in love with technology, fall in love with consumer benefits. Creating product stories is easier when you’re delivering real benefits.
  • Treat each product like a little fairytale or a good book, with a beginning (delight your customers with unique, beautiful packaging which is the first thing they see), a juicy middle (ensure the formulation feels and looks superior on the skin, do not compromise!) and a great ending (price it correctly, according to your target demographic and your brand positioning to secure that sale).
  • Be responsible for the product that you’re putting out there in the market. Label your products accurately and in accordance with all labelling guidelines in the country you want to market them in. Start stability testing and packaging compatibility tests as early as possible. Always do your final stability testing in the package you will market.
  • Never kill technology because of costs and naysayers. Push your chemist and packaging supplier for the best that you can afford and know that a truly great product is always a series of trade-offs between product aesthetics (which includes your primary and secondary packaging), safety, optimum formulation performance and cost.

It is truly less complicated and scary than it all seems, so for all you budding cosmetics entrepreneurs out there, I say : What are you waiting for? As always, I’m leaving you with a Beauty Tweet about following your passion that has always inspired me by an amazing teacher, author, poet & novelist… Franz Kafka. Tweet and share it if you agree!

TODAY’S BEAUTY TWEET : “Don’t bend, don’t water it down, don’t try to make it logical. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly” @sosusanbeauty

 

 

Today It’s All About Me…

3 Aug

There are some days when I wake up and know that today is rest day, today it’s all about Susan the living, breathing person rather than Susan the entrepreneur, or the founder of a cosmetics company, or Susan the employer. I take 3 deep breaths while still in bed and do a silent prayer, thanking God for the blessings I see in my life and asking Him to further give me the wisdom and courage to pursue the tasks of the day. (Yes I really do live by the day, maybe not so quite in the moment – it’s something I’m still learning to do ever since I read Ekhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” – but neither do I wallow in too much worry for what’s to come next year or the year after that).

And of course, after my morning coffee ritual (these 10 minutes of just making my espresso is what I call my “minutes of reflection and peace”, extremely invigorating when it’s just you pottering about in the kitchen, watching the coffee brew and taking in that delightful aroma), I curl up on my sofa and go straight to a good book. At the moment, it’s Paolo Coelho’s “Aleph” and oooh the quotes in that book are life-changing! My favourite is definitely the one about going for your dreams (see below for today’s Beauty Tweet and share it if you agree)

Later, I do what is becoming a near-obsession lately i.e. reading business blogs mostly recommended by other female entrepreneurs (and no, they don’t all have to be written by women, as long as they’re inspiring and nurturing). A few good ones I’ve been following are :

  1. Marie Forleo
    I think she single-handedly reinvented the whole concept of life & business coaching.
  2. Melissa Cassera
    Melissa makes me smile (always a good thing during your downtime), she has some seriously good tips on PR and Marketing yourself and your brand, done in a big, brazen way which I love!
  3. Mastin Kipp’s The Daily Love
    I sometimes wish I came up with this, little snippets of how to love yourself and others in your mailbox every fortnight. Helpful, Hopeful, Heavenly.
  4. Angela Jia Kim’s Savor The Success Videos
    When Angela first started vlogging her experiences on starting her Om Aroma brand, she had less than 10 followers, and I was one of them. Fast forward 6 years later, and she not only has a successful skincare brand, but a business network for female entrepreneurs making at least 6-figure sums (yes, that is a pre-requisite to joining her Savor Success Circle!).
  5. Neil Patel
    A british transplant now based in Seattle, Neil is a serial entrepreneur and I’ve used most of his companies’ services since starting out in business myself (the Hello Bar, Crazy Egg, etc…). A great marketer that we can all learn from.

Another thing I like to do on my “It’s All About Me” day is to work, and I know that sounds counter-intuitive but when I say work, it really has none of the negative connotations relating to doing something that someone forced upon me, or the daily humdrum of having to complete a project when all you really want to do is bask in the sunny outdoors with a lemonade. I L-O-V-E the creative part of my work, so it really is something I jump out of bed excited to do, especially when designing packaging, creating colours and tweaking our formulations. You can see from below, my hands are constantly (and I meant constantly!) covered in makeup. The picture below was taken when I was trying to compare whether the fill would fit in nicely with the injection colour of the primary component samples that I’d received just a couple of days ago.

Photo 03-08-2014 11 56 59

And below another shot (sorry I could have made it clearer but it’s my “All About Me” day today :)) of the 2 primaries which I have to choose from, a really fun part of the creative process as you look for brand & design consistencies.

Photo 03-08-2014 11 50 28 copy

 

TODAY’S BEAUTY TWEET : “Don’t be intimidated by others’ opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do”@sosusanbeauty

Creating a Cashmere Blush

9 Jul

So here’s another project I started working on, oh about 8 months back when a girlfriend mentioned how she would love it if she could magically infuse the perfect shade of blush into a powder primer (yes I think that’s a genius idea too, why are primers always in liquid form? After our moisturiser, eye cream and sun screen, do we really need to slap any more gook on, and then follow that up with foundation?!) to both give colour and a smoother complexion . So of course I had to send an email that very evening to Lara, our trusty cosmetics chemist to see if anything could be done, and even though she often tries to talk me out of the zany ideas I have (normally emailed over to her in the middle of the night and then expecting an answer first thing the following morning!), she was really excited about this one and got to working on it very quickly.

FirstVersion-CashmereBlush

The first version (as you can see above) didn’t quite meet expectations as the powders often came loose, adhering to the mirror and sides of the packaging, not a pretty sight if our whole point is to delight our customers each time they open our compact. It was however a really remarkable formulation as it went on smooth as a velvety cream and reduced the sight of small pores, so technically it worked a treat. But the aesthetics needed to be improved.

The next version was infused with small amounts of silicone (the main ingredient in most primers), which I believe not only locked in the amazing texture and reduced the flyaways but when applied, seemed to minimize even further the appearance of small pores.

CashmereBlushShades

We chose (as you can see above) 7 multidimensional shades, 3 with shimmer and 4 without, to flatter as many tastes and skin tones as possible. Not an easy task after having been shown 25 beautiful colours! I wanted them all!

Now onto the packaging which I wanted to be as bright, happy and optimistic as the promise of the Cashmere Blush. After having worked with amazing illustrators like Bijou and Lucy, I knew I wanted to work with unique illustrations that were both cheerful and upbeat, so I contacted Ning (whose email I now have approval to release in case you were looking for something similar : ning.illustrates at gmail dot com) who is also one inspirational lady herself as she works 12 hours as an investment banker, coming home to then do her sketches at night (whoever said bankers didn’t have a soul hasn’t met her yet!)

Illustrations

She put together 2 amazing little sketches for me (above), and even though they were just rough ideas, I loved them so much they were immediately scanned in, tweaked (just a teeny tiny bit), and incorporated into our secondary packaging with a wonderful quote on beauty and youth by Franz Kafka (see below for today’s Beauty Tweet and share it if you agree)

And voila…A final view of our Cashmere Blush (with PoreFade™ Technology) in both its primary and secondary packaging…

CashmereBlush

TODAY’S BEAUTY TWEET : “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” @sosusanbeauty

Working with Bijou Karman

16 Apr

Out of the many hats I wear as an entrepreneur (and I know many of you will be familiar with this – from trying to make sense of all your accounts, being your own bookkeeper, organizing the logistics, packing the products, designing your packaging, making sales pitches, updating your website, etc…), my one favourite thing I truly truly delight in is working directly with illustrators. They are an integral part of the So Susan brand, not only as a direct contributor to many of our packaging and collateral designs, but once a day, for an hour or 2, I allow myself to simply switch my emails off, turn my phone silent and browse Behance, Pinterest and my ultimate favourite Trendland for inspirational artists who really have a story to tell.

so susan banner

When I first came across Bijou Karman’s illustrations via Fashionary.org, I just knew I had to work with her, have her tell the story of So Susan and by extension our unique formulations. Her works have such a haunting, unconventional yet beautiful, delicate quality to it that I couldn’t stop looking at her girls, each facial expression and thoughtful gaze conveying their life stories, making you wonder where they came from, what their dreams were, what or who they were thinking about at that moment in time. I immediately drew parallels with the whole ethos of So Susan, that we are a cosmetics company but one with soul, with a story to tell, with one-of-a-kind formulations that are made not to cover imperfections, but to reveal the beauty of skin and celebrate the whole idea of uniqueness.

 

I keep going back to the phrase “telling a story”, but honestly this is what makes a brand tick. If you don’t have a story to tell, it’s as though your brand has no voice and when it has no voice, it’s unable to shout out to the masses and make them gather round, listen and be captivated. So thank you Bijou for being such an amazing ‘collaboratrice’, you’ve made our products come alive and you have inspired me no end. Here are some of my favourite works of hers :

concealer quad box

UniversalBlush-Secondary Screenshot 2014-04-16 13.02.48

edgar allan poe quote

Weekend Spent Formulating Foundations

17 Mar

Buriti Foundation Samples

OK, so not quite the weekend (that itself was spent just finalizing the colours), this has been in the making for 2 whole months trying to get the texture just right while being able to incorporate the various peptides and botanical oils that I wanted. Ever since trying Buriti Fruit Oil on my hair and mixed in with my facial oils, I’ve been quite obsessed with this slightly orange, matte oil that just moisturizes everything (hair, nails, skin) without leaving an oily residue or any nutty, cooking-oil smells (think : Argan!). Also as I’m now in my early thirties, the word “anti-aging” appears more and more in my vocabulary and in nearly every other sentence I utter when I’m in the lab formulating and even though I still sometimes get asked for my ID when buying a bottle of wine at my local Waitrose, lines and wrinkles (and my near-obsession with preventing them from appearing on my face) are still a big worry. So I had Lara (our cosmetics chemist) incorporate the trusty Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins C and E and the Buriti Oil into a few formulations (matte, waterproof, dewy, light, tinted moisturizers, etc…) and she very kindly (and quickly! – which I’m always grateful for) developed samples for me to test at home on myself and absolutely everyone I come in contact with.

Foundation Shades

2014’s Resolution & Formulating a Mascara

21 Feb

There is such a thing as taking on more than you can handle. As an entrepreneur and one with an energizer-bunny kind of energy all the time, I thought I could do almost anything but 2013 was absolutely manic. From taking on consultant roles, to starting a joint venture with a manufacturer, mentoring start-ups as well as getting married and running So Susan, I have to admit taking on so much does have its disadvantages, one of which is the inability to focus well on the one thing that drives me : my passion for creating and formulating colour cosmetics. I’ve had to delegate this to Lara, our incredible chemist as well as Phillipa who is tasked with sourcing for packaging and putting both fill and componentry together. 

 

2014 marks a clean slate for me as I strive to say “no” to every single project that comes my way. It is a time for renewal and resolutions (and sticking to them!), and a laser-like focus on breaking boundaries within my industry. Which takes us to an exciting piece of news I can’t wait to share with you… We have just received the complete prototypes of So Susan’s very first hyaluronic acid mascara! 

 

OK, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Hyaluronic Acid, it’s a natural component found in nearly every part of your body (including your eyelashes and brows) that stimulates the production of collagen, maintaining skin elasticity and in the case of your scalp and lashes, hair strength and growth. Trust me when I say this is the only mascara that makes a difference to my short, stumpy lashes and is the only one I wear on a daily basis (did I mention I wear contact lenses? It’s perfectly safe for contact lens users by the way). The formulation is now on its way to completing a clinical and in-vivo trial (i.e. using human testers, one of which is my dear friend Beth who volunteered, thank you so much Bethie!) and results are looking extremely promising, with an average of 53% increase in overall appearance of lash length. And you know we always insist on visible results, none of that microscopic ones that can only be seen at a certain angle, under special lights in a lab!

 

So the formulation went well, I thank my lucky stars because it almost always doesn’t. The harder part though was the primary packaging. Tweaking around with various gold injected tubes which came out either too garish or too subtle, we ended up going for a gold-plated component which did the trick. Then the printing (cue stressed-out groans) which did my head in. The printing on the cap had to align with those on the body, and it didn’t (extremely frustrating when that happens). So we had to get our chinese manufacturer to reverse the process and print very very carefully (which is easier said than done when you’re producing 50,000 pieces under very tight timelines!) after the cap had been screwed on to the body. This is then taken apart again, packed and shipped to Italy to be filled, after which the cap is then screwed properly back on and sealed.

 

Final results are divine, we’re all over the moon so here it is… We’ve named it Flutter Mascara for very obvious reasons 🙂

Flutter Mascara

 

My 5-Day Juice Cleanse

19 Feb

Those that know me, know I love my cleanses. I don’t always enjoy the process of getting through them, but I am somewhat addicted to how the body feels and the discipline of the mind that comes into play after every cleanse. So it all starts off today, a simple 5-day juice cleanse, which I’ve never done before (always with soup prior to this), 6 juices a day, every 1-half to 2 hours, that should last me a good 10 hours while I work.

This is what my really bare fridge looks like right now :

Juice Cleanse

Day 1 of Juice Cleanse

Yes, I cleared out all the contents, except for a carton of eggs, it just helps being a real foodie not to have food around all the time while I’m doing this!

10am : Great breakfast drink, orange, carrot & ginger, sipping it over 10 minutes as advised, but am really taking it slow as I’m never too hungry in the mornings. Back to work & tons of emails, keeps the head busy and the body too stressed to think of food!

2pm : The banana-coconut-pineapple concoction is going well, in place of my normal lunchtime sandwich / sushi. Not too bad but am constantly thinking of a big teaspoon of my lovely Nutella. Not feeling hungry but will take a cup of Rooibos tea in any case. Am now on my 3rd glass of water, which is great as I’m usually too lazy / not bothered with drinking that much water.

5pm : I have just gulped the 3rd bottle, a citrusy, cherry light smoothie, am experiencing the first pangs of hunger, but another cup of water down and that’s managed to squelch it. For the time being.

6pm : OK another cherry-ish thin smoothie, this is juice #4 and as dinner is normally my biggest indulgence of the day, I am getting a little peckish. I can see why they ask you to “sip” rather than gulp the juice down, no matter how tempting this is. It really gives your stomache time to feel full and then you don’t feel the urge to cheat so much. Gonna take my time with this one and stop thinking of pasta!

9.15pm : Actually forgot to take juice #5 at 8pm, been tweaking & re-tweaking an artwork for our Nail Lacquers that I forgot I was actually hungry. Sipping on this, with a cup of hot fruit tea and have not been tempted to cheat so far. Coffee craving’s still there though, but no headaches or any other caffeine withdrawal symptoms yet.

11pm : My final juice (#6) which I was supposed to take an hour ago but have been so caught up with work. Really enjoying this one while watching Disney, my favourite way to relax & regroup after a long work day! Am looking forward to see how I feel tomorrow morning…