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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

Facial Oil Blends : My Journey To Creating One

21 Jan

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m simply obsessed about moisturizing. I always need to have my heavy duty facial cream within reach, my lip salves and balms are strewn everywhere and I simply love giving (and receiving) any and every type of lotion and potion. My ultimate obsession over the past year and a half however, has been facial oils. It started with “borrowing” my mom’s secret stash of rosehip oil which she has applied everyday for as long as I can remember (she’s 60 but has the neck and cheekbones of someone half her age), which I used to not just moisturize but to cleanse (I add in a little polysorbate-80 & grapefruit oil as I love a squeaky clean feeling), remove my makeup, exfoliate… resulting in baby-smooth skin and a skincare regiment of hardly 3 minutes a day. I’m pretty blemish-free as it is, but this was literally life-changing, I kid you not. And when the whole argan oil and OCM (Oil Cleansing Method) phase exploded onto the cosmetics industry and was lauded on the pages of every fashion magazine you could think of, I become a woman on a mission. A mission to not only create an amazing facial oil blend that not only functioned well, but which looked and smelled just as luxurious.

So fast forward 8 months and my amazing italian formulator, who very cleverly worked with an english aromatherapist (I would LOVE to give out her name here but she works with other shall we say, competing companies, so I’ll keep mum about her for now) came up with a formula of 9 essential oils and the result is BEAUTIFUL, here’s the list :

– Evening Primrose Oil, Argan Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Passionflower Oil, Camellia Oil, Organic Rosehip Oil, Pomegranate Oil, Rose Absolute, Lavender Oil.

So now you know what I’ve been slathering all over my face and body for the past 5 months while waiting for the packaging to be completed. Now, onto the packaging, another incredibly tiring but satisfying mission on its own.

Standard Amber Dropper Bottles

I started with your typical amber drop bottles (picture above), they cost $0.18 at most for a 30ml bottle, really cheap but which didn’t quite do justice to the formulation within. I suppose I wanted something less clinical, a little more luxurious, which you’d be happy to display on your bathroom cabinet or vanity table, and which would also radiate shelf presence.

PushButtonDropper

After a long search through Alibaba.com, Buyingsources.com  and lots of Googling, these amazing push-button dropper bottles found me (I like to think it was positively providential!) and a quick 1 week later, 20 samples were ready on my table with caps in every shade of silver and gold (I was specific about having it metallized), matte, reflective, rose-gold, light-gold, heavy-silver, chrome, etc… The button “clicks” with just the right amount of pressure, it draws in the right amount of oils, it’s much more tactile than a rubber dropper and the clear glass bottle, although not double-bottled (which I always prefer), works immensely well with the rich marigold colour of the oils. They are definitely much more expensive (a good 5x more, without any printing) but I’m absolutely in heaven. However, we’re not done yet…I’m now putting these babies through a 3-month compatibility test after which if all goes well, I’d be very happy to report its launch!

Next challenge : A cleansing oil that will leave your skin moisturized, but with that squeaky-clean feeling at the same time, and which smells invigoratingly good.

Collaborating with Amazing Illustrators

21 Nov

In this business where I have to say I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many talented artists, graphic designers and creative minds, it’s sometimes so difficult to decide with whom I’d like to collaborate most. However once in a while, the stars align, the creative gods smile upon me, and I have the honour of meeting incredible illustrators who just epitomize our brand and the message we want to send out. One such person is Lucy Joy Oldfield, whom I worked with over a year ago to develop some illustrations for Jelly Pong Pong’s catalogue.

I spend hours upon hours reading design blogs, sitting on my sofa with a cup of rooibos tea & going through these blogs are a HUGE part of my life! It’s one of the ways I inspire myself and my team to create wonderful products in unique, one-of-a-kind packaging. It was through one of these blogs (I’m sorry, I completely forgot which one as I go through too many!) that I spotted Lucy’s playful yet sophisticated illustration for a tea company and I just knew I had to meet and work with her. You’ll see why below :

I love everything to do with desserts! Lucy very beautifully incorporated our Soap Popsicles (below) into this particular illustration of the inside of a girly fridge. It cemented the fact that she really thought about the design and about making it relevant to the Jelly Pong Pong brand.

 

 

 

Our irresistible Soap Popsicles lovingly made by hand, which we could never keep in stock, each time we brought them out, they’d sell out! I love that Lucy drew them upside down in the fridge, as though they were just being made & were still freezing in their little moulds.

 

 

 

My other favourite image is this baking scene with magical sprinkles, our “Jelly Pong Pong” branded mixing bowl and a little recipe book inspired by our Gourmet Lip Therapy spy-book packaging. The detailed patterns on the cleverly placed fork, salt & pepper shakers and butterflies are just incredible.

 

 

 

Simply the most girlish, adorable bubblegum machine in the world. This particular image so captured everyone’s imagination and hearts in the office that we decided to further immortalize it in the form of a product, an ingenious lip & cheek stain by the name Jelly Stain (see below).

 

This is the new Jelly Stain with Lucy’s incredibly sweet rendition of a bubble gum machine. Due to printing restrictions, we had to limit the entire tube to just 3 colours, but it works really well together with the unique, multifunctional formulation, sending a consistent brand message and creating excellent shelf presence. The lower count print also financially made sense for us without jeopardizing overall product impact.

A big Thank You to you Lucy, our design heroine!

Reader Question

13 Feb

“I’m about to lose it. I’ve been looking for a site like yours EVERYWHERE. I think the clouds opened up and you came down. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what just happened.

I read in one of your posts that the most expensive manufacturing component is the actual cases that hold the makeup. I am young – 22 years old – and looking to start my own cosmetic line with a niche clientele. The problem is the innovative part of my line is the custom design of the palettes.

Do you know any companies that offer cheap custom design? Or in what other areas should I keep costs low in order to be able to afford nice palettes?

Thanks so much! You’re AHmazing!

It’s been a great start to the year, I’m getting lots of reader questions and comments, and just generally lots of wonderful emails thanking me for creating this blog. I suppose it just never occurred to me that this kind of information would generate so much interest among all you budding entrepreneurs, and I’m genuinely honoured you take the time out to read, digest and to comment. And hopefully, to finally take that first step to creating your very own brand!

 

OK now, back to the question at hand. Custom designing your own plastic components takes a lot of time and a lot of financial resources. There is just no two ways around it, and there is no short cut. In my 10 years in the business, thinking of all sorts of ingenious ways of reducing costs (when I first started the business, and then as the economic crisis hit & I decided the company needed to be more lean), I have never come across any manufacturer (small ones, large ones, artisans working from home, from the UK to USA, from China to Malaysia to India), who could customize a component without huge tooling costs. The smallest tooling cost we ever paid was for a single lipstick mould, and that was USD 1200. An average quote is $8000. I can think of far better ways of using that sort of money, especially when you’re starting out. You could purchase an entire starter range from a private label company to sell & generate you income!

 

OK, now the good news. You mentioned wanting to customize palettes. The one way we were able to fully design our own palettes was to have them made out of paperboard (or chipboard as some call it). We could have as many cavities as we wanted, with the option of having a mirror in any size we wanted, in any artwork, or covered in any material, with a multitude of closure options (magnetic, with ribbons, elastic, buckle, button, etc…). Don’t expect to purchase them in small qtys though (2000 pcs & above per design, and you really need to negotiate for this qty), and bear in mind paperboard components are generally more expensive (20 – 40% more) than their plastic counterparts. You would be looking at an investment of perhaps $2000 – $3000. A few paperboard manufacturers we’ve worked with before in the past (all based in China, I don’t know of any UK- or US-based manufacturers who will negotiate on small qtys at small prices) are Shantou Huajian Paper Production and Cass & Co (absolutely beautiful palettes & boxes, but more expensive than Shantou).

 

 

Starting So Susan and Sourcing For Primary Packaging

6 Jan

This is my first soft announcement that I’m starting another brand called So Susan Cosmetics, which follows my evolution as a cosmetics entrepreneur to cater to a more sophisticated target audience, one who still buys colour cosmetics, but with the added infusions of anti-aging peptides, amino acids and plant botanicals that target signs of skin fatigue. The past few weeks I’ve been busy testing out formulations from my 2 reliable Italian manufacturers, which is just such a delight to do, I literally jump out of bed excited in the mornings!

Sourcing for the primary components though (the bottles, jars, compacts that will directly house your formulations) has been a huge headache. It’s common knowledge that packaging (both primary and secondary i.e. the boxes that house your primary components) generally costs more than the formulation itself (only in very exceptional circumstances have I come across a case that proves the opposite). Granted, I now have a larger budget than the GBP 700 I started with, but I still don’t want to spend it unnecessarily as in this economy, we all need financial buffers. The good news is that I’m finding lots of packaging suppliers who are also competing in this tough economy and who will go down on their minimums, from 10k to 3k for one based in Taiwan which I’ve found, and with no price increases. They’re called Chien Ching, a family business, and although they have limited choices, are easy to work with, at affordable qtys and prices. We’re talking about lipgloss containers with doe-foot applicators, fully customized with logo/brand print, at something like USD 0.20 or less per unit.

As for glass components and bottles with treatment pumps, airless containers (for primers and foundations),  this is an ongoing mission, and I will spread the word on this blog again once I’ve found a company worth touting.