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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

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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

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

 

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.

Help A Reader!

20 Dec

Name: Jasprin Smith
Email: jlasbeautique@gmail.com
Your Questions: Susan,

I am looking to start a lip gloss line to go with a business I am starting.  I don’t want a full blown cosmetics line, only lip gloss.  Do you have any recommendations for companies that do packaging and labeling of lip gloss?  I am going to use my own formula, I just need the packaging.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Jasprin

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!

Choosing Bottles for So Susan and Test-Filling Them

7 Mar

As you all may or may not know, I’m working on a new (semi-eponymous) cosmetics line called So Susan which not only allows me to indulge in my love & new-found obsession of combining skincare with colour (I turned 30 in 2011 and anti-aging peptides are my new best friends!), but also enables me to really blog about my progress right from the beginning.

I am truly devoted right now to developing the best foundations for different skin dilemmas (mine is extremely dry with the occasional breakouts when I’m stressed, and I want soft, flawless DEWY skin), packaging them in luxurious, upscale glass bottles. Some of the decisions I have to make involve the make & colour of every single component of the botte, from the cap to the rim, to the pump head, to the bottle, to whether it should be an airless pump, to the colour, size & positioning of the logo, whether it should be silkscreened or foil-stamped or engraved, how the bottle is to be labeled (to abide by cosmetics directives & regulations), etc… It’s not uncommon to find myself sitting down for hours, staring at bottles, turning them around in my hands, pouring different coloured oils & foundations in just to see whether the logo shows through nicely.

Just so you know, there are minute differences in the picture of the 4 bottles above (which I probably didn’t manage to capture on camera very well) i.e. the colour of the gold rims, the positioning of the So Susan logo & the colour of the pump head.

Being already a stickler for beautiful packaging, when the line carries your own name, you really want to get it right. Hence the huge amount of samples after samples I’ve requested from my chinese manufacturer (I will name them once production is finalized and I am definitely assured of their quality) in order to compare different printing effects or colours.

The other thing you need to do is to do a test-fill yourself. Obviously, your contract manufacturer will have their own test-filling procedures, some put them under different heat conditions, with the tests lasting for a month, some for 3 months, some in between. But doing it yourself ensures you know without a shadow of a doubt how the product looks like in your primary packaging & more importantly, the manner of which it is dispensed (does it squirt a good amount out? How many pumps does it take for the product to finally show?). Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and gauge their expectations after having spent money on a product.

By the way, if you’re worried about high courier costs from China for samples (I hardly ever come across asian manufacturers who courier samples at their cost, unless you’re committing to large orders) , I’ve finally, finally found a great, low-cost courier service provider by the name of Fast Lane International. I really need to spread the word about these guys because what they do is truly exceptional : pushing the cost of couriering small packages from the Far East all the way down (GBP25 for small 0.5kg packages). Which is amazing news for us cosmetic brand owners as we rely so much on China, Taiwan & Hong Kong for our components. Register online for another 10% off their quoted price, it really doesn’t get any better than that!

A good contract manufacturer should be able (and want!) to send small bulk samples of the final formulation to you. It doesn’t have to be a whole vat, anything between 80g – 150g should do very nicely. If you were to test-fill 30ml bottles (most likely the industry average for face emulsions), that would give you 2 – 3 filled samples, including some product loss during the hand-filling procedure. What you could also do is make sure they’re filled neatly, and then get them over to be photographed professionally (please do NOT do it yourself unless you are a professional photographer. A good picture does credit to your brand commitment and helps you sell your range, don’t skimp on this). You’re then ready to upload it onto your website, or do some nice “coming soon” social media marketing to get customers excited about your new product.