Tag Archives: inside look

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


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!

Sneak Peek : Featherweight Cream-To-Powder Blush

23 Apr

I’ve finally managed to put together the formulation and primary packaging of So Susan‘s new Featherweight Cream-To-Powder blush, which is my version of a creamy silk-based blush that even oily skins can wear for colour that lasts up to 8 hours. Here’s a picture of it (sorry I didn’t manage to get it professionally taken, but seeing as it’s for my blog, I think this is much more authentic!) :

I think the most difficult thing for any formulator is to choose the right shades as well as the right NUMBER of shades. I had over 200+ shades to choose from and let me tell you, whittling it down to just 7 took me 2 full weeks, and hours upon hours of testing it on different skin tones (thank you Shabana, Lee & all your amazing volunteers!).

This formulation is one I’m extremely proud of. It lives up to So Susan‘s mantra for solving skin dilemmas and I’m ever so grateful to my italian counterparts for making it just the way I want it. My apologies Federica for what may have seemed like hundreds of tweaks, but a big thank you for making it happen! And within budget too… that always puts a huge smile on my face.

The primary is a mirrored 37mm compact electroplated in gold. It feels lovely and heavy in my hands, and gives just the right “click” when I close it (very important!). My next post will be about an amazing courier company (yes, even better than Fast Lane Couriers which I spoke about it this post), which has allowed me to send & receive packaging samples from China & Taiwan at amazing prices, and even better service. They were instrumental in delivering these gold compacts to me on time, so keep your eyes peeled for that post!

Sneak Peek : Luminous High-Coverage Foundation SPF 15

28 Mar


Here’s the first pic of my new Luminous Foundation for my So Susan range. I developed this in our Bergamo lab after years of searching for the perfect high-coverage foundation which still gives light to my complexion. It’s a cross between an illuminating foundation (without the mica or shimmer, thank goodness…I think that’s just cheating!) and a creamy base that will cover pretty deep flaws such as lines and age spots. With SPF 15 of course, that was the maximum I could go without compromising the elegance of the formulation.


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.

Inside Look : Products which never made the cut

25 Oct

One of the best things about owning a cosmetics company is that you get to see the creations in your head come to life. From concept to sample production of an entirely new product (not a colour / ingredient tweak), it takes us an average of 6 months, down from 9 as we now work within our in-house lab.

However, it can be frustrating as for every product we release, at least 10 are disposed of for not being commercially viable (this can range from not performing well with our test panel of 200 fans, to being too expensive to release, to the ingredient supplier not being able to meet our timelines). Here are some of my favourites which I will cherish forever :

Our Soft Focus Kabuki Brush. The most beautiful synthetic fibres ever, tightly packed so it doesn’t bend all over the place when you buff your face. We don’t get to release a lot of tools in our collection, so when this came out, boy was I excited! Unfortunately, our supplier wasn’t able to meet our super-tight delivery deadline, and this was abandoned.

The Geisha eyeliner holds amazing memories for me, most notably because it was formulated by Terry, my right-hand man & all-round multitasker (nothing goes out of the office without Terry getting involved somehow). He used Date Palm in the formula which maintains the hold on the colour pigments so you could draw the thinnest, most accurate line…with a shaky hand! And look at the precious packaging, thank  you Erin, our design extraordinaire who managed to make a lightweight, damage-resistant japanese pouch out of creased cardboard and some elastic!

Remember our Egg Confettis? Well, these handpainted Ballet Eggs were my plans to extend the sell-out line, with amazing bath confetti that fall out and foam when you crack the eggs open. There’s a reason why we were the only ones who ever came up with this product : It’s really expensive to produce and with the high egg loss during shipping, unless we doubled the retail price, we were not going to make any profit. Unfortunately, good business sense had to win sheer delight at the end of the day!

A foundation so soft, we called it Marshmallow Skin. This was a delight to formulate and to test, we infused it with botanical oils like rosehip and camellia and made it SPF 30 without it looking pasty (the trick of course is to use micronized, coated zinc oxide especially Z-COTE by BASF or Zinclear by Dow. A whole other post needs to be dedicated to this amazing ingredient). The only reason why we haven’t released this yet was because I turned 30, discovered a line on my face, and am now working desperately hard to infuse an anti-aging peptide into this amazing formulation!