Friday, 17 June 2011

#143 Passion Project... or Cash Cow?

I've had a wee look behind the velvet curtains these past few weeks. Taking on more consultancy, and meeting up with a series of beauty insiders in pursuit of the very best pages for my magazine, I've had my aspirations deflated. Do you want to know who is behind most beauty brands? Two people. One's in a suit and the other's in a lab-coat (if you're lucky. If not, the other's in a suit too, flogging ready-made things over the internet, which get mixed together in a place where the labour is cheap, and no waiting). One pays, and one enables. But who brings the passion to the table? Unfortunately there are more brands than I could possibly name (even those little 'homegrown' varieties, that seem so much like happy endings), that were set up by business executives, investment bankers, financiers who had no knowledge of, or personal interest in, the actual meaning of a 'beauty product'. We know that every product makes a promise. It's an emotional thing. We pick it up, smell it, rub it in, wish for it to do all those things it says it will... because we're drawn into the story on sale. Whether you want to be the clear-skinned jet-setting businesswoman, or the ageing gracefully stay-at-home mother, the whisper is the same (I know what you want. I care about you. I will work for you. I promise.)

I've had my innocent little mind burnt before. Brands I'd held up as true reflections of a private passion were rather more pictures of filling gaps in gaping markets. And an entrepreneur whom I'd long admired - a household name, synonymous with changing the face of beauty retail - is by all accounts someone who cares not a jot for her people, but rather the glow you get after making all that green.

Don't get me wrong. I get 'business'. I also understand that there are some enormous brands out there that are producing very impressive ground-breaking science-led launches, and offering advanced skin solutions at affordable prices to those who'd otherwise remortgage their house to get the same benefits.

I'm also as driven to be successful as the next woman, but if my brand is all about passion, about a belief in doing something better, about providing a solution when there's none to be found, about working on something for my friends, my family... on making people feel good... I'd like to think I'd put my money where my heart is.

To this end I've taken on a rather lovely consultancy project that, of course, I'm unable to say anything about, suffice it to say, it's a big deal, promising great, affordable, green products with a host of exciting and interesting USPs... watch this space. Working with people who care, who get ill because they care, too much, is how I work to. If it matters, it ought to give you a belly-ache. That's just me.

But among this school of beauty sharks are some true, soulful, passionate people. I've been to lunch with them. We've shared secrets. They've made me smile. They get a bit too loud when talking about what matters, because, that's what really matters!

Geraldine Howard of Aromatherapy Associates

Tanya Kazeminy Mackay of Mama Mio

Rebecca Hopkins of Balance Me

Kathy Phillips of This Works

Imelda Burke of Being Content

Sarah Chapman, of Sarah Chapman Skinesis

Yes, good women all, with the goods to back it up.