Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Interview - Part 6

In this final instalment we look at creativity and business.

Interviewer      How do you think creativity and business come together?


Fairypants      I think unless you’re lucky, they don’t. It depends on the area of business. It depends on how creative you are. I’m lucky in that my business is so creative and I’ve got full control over what happens and what I do. I dream about something, I get up the next day and I make it. And then I decide what the artwork’s going to look like, and I make that, and I put it all together. And then I sell it, and I write about it, and I write the blog. And I think having that full control over it, and the fact that it is such a creative thing, from the colour of it, if it’s a nail varnish maybe, or the smell of it or whatever, I’ve got free reign.


Interviewer        Do you think to be an entrepreneur you need to be creative in some way?


Fairypants       I don’t know. I think there are skills that you need as an entrepreneur, and I think you’re really lucky if you’ve got all of them. I’ve not got all of them, I know that, but I’ve definitely got some of them. And I think creativity, like I say, even though it applies really, really heavily to my business, I think you have to be creative in a sense to even think about what your business is going to be. That’s being creative. You know, even if the end product is quite dry compared to a rhubarb and custard perfume, you’ve still had to be creative in that you’ve sat there, you’ve had this epiphany, and you’ve decided to create a business out of nothing.. So I think you have to have it, but maybe in different strengths. So creativity is a really big thing for me. But, like I said, I’ve not got some other skills that I wish I did have.


Interviewer        So do you work during your weekends for your business?


Fairypants      Yes.


Interviewer       So you have very few free time, in some way?


Fairypants      I don’t necessarily have less free time, it’s just it gets booked up in advance. So I know now today, I know today what I’m doing for the rest of this month and the whole of the next month social calendar wise. There’s only a couple of evenings here and there that could be filled up with something. 

But that's how I like it -Each year, is busier than the last. This financial year is already busier than last financial year. So because it grows every year, that’s what keeps me going. If it was not growing, or if it was declining year-on-year, then I’d have to re-evaluate what I was doing. But for now, the fact that I’m filling more orders than this time last year is enough to reassure me that I’m doing the right thing.

Interviewer     So why the vegan products?

Fairypants      It was accidental. Like I said, I found the recipe, the recipe was vegan, and it just made sense to me because whether you are a vegan or not, surely you don’t want to put animal bits on your face. You know, if you’re a carnivore and you eat meat, that’s up to you, that’s fine. You know, veganism is… it can be viewed a little bit like a religion in that if people are a Christian, that’s great. But if people are a Christian and they shove it down your throat and they say, you’re not going to go to heaven because you’re not a Christian, then they’re bad Christians.

And in the same way you have good vegans and bad vegans. So good vegans are vegans who go through their life being a vegan, having a great time, introducing their non-vegan family and friends to vegan things and maybe converting them – that’s a good vegan. But a bad vegan is someone who says, you shouldn’t eat meat, you’re awful, you’re poisoning your body, you’re the sole reason why the Earth is going to explode.

You can’t really get vegan cosmetics on the high street. There is one brand in Superdrug that is completely vegan and not that many people know about it, not that many Superdrug shop it, not every village or town has got a Superdrug. So for that reason I thought, if could create an online business that shouted about the fact that it was vegan, but also at the same time was saying, in order for your lipstick to be vegan it doesn’t have to be brown, it can be blue. So my hashtag on twitter is #vegannotboring because the point that I’m trying to make is, this perfume is vegan, but it doesn’t smell of hemp.. It smells of rhubarb and custard.

Because just because you are a vegan or just because you are choosing to be conscious of what you put on your body or in your body doesn’t mean you have to settle for second-best. It doesn’t mean that as a vegan you shouldn’t be able to get things that non-vegans can get.

 You should have the same amount of choice, if not more choice. And I’m not saying that you have to be a vegan to wear vegan on your face. Because if you make just one small change, then surely that’s better than nothing. You can eat all the bacon you like, but if you’re choosing products that do not contain animal bits, then you are making a difference.


Interviewer        Did you ever consider… well, is it part of your plans in the future to sell on a shop like Superdrug or Boots, something like that?


Fairypants     I would love that. I would never turn down Boots, but Superdrug would be my first choice just because they gave me such a great start in my career and also, unknowingly they did a lot for my business. The things that they taught me I’m still using now, so I still have an affinity with Superdrug and probably always will.


Wow, what a read! I'll be really impressed if you stuck that out right to the end, well done if you did! xox





Friday, 25 March 2016

The Interview - Part 5

We left off talking about University, and we're going to pick up telling you about our time working in retail.

Interviewer       And besides this experience at uni, can you identify other experiences, other events that you think were important for you to become an entrepreneur now?


Fairypants    Yes, definitely. My time at Superdrug I think was a really big thing. I mean, that was accidental as well. I was working at British Home Stores when I was 16, 17 and then I decided to look for another job and, again, it was only going to be like a weekend thing because I was at university at this point and I just found an ad for Superdrug. It was totally accidental, but it was quite a big turning point in my life, because although it was just weekend work, it was never just weekend work there. There were all these different opportunities, things to get involved in. They opened lots of doors for me, and I think had the recession not happened, I think I would probably have ended up being some kind of area manager or something in Superdrug. So in a way it was good that it did happen because perhaps I wouldn’t have started the business otherwise. So it’s a good thing that we had the recession, it was great for me!


But, yes, so my time at Superdrug opened lots of doors, like I said, gave me lots of training. I had lots of training with cosmetics and skincare, which obviously has stood me in good stead for what I do now. I’ve got no formal training other than what I had from my time at Superdrug, so it obviously was useful.  . And also, they offered me the chance to go on their retail management training scheme. I knew when they asked me that I didn’t want to come out of it and be a store manager, which is what the end result is of that training, but I still said yes to it because I say yes to everything. So I said yes to the training, spent six months during my last year at university doing this training, graduated the training, qualified, and learned an awful lot.


Interviewer        And which other skills do you think are really important in running a business besides self-confidence?


Fairypants      I think for my business probably research is a big one. It sounds really, really boring but, like I said, if I don’t research a recipe properly, then it’s not going to work. If I can’t find the cheapest ingredients, but the best quality ingredients, then it’s not going to be financially viable. If I decide to make something for the first time, there’s weeks and weeks and weeks of trawling to find what I need to make that thing before I even make up a sample and send it on to be tested, or anything like that. So I think research is a big thing, even though it sounds really boring. And also, I think for me it’s really important to manage my time properly.  I have to manage my time to within a minute each day, otherwise stuff doesn’t get done. I don’t relax. I don’t have me time. Everything is planned in my day.


Interviewer        But was it always like that?


Fairypants        To be honest, it probably was. It was like that when I was in university because I was in so many different societies. I would have to be in lectures for so many hours a day, then I would have to do reading or essays for so many hours. Then I would go to the radio for two hours. Then I would come back, I would shower, I would get changed, I would eat, and I would go out. So my days were very regimented then and I think that’s just carried on now, but I need to manage my time, otherwise it doesn’t work. When I’m ill, everything goes out the window.

Interviewer     So  you think there were other experiences that in some way contributed towards you having a business?


Fairypants      Possibly. My mum always reminds me that she found this one book from when I was I  I was at nursery or the first year of primary school or something like that. She found this book and we’d all had to write it in. When I’m a grownup I want to be, whatever it was. And she said that everyone else had written, I want to be a nurse, I want to be a fireman, I want to be a teacher, and when it came to me I had written, I want to be a dress designer. So at four I knew that I didn’t want to be any of these things that these other people wanted to be. I wanted to be this weird thing that I made up myself. So I think I’ve always known I wanted to be something unusual, even if I didn’t know it at the time, really.


I didn’t even really know what a dress designer was when I was four, and I wanted to be one and that’s the end of that. And I think it also helped that my mum worked very hard. So when I was little, she was working really long days. I used to be picked up from school by my Nan and I wouldn’t see my mum until about half six at night. But it didn’t bother me, I didn’t find it upsetting or distressing. I think I found it aspirational in a way, in that she was working so hard and she had this work ethic. And I think I’ve got a lot of drive and I want to push myself all the time and when I achieve something new, I’m immediately not happy with it and I want to get to the next level. If I gain a really big stockist, I’m happy for about a week, and then I’m like, right, what’s next?

In the final part of this interview we look at how creativity and business come together. xox

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Interview - Part 4

In this instalment we look at fate, accidents and things you need to be an entrepreneur.

Interviewer     So when you were at uni, did you have a different plan for your future?

Fairypants      I didn’t really have a plan. You have to apply for uni when you’re 17, and at 17 I did not know what I wanted to do. I was only halfway through my A-levels and I’ve always liked a bit of everything. Some people excel at one area, I was always quite good at a lot of different things. So for my A-levels I did English literature, art, maths and physics. You don’t normally get that kind of mix, but I was quite happy with that. But it meant that  I couldn’t pick one thing that I wanted to go and do at university. So I went with English literature just because I thought it’s really transferrable. I thought, if I need to do something more specific I can just then do a Masters in something more specific, or I can study something else. But I thought, for now I’m just going to do English.


My whole life is full of accidental things. I’m a great believer in fate. I applied to do English literature at each of my university choices. I live in Chester, and I’m very close to my mum so I only applied for universities that were an hour away, roughly, from Chester. I ended up in Bangor totally accidentally. It was my second choice university,my first choice was Liverpool. I ended up going to Bangor’s open day after I’d submitted my choices for universities and it’s like something out of Harry Potter. It was February and it was snowing and the university is one of the oldest, it’s amazing. So I said to my mum, I want to go here instead now. When I got my results I rang UCAS up and said no, I want to go to my second choice uni, please, and they didn’t really know what to do about that. I think they don’t really get that that often. Anyway, they sent me to Bangor.


I got there on the first day and I got handed a pack and I’d, obviously I’d applied for English lit everywhere and this pack said, welcome to English language and English literature. So I was like, I don’t think I applied for that, I think I applied for just English literature. But I thought I’d just go with it anyway and just see what happens, and that was the right thing to do because I had the time of my life. And I think you learn many things in university even if you don’t choose a directional degree, if that makes sense. My degree really has got nothing to do with what I’m doing now. I learned a lot of other things like self-confidence, and it’s the things that you need to be an entrepreneur I didn’t really have before I went to university. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I launched my business after I graduated.


Interviewer        Can you explain a bit more how that self-confidence grew at uni?


Fairypants         I’ve always been kind of a bit confident, maybe not like super-duper confident, but I’ve always had a bit of confidence. Because I’m an only child I think you kind of have to be a bit confident, otherwise you don’t have any friends. So while I was at Bangor, I joined almost every society under the sun. Not the sporting ones, I don’t do sport, but I joined up to be on the newspaper, I was a radio DJ on the student radio station. I signed up for all these things, made all these friends, and I think in a city as small as Bangor, if you go out, whether it’s a night out or if you go out shopping, half the people you meet, you know them because it’s so small and I think that can’t help but give you a bit of confidence, a bit of feeling at home, even though you’re not at home, because you go out and you know everybody.


And I think it’s easier to be popular in university than it is at school, because I think when you go to university, you can decide who you want to be. On your first day when you meet everyone that lives in your halls, you can decide who you’re going to be for the next three years. You can kind of wipe out who you might have been at school. You know, if you were bullied, you don’t have to be bullied at university. If you were not that intelligent, or you thought you weren’t that intelligent at school, you can try harder in university. You know, you can kind of make your own personality and I think that freedom and that closeness that you tend to get if you do have a good time at university, I think it can’t help but make you a bit more confident and give you that sort of sense of your own ability, I think.

In Part 5 we look at time spent working in retail as a student, and how that may have helped shape Fairypants. xox

Friday, 11 March 2016

The Interview - Part 3

Last time we looked at the beginning of our cosmetics and skincare journey, and now we're talking about how you, our customers can get involved.

Fairypants   The skin balm thing came about by accident. One of my customers emailed me and she said, 'I already buy your lip balms, is there a chance that you could make me a lip balm in a really big tin?' And I was didn't really know where she was going, but she told me that she put the lip balm on her eczema; it’s the only thing that cures it. She said she'd tried steroids, and my lipbalm was the only thing that helped her.  I went away, and I formulated a skin balm for her instead. The lip balm has got a little bit of colour in it, and it’s also got flavours in it. I didn't think she'd want her arm to smell of Pina Colada, so I came up with some nicer fragrances.


We do Rose and Mint, Orange and Vanilla and an Unscented one. And then I started making them in really big tins. I sent her one for free and she rang me up and she said she couldn’t believe how amazing it was, and it had worked.  And she said, as long as I keep on using this every now and then, it just keeps it at bay. So I was thought that was brilliant.  I sent a few samples out. I requested testers. Every now and then when I’ve got something new, I request testers on my social media pages. I normally explain to them kind of what it is. I don’t really go into a lot of detail so I don’t spoil the surprise, but I might tell them it’s nail varnish, so that nobody who doesn’t really wear nail varnish will ask for it.
And I always say to them that they must let me know before they participate if they have known allergies just so that I can weed them out if they’re allergic to something I'm using. And then obviously they can always come back to me if they’ve got a problem afterwards, but luckily I’ve never had anyone come back to me and say they’ve had an allergic reaction so it’s okay. But I sent all these testers out for this Dry Skin Balm and I was getting the same feedback, it was like a pattern. Everyone was saying 'my psoriasis has cleared up', 'my eczema’s cleared up', etc. Someone else said, they used it on their sunburn and went from bright red to brown overnight. And then people were just saying all these crazy things and I was thinking, they don’t know me, they’re not saying it just to be nice. You know, they’re saying it because they mean it.


So then I started selling that, and that again is one of my best sellers. So it’s always accidental, and sometimes from a suggestion from a customer. I mean, the latest product, the nail varnish remover, that came about because one of my stockists said her customers were buying all the nail varnish and then asking about a remover. So she asked me and that was a couple of months ago because that’s how long it took me to get a formula and get the branding for it. And then so now my customers are really happy because they can buy the nail varnish and the matching nail varnish remover. So I’m always open to requests, shall we say, from customers, because that’s normally the best way to move forward.

In Part 4 we go back to University and talk about a great belief in fate. xox

Friday, 4 March 2016

The Interview - Part 2

We left off last week discussing how we first got a stall in Chester Market - here's where we pick up the story.

Fairypants    The feeling I got from being in a market is that people have to see you there a few times before they’ll buy from you, because to their mind you could be there one week and gone the next. And they’ve bought something and they want a refund, so they don’t trust you until you’ve been there for a few months. So, like I say, after the pity sales of the first few months, then it started to kind of pick up a little bit and it was really good. And then I think maybe it was a year or two years later I just found this recipe in a magazine to make vegan lip balm and I’m obsessed with cosmetics, like really obsessed with them, to the point where people who go abroad will bring them back for me if they’re a strange brand that you can’t get over here.


And I had a friend in Uni who was from Texas; she used to bring all this crazy stuff back over from America for me. So finding this recipe for lip balm, it was amazing, it blew my mind. I decided to make some just for me, but this recipe, it made about ten lip balms. I had all these lip balms in the same flavour and, although it was really nice,  I didn't want ten of these lip balms, so I just gave them to my friends and family.


And it was the same thing as with the dresses, it was totally accidental. I just gave them away and people were saying 'it’s the best lip balm I’ve ever tried'. And probably part of it was them just being nice, but I thought maybe I was on to something. I started doing a load of research into what it takes to make cosmetics and sell it. It’s different. If I make a dress and sell it, that’s fine, I don’t have to adhere to any rules and regulations, really. I mean, as long as I tell you about the washing instructions and care and stuff, that’s kind of about it. But with the cosmetics, you have to get it tested. You have to get it sent off to a lab. You have to go through all this red tape. You have to tell the government that that’s what you’re doing. You have to register.So I did. It took months of this research to find out what I had to do to be legal and then I sorted all that out, bought a license – well, it’s not really called a license, but it basically means that I am allowed to make and sell lip balms in the whole of the EU.


So I bought this license thing, started selling them, and it just, it went from there. It got… it went a bit crazy. I started having people wanting to buy wholesale from me, so that was a bit crazy. I didn’t really know how I was going to do that, but I said yes anyway. Say yes and think about it afterwards. Then it kind of grew from there. I did just the lip balms for about a year and a half, before I kind of felt like it wasn’t really going anywhere. Like, it was slow and steady sales, but I felt like to really do these wholesalers any justice, I had to expand the range and let them buy more things from me.
So slowly over the course of a year I introduced eyeshadows, skin balm. So the skin balm was quite a good story, I’ll come back to that in a minute. Nail varnish, that’s my biggest seller. It’s the worst as well because most of it I still make myself and they just take forever and I have to rope my boyfriend in, and we just sit there making nail varnish for a whole day. But, yes, so each time I was adding this product to my collection, I was paying another fee for a different license for that product, and the scarier the product is, the more stuff that’s in it, the more expensive it is. So like for the lip balms I might have only paid £130 or something. But for the nail varnish it’s more like £400 because there’s so many more chemicals and stuff in it that has to be tested. The lip balms have only got three ingredients in so, you know, there’s not a lot of testing that has to go into that, but the nail varnish is more complex.
After that, I started doing perfumes as well. So they were another expensive one because there’s so many things in them and also it’s directly onto your skin, so there’s a lot of extra testing in there. There’s no real plan to when I’m going to think of something new. I tend to just get bored and want to do something new. None of what’s happened has been extensively planned. It’s all seemed a bit accidental, which is probably not the best way to run a business, but it seems to work all right for me so I might stick to it for a little while longer.
In Part 3 we look at taking a customer suggestion and turning it into Dry Skin Balm, and product testing. xox