The Beauty Business | Alexia Inge – Co-Founder of Cult Beauty
What if you could gather a panel of the beauty industry’s upper echelons such as Ruby Hammer, Daniel Sandler, Dr Sam Bunting and Andrea Fulerton, find out the beauty products worthy of their time and then make their favourite products available at the click of a button. Wouldn’t that be genius? Well, that’s exactly what Alexia Inge did six years ago with Cult Beauty thus giving us access to niche brands with bona fide cult status and making it the online destination for products given the insider seal of approval. With Cult Beauty‘s recent sixth birthday, I recently had a chat with Alexia about the cult selection process and what we’d find in her makeup bag should we wish to rummage through it!
Where did the idea for Cult Beauty come from? My business partner Jessica Deluca and I co-founded this site as beauty consumers who were tired of being sold products that didn’t live up to their promises; we had too many half-used cosmetic containers cluttering up the shower and too much money waisted down the drain! Jess was looking through the InStyle Best Beauty Buys when she had the idea to use an expert panel to cherry-pick the best products out there, creating a beauty hall of fame, that one can shop!
Cult Beauty is known for stocking the coolest, niche and independent brands from Sunday Riley to Le Soft Perfume. How do you keep track of the latest beauty launches and know when something is cult enough to be stocked at Cult Beauty? We have the ears and eyes of our expert panel who work all over the world. This is also a company of complete beauty junkies who are perpetually driven to find the next ‘hit’ of beauty cult-ness. Stacia, our buying director is a veritable beauty bloodhound who can sniff out a gem before you’ve even got it out of the box.
Who is the ideal Cult Beauty customer? Many of our customers come to us in a confused and fed up state with the beauty industry, just wanting to buy something that does what it says on the tin. Then we have the cult hunters, the people who want to discover the latest underground thing so they can show off to their mates online when it gets big. We also have a lot of professional women who simply don’t have time to search for hours and just need to find something they trust quickly. Our ideal customer is a happy one because they will not only come back, but they also tell their friends.
What has your biggest achievement been since opening the store? I look around at the team and feel a huge sense of pride in what we have achieved in 6 years. That we continue to grow even though we launched small using Jess’ and my savings, just as the world economy was melting. We’ve won many best beauty website awards, which are amazing, but meeting someone random at a party and hearing them say that they love the site is probably the thing that makes me smile most like a Cheshire cat.
Many women enjoy the experience of visiting a department store and trying out the products they’re about to buy. As an online retailer that experience doesn’t exist for Cult Beauty customers, but judging by its huge success that doesn’t seem to be a problem. How have you overcome that? I think it’s a mix of the fact that they know everything on the site is expert selected by a panel that we don’t allow to recommend anything they are financially tied to so the hard filtering work has already been done. I think the brilliant product descriptions written by Verity Douglas definitely help. All other sites tend to blindly regurgitate the brand’s marketing materials, but Verity researches each product before writing it. Also, so many women simply don’t have the time to go into town to buy beauty, parking and travel are expensive and stressful and this is an uncrushed, unhassled experience within a chic and simply-designed site.
Which Cult Beauty products can we find in your own makeup bag and beauty cabinet? Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint is the best tinted moisturiser in the world I wear it daily with the Studio 10 Visible Lift Face Definer, it’s the simplest way to look pretty without looking like you are wearing make up. I then finish the look with Magnetic Lash Mascara and a spritz of Molecule 01 or 02. Lait-Crème Concentre by Embryolisse is a must-have staple because it is so versatile, MV Organic Skincare is my fall back when too much product testing makes my skin sensitive and I adore Oskia masks and cleansers. Now that the sun is coming out I’m all over the Zelens Daily Defence SPF 30 and UltraSun for my body. If you have any issues with your lips Pommade Divine is a 200 year old British recipe that beats the pants off everything else I’ve tried. The packaging isn’t that chic so I sometimes stray to newer, sexier models, but I always come back! Oh and if you are ever feeling stressed or have trouble sleeping have a bath with the Therapie Himalayan Detox Salts – I’ve recommended this to many people and they are all now addicts… It’s magical.
Most important beauty tip that you’d shout from the virtual/online rooftops? Look after your skin in your twenties. One tends to think that naughty things you are doing are not affecting your skin because you can’t see a difference then. They are, and you notice the effects the day you hit 35, then you start to see the effects of sunbathing, smoking, eating badly, stress and pollution. My other one is smile, especially at old ladies in the street. The smile you get back from them is generally so bright and unexpected that it puts a swing in your step.
Any words of advice for budding entrepreneurs, particularly those keen to enter the beauty industry? You need to start off with a lot of passion for whatever you are trying to do because the entrepreneurial process will make you question why you ever wanted to do it in the first place. Make sure there is a market for it, ask a lot of people and not just people in your social group, all ages, all backgrounds. Don’t let no’s get you down or stop you, when you start 90% of the answers you get will be no, or even worse “maybe” then ignored. Be tenacious and dogged. Don’t copy what other people are doing, it’s much harder to succeed that way. Be original, then your idea will shine.