A “girl boss” is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. – Sophie Amoroso.
Growing up the the late 90s / early 00s; we were content to paint our faces with slightly orange tinged foundation, a slick of cerise pink lipstick and a dusting of powder blue eyeshadow. Our application tool of choice? Why, our fingers of course. Professional make up brushes were far too expensive for any teenager’s liking. If only someone had noticed the gap in the market sooner, I would have been saved a series of mortifying pictures uploaded to a marginally more mortifying “BEBO” page.
Let me introduce you to Irish entrepreneur, Suzanne O’Neill. Having worked in the beauty industry for over 10 years, she knows all there is to know about make up and application tools. During her time spent as a make up artist, she noticed that a large number of her clients were reluctant to invest in essential tools for their make up kits because high quality brands always seemed to attach an equally high price tag. So, in true “girl boss” fashion, Suzanne spotted a gap in the cosmetic market and pounced on it.
Photo credit: RSVP Magazine.
Together with her sister, Suzanne has developed “AYU Make Up”. AYU is an Irish owned company, based in Ireland and they strive to provide professional quality make up brushes at an affordable price point. And yes, I mean REALLY affordable. The brushes are sold individually or as sets so, they’re perfect for treating yourself or somebody else.
AYU have been really successful to date, so I recently approached Suzanne to ask if she would share some of her tricks of the trade with aspiring entrepreneurs and my fellow make up addicts. I’m absolutely delighted to be sharing this interview with you.
1. How did you get your idea or concept for AYU?
I had been teaching “Beauty and Make Up” for years and always found the quality of brush sets that students were given was very poor. They also didn’t have the money to buy the big name brands so I wanted to create something that was excellent quality but affordable for them.
2. What does your typical day look like?
My days are quite erratic. I start each day by bringing the kids to crèche and then sending off all the previous day’s orders. Once this is done, if I am in the office I will answer emails, check in with all of our social media platforms, plan our marketing for the following days and do any admin. After this is done, I tend to go into creative mode which is my favourite thing to do – it’s when I plan and research all the new lines and brushes that we bring out. We have a whole new line and two new sets due out over the next 8 weeks so this has been keeping me very busy. I am also working on a spray cleaner and a few top secrets bits too. Not everything I work on will reach our customers but the process in creating what does is great!
3. Has everyone around you always been supportive of your business aspirations?
Yes. I have always been very entrepreneurial and have had two other successful businesses before this. I am very lucky to have a really brilliant support network. When I told my husband I was going to stop teaching to look after AYU full time, he was 100% behind me.
4. Do you take inspiration from other women in business and if so, who?
Yes. We are living in an age where successful women are all around us. I love to see what others are doing and sometimes when things are crazy and you feel smothered by it all it’s comforting to chat to these women and see that we all feel the same at times and that’s OK. It helps you to refocus and keep going. I think Sara Blakely who created Spanx is brilliant and love her story. Closer to home Marissa Carter is a big inspiration of mine. She is so successful and yet always willing to help others out which is such a lovely trait.
5. How would you describe your personal style?
Classic. I am not one to follows trends. I wear what I feel comfortable in and what suits me. Sometimes I think I’m a bit boring but if I have ever tried to wear something that is not me I just feel uncomfortable and awkward until I get back into my normal clothes!
6. Who is your style/beauty hero?
Olivia Palermo all the way. I love her style and she is always so naturally made up which I just love.
7. What item do you think every woman should have in her wardrobe?
A pair of stilettos. I find that when I have something big on and am a bit nervous, once I put my heels on I immediately feel more confident.
8. Tell us about your beauty essentials. Do you follow a particular regime?
I am very low maintenance. I use micellar water to clean my face at night and have a night cream and eye cream that I use religiously. I wear the 3D Skintech SPF 30 on my face every day. I would exfoliate 2-3 times a week and use a mask once a week. Other than that I get microdermabrasion done every 3-4 weeks. If a routine has too many steps I know I won’t do it. It needs to be quick and effective for me!
9. At this very moment, what’s in your handbag?
I have my wallet, a pair of the kids socks (not sure why they are there), 6 lipsticks (all pinks), 3 pens and some toffees (I have a seriously addiction to them that I am trying to kick!!).
10. With so many brands on the market at the moment, why should we choose to purchase AYU?
Our brand is focused on the everyday woman. We want women to enjoy the process of putting on their make up and not be intimidated by it, which I think can be the case for a lot of women out there. They get confused by all the different names etc. Our packaging is simple with clear wording and instructions. We also have a tips and tricks page on our website and a training videos page so women can revert back here for helpful bits of info. We want to communicate with our customers and help them where possible and I think that is what sets us apart – how accessible we are.
11. Any tips for aspiring business women?
If you have an idea that you think is worth pursuing and you have a genuine love for it, then go for it. You need to love what you do because working for yourself requires long hours and very little return in the beginning but it is all worth it when you are getting up each day to do something that you love and have created yourself. The good days always outweigh the bad. Also not to take things personally if someone doesn’t like your product – everyone has their own opinions and as long as you believe in what you are doing and can stand behind it, that is all that matters.
More information and the option to shop for AYU products can be found by clicking here for the AYU website. I’ve heard it through the grapevine that we can expect new collections to be released very soon.
Now, tell me. What do you think of the first post in our “Irish Girl Boss Series” and, who would you like to hear from next?