Brands with social missions, with give-back initiatives or philanthropic aims—these are becoming the norm in cosmetics, fragrance, and personal care regardless of company size. But what Brianne West has been doing with Ehtique for over 5 years now isn’t about using a fraction of business for the greater good; it’s about fully reinventing business as usual and meeting consumer needs at the same time.
Here the beauty entrepreneur shares a profile of herself and her groundbreaking brand.
Name: Brianne West, Founder and CEO
Indie Beauty Company: Ethique
Headquarters: Christchurch, New Zealand
Cash flow: Hitting our first million in revenue (in one financial year) was a great milestone. We have completed two rounds of investment through equity crowdfunding, which isn’t available in the US yet, but is like Kickstarter for selling shares, instead of offering rewards. In doing so, we attracted the highest number of female investors in the platform’s history. We are bringing people who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to invest in large companies along for our ride. We have a real purpose behind our profit and are creating a movement for real positive change.
Team work: In our Christchurch HQ we currently have 12 on our team – Ten are full-time, and two part-time. We also work with a number of cooperatives around the world, including a close relationship with a women’s cooperative in Samoa who produce our delicious organic virgin coconut oil.
Distribution: In New Zealand we are carried throughout the country in the major pharmacy chains and department stores. In Australia we are expanding into brick and mortar retail, and we’re exploring those opportunities in the US as well – We have about 500 bricks and mortar stores around the world. We also ship worldwide via ethiquebeauty.com in the places we are not yet physically ranged. We recently launched a major distribution partnership through Amazon via Pharmapacks, and our growth continues to skyrocket!
Years in beauty: 10+ years in my own companies
Years at Ethique: Since day 1, when I created Ethique’s first product in my kitchen!
Entrepreneurial experience: I started my very first business when I was eight years old - a pet detective agency! However, this didn’t last too long. I started my first real business when I was 19. It was a cosmetics company too, but a more conventional one selling liquids and traditional cosmetics. I ran it part time for about four years and it was relatively successful for a hobby business. I learned the importance of keeping good financial records (I didn’t keep any for about three years, which really hurt later on) and how effective social media can be (as Facebook was just becoming open to business). I sold it prior to starting Ethique and the buyer has done a fabulous job – it’s still active now, although quite a bit different.
The second business I started when I was about 21 and it was a confectionary company….
I started Ethique while I was studying science at University – My goal was to build a business for purpose, not just profit.
The business: Ethique (pronounced Eh-tique) is the French word for ethical and came about as a combination of my passion for the environment, knowledge of cosmetic chemistry (and the waste the industry creates) and the desire to create a business that had far more at its core than just making profit.
We create solid, sensational beauty bars using only naturally-derived ingredients, cruelty-free practices and compostable packaging. We’ve essentially recreated every product in your bathroom – from shampoo to serum to sunless tanner – in solid form. The customer enjoys luxury products that last 2-5X longer than their traditional bottled products, and even the sleeves they arrive in are 100% compostable, meaning zero consumer waste.
The wow-factor: We’re the first world’s first zero-waste, zero-plastic beauty brand. We’re also the first to develop an entirely solid product range.
The customer: Women, men, babies and pets all use our products but of course, women are our main target. Our customers come in because they share our passion to make the world a more positive, less wasteful place. Working to #giveupthebottle is an easy step anyone can take to make a positive impact on our environment – And going solid is fun, too!
Milestone moment: Bottles saved! I am delighted to be able to say we will hit 1 million bottles saved by the end of this calendar year.
Another one is becoming a living wage certified- which means all our team are paid well above minimum wage.
Advice for fellow beauty entrepreneurs: As a female entrepreneur, I see the business world changing for the better each day. I never knew what I wanted to do in my professional life, but I did know that I wanted to create positive change through my passion for environmental conservation. I encourage everyone to follow their passion in life as it will always result in doing something you love. Keep at it, persist, and view the obstacles that come as learning experiences – I know I certainly did! Also, don’t discount your opinion and gut feeling, just because someone else who may have more experience thinks differently. It’s important to back and believe in yourself and your abilities.
Just one: Asked to pick just one go-to product, West says it would be: Pinkalicious, Ethique's newest shampoo bar, which I created to celebrate our fifth anniversary. The unique combination of vanilla and grapefruit is irresistible, and there’s nothing else quite like it.
Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.