The Foundation of an empire

Fashion and make-up guru, Trinny Woodall, has established her online make-up brand and consultancy, Trinny London, which has thrived over the last 12 months. Apparently, it's all about the pots

The Foundation of an empire

Fame, as they say, has many advantages, but being famous isn’t one of them.

One of those many advantages is that it can create opportunities and provide a platform but, depending on the type of fame you achieve, it may also make it difficult to be taken more seriously. 

My background definitely helped me get my foot in the door and granted me access to useful connections, she recounts. 

However, you walk into a room and people misjudge you. I always used to get asked, ‘what do you know about creating tech?’, or ‘what do you know about the actual figures?’ I had to work hard to convince investors that I actually did the legwork and that Trinny London would be a success. 

What really gave me confidence was securing my first investor, Jane Henderson. Jane was someone I really respected in the industry; she’s the beauty director of Mintel, and her belief in both myself and the brand I wanted to build gave me the courage I needed to shake off the sceptics and really drive the Trinny London dream forward.

Since creating the online fashion and make-up brand in 2017, turnover has grown to £45m and it achieved growth of 350 per cent in 2020. From 2019 to 2020, new customers more than doubled from 95,000 to over 260,000. 

The site offers face to face virtual make-up appointments, to help customers achieve their best look according to their style and complexion and of course, it is able to recommend its own range of products as the solution. 

The brand’s USP is that products come in little stackable pots, so women can easily use them anywhere. Its cream-based products are made up of a unique formula, and what it calls a skincare hybrid. The BFF Serum De-Stress can be applied at the end of a make-up routine as a shaded foundation, and after an hour the formula kicks in, making skin look and feel better as the day goes on. 

In addition, personalisation service Match2Me enables women to purchase make-up that suits their unique combination of skin, hair and eyes. Over 70 per cent of its customers now use Match2Me when buying products.

Inspiration for the project came from her TV career on make-over shows What Not to Wear and Trinny and Susannah Undress.

I spent 20 years of my career speaking to women to help them feel better in their own skin, she says, and although I was giving fashion advice, the first thing women would always notice after a makeover is their makeup. They would get a fresh look that enhanced their features as it matched their unique palette. 

However, speaking to so many women over the years I understood the frustrations they felt with the beauty counter, and how challenging it is to pick a shade that really suits you when there are hundreds to choose from. The anxiety induced by this paradox of choice often results in a misdiagnosis of the correct shade.

I therefore wanted to create an online experience where women could find makeup that perfectly suited their unique combination of skin, hair and eyes, as well as a brand that supported the truly inclusive notion of beauty that I so strongly valued.

From the beginning Trinny London has been a fully digital direct to consumer brand, so it was important to invest early in innovation to perfect the personalisation service it wanted to create. 

Some 30 per cent of the team is dedicated to R&D – with the tech team now 41-strong, enabling the business to experience such strong growth during the pandemic last year –  from March 2020 to March 2021, it grew by 330 per cent.

Ambitions for the brand were set high from the start, but its success so far has surprised its owner.

Although I always had ambitious goals for Trinny London, I had never expected the company to be as successful as it has been. In just over three years, revenue has soared to over £45m, and our team has grown from a handful of people working around the kitchen table to 152-strong. 

We’ve become a truly global brand, shipping to 162 countries. Prior to Covid, this figure was 94, highlighting how much we’ve grown as a result of being a fully digital-first beauty brand. 

It was important to put the right foundation (geddit?) in place before launch, and Woodall spent nearly three years developing the concept of the brand before recruiting the right people to help realise the idea. As CEO, however, she remains very much hands-on and involved in the day to day of the company. She’s not merely the face.

I’m involved in every aspect of the business. I lead product development strategy with the Product Development team to ensure we’re creating top quality products that respond to our customers’ needs. 

I also work with the marketing, retail and makeup artist teams to drive customer engagement, satisfaction and loyalty. A large part of this involves engaging with both my personal and the company’s social media channels. We aim to share thoughtful, educational, and inspiring content for our audience. 

With tech it’s about the customer journey, retention and personalisation, and good customer service is key to a successful company growth.

There are plans to widen the offering, although Woodall won’t be drawn on exactly what they are yet, but personalisation is the core of the business. As is international expansion. The brand already ships to more than 162 countries and is particularly focused on expanding in the US. 

We look at where we can localise every few months to encourage growth. We recently launched the Germany site in pursuit of raising German sales from 2.6 per cent to seven per cent of revenue by the end of this year, and we ensure we have makeup artists all across the world, from Vancouver and Houston to New Zealand, so there’s someone in every time zone for virtual appointments. 

International growth is also supported by the community aspect of our brand. Our online ‘Trinny Tribe’ Facebook community is made up of women from over 30 countries, from Tasmania and South Africa to Qatar and Israel. A particularly inspiring tribe in Sydney is made up of just phenomenal, uplifting women, and they’ve had a large impact on our growth in the country. In fact, in 2019, we made it our mission to take Australia revenue to 12 per cent, which I think at that time was about six per cent of our revenue. It’s now at 16 per cent.

On 20th May Trinny spoke at the CxO Connects Event, a virtual summit designed to connect Chief Officers and powerful women. It is hosted by accelerateHER, a global network and event series which exists to re-balance gender in the technology sector to secure women an inclusive future across all business.  

We’ve got an amazing team and I thoroughly enjoy working with such an inspiring, hardworking group of women, who genuinely care about the business.

On Trinny London’s Instagram, we run an Elevator Pitch series that gives a budding, female entrepreneur the opportunity to pitch her business or product to my audience in 30 seconds. I give each entrepreneur personalised feedback on their pitch and how they can scale, and by sharing the pitch with Trinny London’s followers, young, female-led businesses are able to get the extra exposure.

Timing is everything and the business has undoubtedly benefited from the upswing in online shopping and content absorption over the last 12 months. 

Trinny London’s mission is to give people the confidence to look good and feel good. And after all, that is the whole point of the business to help people to be the person they want to be.

Trinny was a speaker at the CxO Connects Event, a virtual summit designed to connect Chief Officers and powerful women on Thursday 20th May from 08.30am – 14.00pm. It hosted by accelerateHER, a global network and event series which exists to re-balance gender in the technology sector to secure women an inclusive future across all business.

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan

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