I met Jessica at a fashion party. It was one of those rare parties where everyone was very friendly and just chit chatting away. Jessica looked so fabulous I just had to speak with her and when she told me she was the Managing Director of Cult Beauty, I was so excited, as I love all the tips and product information on the site, that I had to interview her.
What got you interested in the beauty business?
JD – As early as I can remember, I was getting in trouble for raiding my mother’s makeup bag. At 10 I was already practising putting on mascara and liquid eyeliner, however, mom wouldn’t let me out of the house with any makeup on until I was about 16. I love the girliness of it all, the unabashed femininity of the industry. To me, it is the women’s equivalent of football.
Talk us through your CV.
JD – British Airways hired me out of graduate school and I got my online start in the travel industry. After Sept 11, jobs were seriously hard to come by, so I took a role at an investment bank. I specialised in large-scale web implementations at financial services companies until I left to start Cult Beauty.
How did Cult Beauty come about?
JD – Honestly, I personally was sick and tired of falling for inflated promises of very mediocre products and I didn’t trust in-store sales staff to have the expertise or incentive to give me good advice. Living in London, I had access to top stylists to cut my hair, and they would recommend products they had used on their clients on the red carpet or magazine covers. This is quite geeky – but I understood how to capture and consolidate that information and present it on the web so that it would be available to everyone. It was just how I wanted to buy beauty products – no advertising, no commission-incentivised sales staff with minimal training, just real information from the top stylists and beauty experts in the industry.
What is in the pipeline for spring and autumn 09?
JD – We’re bringing some gorgeous brands over from the US and also exploring beauty in Brazil.
What is the hardest part about starting an online business?
JD – Getting the corporate brands to take you seriously. Many of them still view the web as eBay, so convincing them that the web can be glamorous is difficult.
How are you finding business in the current economic climate?
JD – It is hard to say, as we are so new that this is the only economic climate that we have operated in. We’re gaining customers and readers every month, and a large proportion of our customers come back.
What is the most simple change that retailers can make to improve their online store?
JD -Get rid of the 0870 phone number!
I like your browse by celebrity feature. Do you have a celebrity following?
JD -We do and it is so exciting to see the names on our order list. And then you get their family members ordering too, and you know that someone who doesn’t have to pay for products has actually recommended us! It makes me think we are getting it right.
Do you have a favourite product?
JDM – I have so many, but currently my can’t live without product is Alison Raffaele Reality Base Foundation.
How does Cultbeauty.co.uk stand out from other fashion/beauty websites?
JD – The whole premise is that everything on the site is a star – a product that really works and that will truly delight, like a beauty hall of fame. Other sites offer a huge selection, but we really filter out all the dross. We’re trying to get behind the advertising, and empower women by editing out the hyperbole and lies of greedy corporations.
How many hours do you work per week?
JD – It varies, but generally between 50 – 60.