SATURDAY INTERVIEW: Former model joins forces with Úna Tynan on cosmetics brand
A Conversion rate almost four times the retail average is a major achievement for any business. In the case of Pippa O’Connor Ormond, the former model turned businesswoman has grown her Poco fashion and accessories business in five years to a point where her conversion rate is 11pc against an industry average of 3pc.
This week, the Co Kildare mother-of-two stepped up her entrepreneurial ambitions yet again by looking to the lucrative world of beauty.
UP Cosmetics is a partnership with Donegal businesswoman, Úna Tynan, the woman behind Blank Canvas cosmetics.
Three years in the making, UP Cosmetics has been developed as a high-end, luxury brand and launched on Thursday with 13 products.
“They’re feel-good products. I don’t think makeup should mask your face, it’s about enhancing everything you have and we all want a bit of luxury,” says Pippa who admits she always wanted to be her own boss.
Investing in a luxury cosmetics line is not for the faint-hearted but the spreadsheet on Pippa’s business success to date makes for very interesting reading.
Since her ‘Poco by Pippa’ brand launched in 2016, they have sold 149,000 pairs of jeans in five years, with prices averaging €100 each.
Poco have a returning customer rate of 59pc. While 11 out of every 100 website visitors make a purchase, their returns rate is 16pc against an industry average of circa 30pc.
Poco, which Pippa runs with her husband Brian Ormond, processed 168,000 orders between online and pop-up stores. They have launched 132 different items – including jeans, tops, coats, footwear, candles and notebooks – in five years.
This year, they sold 23,500 sweatshirts and t-shirts – a figure which reflects the lockdown wardrobes of customers working from home. For 2020, the growth rate of the company year-on-year is 44pc.
Meanwhile, Pippa’s business partner in UP, Úna Tynan is a former teacher who dipped her toe in the world of makeup brushes nine years ago and has become a market leader.
From Buncrana in Co Donegal, Úna launched Blank Canvas with a single brush set in 2011. She took her punt in the midst of the economic downturn and before online shopping had really taken off in Ireland.
Originally a direct-to-consumer brand, Blank Canvas grew a cult following with professionals within the industry.
Úna’s company rolled out distribution in 2012. They are now stocked in over 700 locations, have expanded into the UK and recently launched with Boots.
Since 2015, Blank Canvas has seen a year-on-year growth of over 70pc and for 2020 the company is on track to hit record growth of 150pc versus 2019.
Úna says the strong increases are attributed to “the strategic marketing strategy through digital and influencer marketing, as well as a more refined product range to appeal to a wider customer audience”.
“Blank Canvas identified a sense of confusion with regards to make up brushes among the everyday person or makeup novice and in response to this has designed pre-selected sets such as their one-stop range which contains key brushes for the makeup novice,” she says.
There’s no confusion about what the pair of businesswomen want to achieve together. They have invested heavily into the research and development of UP which carries their two initials – and they have plans to extend the range but, as Pippa acknowledges, she has learned in the past not to say too much.
This business partnership blossomed after Pippa complimented Úna on one of her brushes on her Pippa.ie blog posts. Una responded to say thanks. The two started talking and they ended up collaborating on the limited edition Pippa Palette in 2015.
The UP Cosmetics campaign was shot in London with Nikki Wolff – a catwalk fashion and celebrity makeup artist – and they worked with five models to achieve their campaign looks.
Over the last three years, Úna and Pippa have been developing the brand, testing products, editing must-have colours, looking at pricing and luxury packaging. There was a lot to consider as the landscape changed multiple times.
In September 2019, Forbes.com estimated the global beauty industry at $532bn (€438bn). However, the coronavirus pandemic changed the face of the makeup business and sales dipped in 2020 with people now working from home and wearing protective masks.
During lockdowns, purchases of blue-light-blocking skincare, serums and purple haircare products to preserve colour emerged as trends but beauty industry insiders are predicting a bounce in sales as vaccination programmes begin.
At their HQ in Dublin yesterday, the UP business partners were confident about their online offer and that their timing is correct for a new luxury product “to meet the needs and wants of makeup enthusiasts today".
“We have put our hearts and souls into launching this brand and we are very proud of it,” says Pippa. “It was a shared dream of creating a high-end, luxurious cosmetics brand. You don’t have to be a makeup artist to use this range. It is a quick fix in the morning to make you feel your best.”
UP Cosmetic’s first rollout features three lip gloss shades (€18), four lipsticks (€20), three Quad Palettes with four eye colours each (€32) and two Trio Face Palettes (€45). The most expensive item is the €50 Ultimate Face Palette with eight high-pigment eyeshadows, sculpting face powder and a shimmering highlighter.