Wendy Slattery Co-Founder of The Beauty Buddy reveals to IIBN that her company is a data analytics company dedicated to the beauty and cosmetic industry, using consumer social interactions through a TripAdvisor-like app (designed for beauty consumers) to provide real-time insights and actionable data. The data sourced directly from user activity is extremely valuable to both brands and industry partners providing unique insights into consumer behaviour, competitive comparisons and sentiment analysis.
You can see The Beauty Buddy website here
How did you get the idea/ concept for The Beauty Buddy Business?
I always had that ‘want’ to create a global business that provided an everyday solution to a problem. It wasn’t until I came across that ‘problem’ when shopping for a make-up brush that I believed there was an opportunity to create a solution that currently didn’t exist on the market. We began to talk and research the market and ultimately discovered that the data we were set to capture gave us a competitive advantage and enabled us to fill a void as a dedicated beauty analytics company.
Give a brief account of your education background.
I have a background in business development, enterprise sales, retail and ecommerce. As a graduate of the National College of Art & Design, the Digital Marketing Institute and business at the National College of Ireland, I held senior corporate roles at Eircom before setting off on my entrepreneurial journey.
Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
Yes, I was quite the young entrepreneur. I look back in admiration when I think of the clubs I used to set up where I’d charge the other kids a fee to join. They were funding a part-time job I didn’t even realise I had.
Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
It’s not, but I did find out in the census recently that my great grandfather was a shoemaker with his own shop in Dublin.
Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
I had prior knowledge from a consumer’s point of view. Being a female, and with the average woman spending more than €80K during their lifetime on beauty and cosmetics products, I regularly experienced the frenzy of shopping for such items.
It was through our initial research that we began to understand the market gaps relating to the data analytics captured by brands and retailers. As an analytics company, our competitive advantage is that we supply real-time data versus static data, providing brands with direct access to their consumer, enabling product personalisation and other advantages at scale.
What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
I previously co-founded a retail, ecommerce and corporate décor company for over 11 years. This experience and the challenges etc have inspired what, when and how we do things now. My strong background in business development, corporate sales, retail and project management is of huge advantage to enable me to lead our team and scale our business. We have a committed growing team, strategic partners and a strong panel of advisors who are working with myself and co-founder Tracy Leavy to deliver the vision of The Beauty Buddy.
How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
Initially we were self-funded before we got into the New Frontiers programme which provided us with €15,000. We have closed our seed round of €575,000, which included investment from our angel investors and Enterprise Ireland. Participating in the NDRC-Porter Shed Accelerator Programme provided us with early funding to get our business investor ready. We will be raising again at the end of 2020 to prepare us for entry to the US market.
Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
I believe we chose the right funding path but perhaps we would reconsider how we went about the process. There is also the time that goes into raising investment, whilst it is imperative, it depletes your time and distracts you from focusing on other elements of the business, which can be frustrating at times but ultimately rewarding.
What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding?
Securing funding is a challenge. There are many difficulties to encounter and stats show less investment into female entrepreneurs in general. Whilst we had a strong ecommerce background, it wasn’t within the industry that we were entering, therefore we had to start from the beginning by driving introductions to the right people. We were confident that once we were in front of them, they would buy into us and the business.
Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
We literally bootstrapped, so every week brought new challenges. We spent what we had wisely, and we made business decisions based on results – if it wasn’t going to have an impact, then it wasn’t done. We used the business and networking supports available to us i.e. Enterprise Ireland. We tracked small goals and milestones and ensured we took the necessary cost-effective steps to surpass these.
What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Determination, passion, ambition and above all, a positive attitude, which we carry through the business today.
To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
Our team! We work together with the same goals and passions. We all believe in the app and the technology that will ultimately change not only how consumers shop but also how brands and retailers connect with their consumers and drive sales, product developments etc.
What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
I think it is an integral part of any business. The ability to network with peers, like minded individuals and leaders, to make connections, create partnerships and support each other and businesses. You never know who you will meet and what great minds can do when put together.
Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
Now there are more support and grants available from many different avenues. There are several accelerator programmes both in Ireland and abroad that entrepreneurs can become a part of. It’s an exciting time to start and grow a business. There can always be improvements i.e. more government incentives for investors but as a country we have made huge strides.
Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
Yes absolutely, I am already mentoring several start-ups and I look forward to supporting them further as I continue to learn on my own journey.
If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
Go for it, take the calculated risk and do not be afraid of failure, it can lead to huge success. If you are not failing, you are not trying anything new, which means you are not moving forward. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors that are experts in their fields. Take advantage of business programmes, awards and any funding grands, that are relevant to your business. Remember, you can’t do it all yourself so surround the business with a great, solid, dedicated and like-minded team who can free up your time, allowing you to focus on next steps and ambitions. Being an entrepreneur is tough, challenging and rewarding all at the same time.