We Chat To Kiemu, The Brains Behind Beautonomy
The secret to running your own business and breaking into the beauty industry.
Beautonomy is an independent British beauty brand, creating unique products in the form of customisable eyeshadow palettes. As a company, they strive to be as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. All of their make up is 100% cruelty free, and palettes are reusable so customers can replace their favourite shades without having to purchase a new palette each time. Female Boss, Kiemu runs Beautonomy, and as a black female business owner, she is committed to social justice within the beauty industry and beyond. We sit down and chat to Kiemu about all things Beautonomy and breaking into the beauty industry.
Can you tell us how the idea for Beautonomy was born?
Beautonomy was originally part of a project that my husband Tom did with a large corporation but when things didn’t quite work out with them, we decided to take it forward ourselves independently, it was too special an opportunity and exciting a concept to just let go.
We give you the tools to truly express your creativity in terms of- curating products, creating makeup looks, and designing the outside of your palette. We also wanted to allow people to create value from their beauty content because we realised that most creators are not paid influencers but talented makeup artists or are just passionate about beauty itself. These are the people we want to cultivate a community with. So we originally launched with creator shops that allowed people to sell their palette designs through our website and earn commission doing so. This feature was really popular and one we are definitely bringing back next year.
Your website not only enables customers to choose the pigments inside their palette, but allows them to customise the design of the palette too. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
We believe that everyone is creative. And that through social media, there is more inspiration about the different ways we can do our makeup than ever before. So instead of buying makeup to ‘look good’, lots of people are also buying it to experiment, play and express their creativity which we find very exciting.
By choosing the eyeshadows that go inside their palettes, we feel that our customers are choosing tools to create looks that allow them to express themselves through make up. Designing the packaging is an extension of that self expression. It is also a really important part of giving our customers the experience of designing their own product- which they love.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
I have two small children, so I would say the hardest part is juggling business and family life. Beautonomy is an independent, UK-based business but it’s also family-run and this is of the utmost importance to me.
Tom and I are married and the business works with a dedicated internal team including Tom’s sister, Grace, managing the team as a co-founder. So whilst it’s tough juggling being a Mum, as a CEO, I strive for sustainable ways of working internally and family values are at the core of our business ethos, whilst I think also being a key contributing factor to our growing success.
We’re so lucky we can work with family every day!
What would a standard day in the office look like for you?
My day starts bright and early! I get up at about 4am to start work but I’m in the office between around 9.30 and 3 o’clock. I find working earlier suits me best and that’s when I can just get ahead – with the help of caffeine!
No two days are the same at Beautonomy and I work across all areas of the business; from product development right through to spending time problem solving – if any issues arise that need troubleshooting, my job is to resolve them as quickly as possible.
We are lucky because we have a super committed team who are working incredibly hard to grow the business. So I feel that the most important part of my job is to support them, and to make sure we are all pulling in the same direction in terms of our goals for Beautonomy. My shorter office hours mean I get to spend time with my children in the evening which is most important to me. Once they’ve gone to bed I’ll continue to work and plan for the week ahead – I’m lucky I can make hours flexible so it works best for me and my family.
Best beauty tip you’ve ever received?
Sleep more! Beauty sleep is key!
What advice would you give those trying to break into the beauty industry?
Breaking into beauty can be challenging because there is a lot of regulation and it is expensive to buy inventory initially. So to get around this, I would definitely recommend partnering with a bigger organisation with experience in beauty like we did. This includes brands like Avon, who are currently running a competition for women of colour to win £20 000 to test their ideas. Or accelerators organisations like Founder’s Factory who have particular expertise in beauty.
And importantly- if you have a great idea that you are deeply passionate about, keep going with it. Do your research, speak to lots of people (they won’t steal your idea), and find a way to test it. Good luck!
What’s your personal mantra?
Congruence is my go-to word. I really believe that it’s important to work towards being comfortable being yourself all the time. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with wearing, or not wearing make up. Congruence is about accepting and loving who you are, including your imperfections! And not caring too much what other people think. By doing this, I think that we feel freer, more peaceful, and more able to meet our potential.
What can we expect from Beautonomy in the future?
We have so much planned for the next few months. As well as introducing new stuff, we want to do more to communicate with our audience around our values of promoting creativity, community, and congruence. Other things coming soon include: an improved website and customiser, new products and the re-introduction of creator selling.
We’re so proud of the Beautonomy community we’ve cultivated and there are many influencers and makeup artists alike who are our ‘creators’. They create bespoke packaging designs and carefully curated collections of shades, and we can’t wait to support them selling again, and growing the group of Beautonomy beauty traders.
We want to encourage this entrepreneurial spirit with our community. There are so many brilliant talented people we can’t wait to work with in 2021!