At POPSUGAR, we're big fans of Spectrum Collection brushes. Seriously, how does each collection get better and better? And if there's one thing that makes the company even more cool, it's the women behind the brand. Sophie and Hannah Pycroft are the sibling duo behind the pop culture-inspired makeup tools, and they started their business from their garage in Barry, Wales.
I recently had breakfast with Sophie and Hannah at the launch of the new Spectrum Valentine's Day collection, and one thing was evident: they're as gorgeous as their brushes. They probably enjoy an Instagrammable avo on toast like the rest of us, and they absolutely understand the beauty market at customer level, which, in my eyes, is what makes them so successful. Find someone who doesn't want a Burn Book brush set. . . I'll wait.
If you're unfamiliar with Hannah and Sophie's story, allow me to fill you in. They started out freelance, creating content online, which gave them the necessary skills to set up a business without spending a fortune on setup costs, like website design and photography. Their only real investment was to make the product itself. Sophie told me that they have "always loved fashion and beauty and really wanted to work together and stay in Wales," but there was a real lack of job opportunities in those industries in that area.
"We saw a niche for makeup brushes and accessories, which fused together our two favourite things, fashion and beauty," she explained. They turned their garage into the "studio" where beauty favourite the glam clam was born. Their mum came up with the brand name after some brainstorming while watching Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex (big up GC for sparking creativity). Aside from the name, the brand was entirely born from Sophie and Hannah's creative minds. They didn't have any investors or outside help; they just saved a lot of money and worked hard.
Spectrum Collection had its "big break" after a successful trade show, and the sisters' smart social media strategy allowed them to create a fun makeup space around their great quality brushes. While attending the Clothes Show Live, Hannah and Sophie gave celebrity attendees their brushes, which resulted in some great social media coverage without the hefty influencer fees. Spectrum was getting noticed by bloggers and beauty junkies! These early successes gave them enough money to release the Glam Clam, which hit the web just as mermaids and unicorns were really taking off. After selling a substantial number of Glam Clams and brush sets, things really took off with the launch of the Burn Book collection, which is what got people really psyched about the brand. Mean Girls + makeup = every millennial beauty obsessed woman's dream!
But of course, with success come inevitable setbacks. In August of last year shortly after the Mean Girls collection release, there was a devastating fire in a warehouse that destroyed around £470,000 worth of Spectrum Collection stock. Sophie and Hannah actually had to put the famous phrase "keep calm and carry on" to work, because the business still needed to be run. "We're both really resilient, luckily, as you have to be to take something like that and really come back stronger. But having each other is always such a huge help; one will pick the other up if we're ever feeling low or stressed. We are each other's motivation."
What strikes me about the sisters is their passion: it really feels like they didn't start Spectrum Collections purely as a money-making venture but as passionate innovators who truly understand their audience. Sophie echoed this by saying "it's a labour of love and passion and a real strong sense of team work that is the most rewarding aspect of business; we haven't got an exit plan or a real desire for early retirement or an easy life, the business keeps us inspired and motivated every day." She added that they can be as creative as they want with complete control and said honestly that they were too strong-willed to be someone else's employees. Sophie confessed that her shortest employment was less than 24 hours! When they launched their own business, they truly had to get stuck in, building trade show stands, driving vans to shows six hours away, and generally doing everything themselves.
It's no secret that, no matter how far we believe society has moved on, it can be harder for women to go into business alone without big investors. I asked if they felt as though they'd been treated differently because they're women, and they replied "absolutely! More so at the beginning; we like to think that now anyone who has any knowledge of the business, how we run it, and that we're strong-minded women wouldn't expect they can treat us any differently than a businessman." She noted that even though they don't need any outsider help (and they really don't), of course people still try to give their input on how the business could be run differently, and it's usually people looking to gain for themselves. Sophie continued saying that "one big thing to learn as you go along is not to be a people pleaser; really focus on what is right for you and your business, and that means saying 'no' to a lot of requests."
The brand is still very young and there may be seven people working in an office that's meant to hold four, but that is a testament to the hard work of the sisters and their small, dedicated team. All it takes is some girl power to create a supersuccessful business from an idea, a garage, and hard work!