Kim McAllister: GlamCandy highlights growth

It was a big day in Dunfermline yesterday.

A £250,000 facility boasting a 100% employment rate for its alumni had its grand opening – and it certainly looked grand.

The clue is in the name – GlamCandy.

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The 1600 sq ft makeup school on the High Street is the first in a string of similar establishments planned for Scotland and the UK, following a deal with entrepreneur Julian Kynaston.

Director Hayley Harvey-Smith told me the unlikely story behind the growth of a company set to turnover £2.7m this year.

“I’m not a make-up artist – don’t let me near you with a brush – my background is in advertising,” she joked.

It’s her sister-in-law with the makeup skills. Together they spotted a gap in 2011 for a makeup masterclass.

Given that The Only Way is Essex was dominating the TV schedule, with its heavily made-up characters, they thought the classes would appeal to the younger market – so choose the name accordingly; GlamCandy.

In the first week they sold 200 places on the workshop, but on the day there wasn’t a person under 40.

“We got our target completely wrong,” she laughed. “It was full of women who’d been wearing makeup the same way for years and wanted to learn new techniques.”

It was the first of many pivots.

My favourite story was the time they spent a fortune launching a skincare range and placed 10,000 samples in the ASOS advent calendar… only to realise no one had ordered the actual products.

“We still get emails now asking where they can buy the moisturiser – it was a gorgeous product, all made in Scotland. I definitely want to revisit that part of the business,” Hayley laughed.

It’s no wonder something like that got missed.

The GlamCandy brand was always about both education and retail, and the two strands of the business were in danger of overwhelming the team until Julian made his proposal.

“I’d worked with his Illamasqua brand for a number of years, we were the exclusive supplier in Scotland,” Hayley explained. “Julian loves Edinburgh, he would come up for visits frequently and we sold a specialist college kit with his products.”

When Julian sold the makeup brand for £23m he suggested that he come onboard with GlamCandy and look after the retail side. Hayley would concentrate on the makeup school – which offers SQA qualifications as well as five and two day courses.

“It just made sense to join forces, he’s great to work with and I can learn a lot from him,” Hayley said.

Hayley had clearly built a successful business to attract such a business partner. She attributes much of the company’s growth to smart use of social media – the Instagram account, for example, has over 23,000 followers.

“It’s the era of the selfie,” she said. “One of our artists specialises in Instagram-style makeup – people want to know how to look like they have a filter on all day long.”

Others specialise in bridal, editorial, special effects and drag to name a few – the point is that students get their training from the best in each field.

“I started the business with the big dream of making millions – I think I’m quite reckless,” Hayley admitted. “Then you learn in year 2 and 3 and 4 that things are never quite like you planned, you have to pivot and change. You need to make a lot of errors when you’re building a business – the more mistakes the better, because then you won’t make them again. I feel like I’ve made so many there are surely none left to make…”

The future for GlamCandy looks bright, with a new store set to open in Aberdeen at the turn of the year and more sites in their sights.

I’d keep an eye on this one.

Other video interviews by Kim McAllister

Video interview with Russell Dalgleish of Scottish Business Network – High Growth Scotland with Kim McAllister

High Growth articles from Kim McAllister

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