Hey everyone! I’m excited to bring to you our first brand owner Q&A of 2018! If you’re part of the Instagram beauty community, you’ve probably seen the beautiful creations of indie brand Clionadh Cosmetics. They blew up in 2017 with the launch of their first geology themed palette, fruit salad collection, and beautiful custom highlights inspired by famous paintings they auction off for charity.
Leigh and Maggie, the sisters behind Clionadh Cosmetics were kind enough to answer some questions about themselves and their brand. Let’s go ahead and dive into the minds of these two creative and inspiring women!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves!
Leigh: I’m 26, we’re both from Toronto, Canada – born and raised. I have a varied
background; I did my Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and English literature. I then
went on to pursue an Advanced Diploma in graphic design before starting this business.
I am currently doing a creative writing certificate and I hope to one-day do a master’s in creative writing. I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to visit almost 15
countries; many times I have travelled for concerts. I’m an art enthusiast, an amateur
photographer, music-lover and makeup-junkie.
Maggie: I’m 23. I did my Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto where I
majored in neuroscience and physiology. I’m an avid science geek, but I also love sports,
art and being outdoors. I often join soccer and volleyball leagues throughout the year
and I love going camping and hiking in the summer months. I’m also a part-time painting
instructor for Paint Nite, where I host classes locally.
When did your love for makeup start?
Leigh: Very early. I remember beginning to experiment with makeup in grade 6. I continued to practice and refine my techniques as I grew and developed my own sense of style. I’m 100% self-taught, which surprises many of my clients. I now have two jobs in cosmetics.
Maggie: Only a few years ago actually. I’d always worn makeup in high school but was never the beauty fanatic I am now. It all started when I got the Sephora VIB membership and began to take advantage of the semi annual sale. That changed it all and I’ve been a Rouge ever since.
What made you create your own cosmetics brand?
Honestly, we kind of did it on a whim. We’d been long-time supporters of other American companies who were creating similar products and we wanted to provide a Canadian alternative. We’d talked about it in a “what if” sort of way for a bit, but we one day looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we give it a shot?” It all went from there. We both had just graduated, so it was perfect timing.
How has your background prepared you for your cosmetics line?
Maggie and I have really different backgrounds, which makes for a perfect partnership. I have a lot of experience with the creative side of the business as I currently also work as a freelance graphic design. So things like: design, web design, packaging, marketing/ advertising, social media, photography etc. I generally am in charge of because of my skillset. Maggie, throughout her studies, has learned a lot about chemistry, microbiology and toxicology, which is a huge asset during the formulation and production stages of our products. She does a lot of creation of products, but conceptually we’re always both 50/50.
Is Clionadh Cosmetics your full time job?
Yes, Maggie and I both work full time on this business, but we also work other jobs. Soour weeks are full!
How difficult is it for you to balance your job and your business, as well as your personal life?
I hate to say it, but my personal life comes last nowadays. I try to fit in small things here and there, but it’s difficult to balance. My business comes first and is our top priority. With the business and our other jobs, it leaves very little time for leisure.
Is it just the two of you behind Clionadh Cosmetics?
It was at the beginning, but now we’re happy to have two amazing employees on board with us. They are fantastic and we couldn’t keep up with everything without them.
What was the first product you ever created? Is it one that’s available in your shop?
We spent four months trialing formulations and products so we could test them and see how they lasted/ performed over time before we ever even opened shop. So technically, anything we first created is not in the shop, as they were just trails. But the original products we launched with (our Deity Series) are still in the shop. That collection includes a namesake, signature shade “Clionadh” – which comes in a light, medium and dark version.
What is your best selling product?
Right now, our Paleo Palette (which is sold out) and our entire fall, duochrome collection, Witchcraft vs. Alchemy, are our bestsellers. If I had to choose one product from the duochrome collection that is a bestseller (and coincidentally, is also from the Paleo
Palette), it’s the eyeshadow “Crystalline”.
What do you wish you knew before starting this venture?
I don’t know if I wish I knew anything, to be honest. We watch a lot of Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank and there seems to be a running theme of entrepreneurs jumping into the deep-end without much prep and learning as they go. That’s the model we prescribe to. Would it have been nice to have official business training beforehand? Sure. But there’s something genuine and enlightening about making mistakes and learning as you go. There’s almost more drive and immediacy that way.
How have you changed since opening up your own business?
I don’t think we have. We always had a business model and an ideal by which we wanted to operate, and that hasn’t changed because we haven’t changed. We went in with a strong idea of what we wanted and how we wanted to conduct our brand. We stay true to that everyday.
We know we want to always stay connected to our audience, no matter how big we get – that’s something that’s very important to us. We love engaging with our followers and seeing what they’re creating, that will never change.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It comes from a variety of places. We’ve both been creative beings our entire lives. We’ve been drawing, painting, writing – just creating – in some form or another since we were kids. So, some inspiration comes from the things we enjoy – nature, reading, fantasy, movies, travel, animals etc. But a lot of it comes from us. It’s a natural distillation of our passions over the years that has come out and manifested in this form: cosmetics.
How long does it take to create a new color or product?
It depends. When we create something, we always trial and test it beforehand. Sometimes the trial could turn out great and there could be no adjustments needed, then we’re ready to make a larger batch. Other times, it could take us four or five trials to get it right, whether it’s the colour that’s not working, or the formula ratios. We’re very picky, so this happens more often than not.
To answer your question, it could take one or several days.
What is your vision for your brand’s future?
We would love to turn this into our career. They say there’s no better job than being able to work for yourself, and we agree. We’re so passionate and invested in this brand and we would love to continue to do it for as long as we can.
Do you have any plans to expand beyond highlighters and eyeshadows?
Yes, we are very slowly working towards that. By nature we are both perfectionists, which is both a benefit and hindrance at times. But we know we won’t go forward with something new until we (and the business) are ready, and until the product itself is at a stage we are happy with. But long-term goals are that we are able to expand outside of our current offerings.
If you could collab with any brand and/or influencer,
who would it be and why?
Leigh: This is a big dream, but I would love to work with Kat Von D. As a graphic designer, I have innate appreciation for her work and attention to detail. I’m a big supporter of hers and the packaging she comes out with is always immaculate. Her vision is very unique and something that I have always been drawn to.
Maggie: Definitely Tati. She’s so raw and it’s refreshing to hear an opinion that is based on facts, rather than having to worry about the brand’s influence. Not to mention she’s so thorough, it’s no doubt she knows her makeup and beauty stuff. A collaboration with her would be a dream come true.
What’s the hardest part of owning a brand?
Never being off the clock. I was never a social media person before this company: I was very late to the Facebook craze, only had Instagram a year before starting this business (and haven’t touched it since starting), and even then it was only for my photography. Now that I have this brand, I am always on social media, attached to my phone like a typical millennial. But it’s honestly all in the name of the business, so I don’t mind it that much.
I think Maggie feels the same. She broke her phone accidentally for a period of a couple months not too long ago, and thus all that work got transferred to me. But she found it so freeing to be without it.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you or your brand?
Leigh: We’re a very small team trying to tackle a large project. Everyone has been so amazingly patient as we adjust to our business’ growth, and we are so thankful. In 2018, we hope to grow more and speed up efficiency. We think this will be a big year for us.
Maggie: It’s not just our love for makeup that we try to put into our products. It’s our combined love for art as well. We strive to make everything art in its own right. We consider makeup an art form, and we love combining both of these passions.
Make sure to check Clionadh Cosmetics out!