Last week LCF students got the chance to hear from beauty industry professionals, three of whom were LCF alumni. The Inside The Industry panel discussion was hosted by LCF Careers, it featured MSc Cosmetic Science alumna Florence Adepoju, Product Manager at COTY Inc., alumna Mili Unjia, Co-Founder of Limi & Nell, alumna Nisha Smith, Head of Communications at Illamasqua and Senior Beauty Editor of WGSN Theresa Yee. The panel discussed how to break into the industry, how competitive it is once your in, and what opportunities are available for graduates today.
The power of beauty and makeup has always been present in history, but its connection to the masses in today’s internet age is skin-deep. The beauty industry is booming; it contributes £17 million to the UK economy each year. The ‘Beauty Blogger Effect’ across social media is putting the spotlight on beauty, acting as a marketing machine for high profile and successful product launches. The beauty industry today generates employment opportunities within business as entrepreneurs, marketing, promotion, product development and formulation.
Theresa began the panel discussion by talking about how an article inspired her career. She talked about a feature called, ‘How to become a Fashion Editor’ and how beauty is part of the whole fashion image she naturally progressed into the beauty arena. The speakers then started discussing the beauty sector – all four agreed how varied work experience across the different department enabled them to be where they are today. In Nisha’s experience she noted:
It looks glamorous from the outside but like any other creative sector it requires hard work. Even retail work helps with knowledge and understanding of brands. When you speak to industry professionals you need to know what you’re talking to them about.
Alongside industry experience, Florence spoke of the importance of studying and putting knowledge and understanding into context. Both her studies and interning experiences motivated her to set up a cosmetics business, she said:
Working on the counter gave me a perspective of the industry – branding marketing etc. but my course helped me to put the missing pieces of the puzzle together – like the scale of production. During the degree I went through all the stages of roles and came back full circle to starting my own business. After all of that there wasn’t a brand that represented me so the only option was to start my own and get the best of both experiences.
A question was raised by the panel, asking what the challenges of working in the beauty industry are. Mili, alongside a full-time job she also set up her own cosmetics event company and discussed the challenges she faced:
Trying to set up a company alongside a job and moving to London has been the biggest challenge. You have to take it to the next step and believe in your dream. You need to have passion, take ownership and put in the work.
The panel then considered the influence of beauty bloggers known as the “Beauty Blogger” effect and the use of social media to promote beauty. Providing access direct to editors, brands and beauty experts and keeping consumers more informed than ever has meant that beauty brands have fully embraced this marketing tool. Nisha explained:
It can make or break brands – it’s a marketing/customer service tool. But it can escalate bad press and has to be monitored religiously. It can also be super beneficial to communicate to so many people. Instagram is amazing for beauty.
If you’re looking to use social media as a marketing tool, Theresa advised, “It’s important to find a specific voice and message and consider that in line with your brand image and language.”
As for what advice our panelists had for students looking to build a career in the beauty industry, they all advised students to, ‘Be prepared to take on varied internships which can progress to jobs and find a brand that suits you’. They also said graduates and students should be able to express their passion and know their own products. Theresa noted, “If you’re looking to blog you need originality and know your readers.” Mili advised students to “use the resources at UAL and tap into the support while you have it available to you.” For those looking to set up your own beauty brand, Florence said:
Small business need to be accountable for everything you do. SWOT analysis can be useful for this. You need a point of difference if you are looking to start your own business – understand your competitors but understand your own strengths.
Words by: Jo Sait.