Irish Women in Business - Suzanne O'Neill of AYU Make-Up
The beauty industry is booming and there’s a staggering amount of brands to choose from.
However, it can be difficult to find products that are within budget and deliver the desired results.
Perfecting a flawless look requires the right tools and entrepreneur Suzanne O’Neill saw a gap in the market for affordable and high-quality make-up brushes.
We spoke to Suzanne for this week’s Irish Women in Business to find out how she started up AYU.
You started out as a beautician, how did you move from this to starting your own business?
After selling my beauty salon I went on to teach beauty and make up. I always found that due to tight budgets in the colleges, the make-up brushes students had to work with were very poor quality and made it difficult for them to get a great finish to their work.
It always bothered me how expensive quality tools were and most were out of reach for students so I set able creating my own line of professional quality, affordable brushes.
What were your reasons for starting up AYU?
I felt there was a gap in the market for really good quality make-up brushes that were actually affordable.
I am a big believer that the tools you use can make all the difference to how your make-up looks and how long it lasts.
What challenges did you meet when starting out?
Money was the main challenge. I had vision of what I wanted and that vision didn’t come cheap. I didn’t really want to get a loan from the bank so I asked my sister Laura to come on board with me which thankfully she said yes to and we have been self- funded since.
There were lots of other little challenges when we started like orders arriving later than we had thought- problems with packaging etc. but I put all of those down to teething problems. They were great learning curves and I’m glad they happened before AYU was properly established.
Talk to us about AYU and what sets it apart from other make-up brush brands.
The name “AYU” is derived from an Indonesian word meaning “Beautiful”. It is special to me as I visited Bali years ago and fell in love with the people and the place.
I think what sets us apart is that we set out to design an affordable range of professional quality brushes that are luxurious and suit everyone. We have designed the brushes with shorter handles than usual so that it makes application easier as you have more control of the brush.
What gives you an edge amongst your competitors?
I think what gives us an edge is that we are so affordable. It has never been about the money for me, I just wanted people to have access to great brushes and I think anyone who follows us can see that.
We also listen to what people have to say- thanks to social media we have access to a lot of AYU customers and they are great for giving us feedback and also for letting us know what they want to see next.
Another thing I am very particular about is customer service. I think you will have a customer for life if you treat them right. I always say no matter how big the business gets that is something that can never slip.
What's on the horizon for the remainder of 2015?
We have just launched our new five-piece travel set. It includes my top 5 everyday essentials including the AYU Buffer, blender, pro blender, angled liner and new angled contour brush.
It retails for €35.00. The brushes themselves are beautifully designed with gold ferrules and matte black handles set in a soft black leather case. We will also have a new brush coming out before Christmas.
What advice would you give to others hoping to start their own business?
I would say as long as you have done your research and you are very passionate about what you are doing then go for it. It is such a great feeling getting up each day to a job you love.
There are hard times when you are exhausted but when you truly love what you are doing it is all worthwhile. Also if you don’t do it now someone else will!
What do you love most about your job?
What I love most is that I get to be creative every day. I love seeing ideas we have come up with come to life and be appreciated by so many people. Also every day is different, I get bored easily so I love that no two days are the same.
As a beautician, what are your top three beauty tips?
Drink plenty of water, cleanse & moisturise morning and evening and clean your make-up brushes at least once a week.
Tell us the highlight of your career to date.
Seeing our brushes available in pharmacies nationwide is definitely a huge highlight. It’s hard to describe how it feels knowing they are available in shops. Hopefully within the next year we will be seeing them all over the UK too.
Can you give any tips for anyone hoping to break into the beauty industry? What's the easiest to start off with?
If you want to work in the beauty industry, get a good qualification under your belt. There are some great colleges around the country to study in.
If you can, do work experience in a salon while you are at college that way if a job comes up you will be the first considered. You need to be willing to work hard as the beauty industry is a very competitive one these days and it’s important to be on top of your game to get noticed.