MEMI: Jack Thompson and Millie Watson
With their premium, cruelty-free cosmetics range, these young entrepreneurs are challenging the notion that quality makeup must be expensive...
Tell us what your business does
Currently, MEMI is an e-commerce makeup and cosmetics brand. We challenge the conventional idea that women have to pay a premium for a quality product by offering high-end, professional standard cosmetics at affordable prices.
We have a total of 62 SKUs, ranging from eyes, face, lips, skincare and makeup brushes. All our products are cruelty-free and the majority are vegan.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
It started with the realisation that neither university nor traditional employment suited Millie and I.
Millie’s personal experience of trying – and failing – to find quality cosmetics at an affordable price opened up a world of opportunity and proved a driving force. After lengthy research and market analysis, the idea for MEMI was born – an independent cosmetics brand which would have affordable quality at its heart.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We established that affordable luxury is a concept that brands are trying to deliver, but no-one is getting it quite right. There are key elements that other affordable cosmetic brands are missing, such as quality of packaging, key ingredients and overall aesthetics.
What were you doing before starting up?
Millie was working in a head office bank as a customer service adviser, while I was studying business and marketing at Leeds City College and working part time in a PRM agency.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
It has been a collective dream. We have both been raised in households of business owners and feel the entrepreneurial spirit has been passed onto us.
How did you raise the money?
To take our idea forward, we needed financial backing. We developed a detailed proposition and, after a number of pitches, secured funding from a private equity investor.
The agreement was based on the business hitting defined targets – on time and within budget – as set out in a five-stage business development plan.
Describe your business model and how you make money
We sourced our branded cosmetics range from manufactures overseas. They are stored in our distribution and fulfilment centre in Northampton. Customers are driven to our e-commerce store through PR, social media campaigns and advertisements as well as word of mouth.
We drive for returning customers and provide voucher codes, friend recommendations and other strategies to ensure we receive returning purchases.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Getting to grips with the strict regulatory landscape was our main challenge. Working with a specialist science consultant in the UK, we carried out extensive R&D, created test samples and finalised product formulations which were fully compliant with the appropriate EU, FDA and GMP directives.
Also, ensuring all our manufactures were cruelty-free and vegan certified. We were passionate about launching a cosmetic brand that met the strict requirements and participated in numerous trips around the world sourcing manufactures that met the vegan and cruelty-free standard.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our big breakthroughs were receiving press coverage in Hello, Look, Marie Claire, the Telegraph, Grazia, Pure Beauty and Cosmetic Business. We received articles relating to Millie and I, the brand, the quality of products and Meghan Markle coverage regarding nude lipsticks.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Take your time! Think everything through and never rush into an idea. There are extensive amounts of regulations in nearly every sector and if they are not met, your business will never succeed.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
Being able to walk into a retailer and see our brand stocked next to the big guns in the cosmetic industry. This is what we are strive and work towards everyday.