L'Oréal Blackett has a frank chat with a young business woman catering for digital girls in a digital world
“I get a lot of prejudice being a young, female entrepreneur and I don’t care what anyone says - there is a prejudice,” says Anastasia Kenyon, rolling her eyes. "There was the time at an investors' meeting where someone drew smiley faces on the board to explain investment to me but he didn’t know I had already been invested in. That was really patronising. It’s horrendous.”
Manchester-based entrepreneur Anastasia Kenyon is finding her youthfulness both a blessing and a curse. At 24-years-old she represents a growing number of young people who’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and have been exercising Zuckerberg-like aspirations (just look to Manchester-founded Social Chain, one of the world’s largest digital marketing companies, founded by a 24-year-old CEO).
Her first business, Palette Official, is an online booking and social media platform for professional makeup artists and works much like a Facebook page and Uber service at the same time. A year from conception, Palette has caught the eye of investors and, more recently the Sunday Times, who interviewed Kenyon about her social media-focused start-up.
Yes, I am a beauty entrepreneur but I’m a tech entrepreneur and I can apply this model to any industry I like
Nevertheless, as a young woman with a tech business - what’s more, a tech business targeted at young women - she’s been met with scepticism, though she gives the impression that she doesn’t take being patronised lightly. She’s a fireball of energy, ambition and passion.
“I don’t wear makeup to meetings anymore. I don’t wear heels,” she reveals candidly.
But isn’t that frustrating?
“Well yes, I run a makeup company for goodness sake. I love makeup. But if you got into a meeting with a face full of makeup on, everyone stares at you. I don’t need that.
“They’ll say, oh you’ve got a makeup company? I’ll say, no I have a tech company, don’t forget that. Yes, I am a beauty entrepreneur but I’m a tech entrepreneur and I can apply this model to any industry I like.”
Kenyon’s gumption and self-belief seem to come from the fact Palette.com is a very good idea. On the site, makeup artists can display their work and showcase their social media accounts in one place. Like what you see, then you book a makeover with your favourite. After talking to a big cosmetic company she was told that she had ‘cracked it’ and, most importantly, had established her business model before anyone else.
Palette’s future success is pinned on the back of our social media generation and the world of Instagram-established makeup artists who are carving out profitable careers with their makeup brushes and digital know-how.
“It’s more of a mission than a business,” shares Kenyon. “I want to be the platform for makeup artists in the UK and globally. And I’ve found people want to join at the beginning, they want to be at the forefront.”
“Social media is the crux of Palette and the crux of the industry,” she adds. “Our social force is so important and I want to grow organically – not by buying followers but engaging with people naturally.”
Beauty technology – apps and websites designed for beauty consumers – seems to be a catching business trend. In the weeks after this interview, we hear of several more beauty and fashion technology entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.
Besides money, why are entrepreneurs so keen on targeting digital girls in a digital world?
“I didn’t know that beauty tech was going to be the next big thing when I started but I did know that people like to be part of something,” explains Kenyon, “Think about Facebook groups, that’s one of the biggest marketing tools. The makeup community is just another group of people wanting to feel connected.”
Social media is the crux of Palette and the crux of the industry
The makeup artists on Palette’s books could be magicians – the before and after photos are tangible proof. Local makeup artist Sean Maloney is a prime example: he’s one of the many highly-rated makeup artists on the site and he’s courting various celebrity clients. If we wanted to, we could book Sean to transform us before a day of work. It’s a tempting idea.
“We see our makeup artists as professionals so we do vet them,” she explains. “Makeup artists are professionals. An accountant has to be trained so why shouldn’t a makeup artist? Why should it be easier? You have to be a professional artist to work with Palette."
For makeup artists, Palette is an exciting proposition to grow their business and profile. Yet just how many people are signing up to get glam on a regular basis?
“We’re getting corporates, a lot of celebrities contact us and we help them with that privately. Then there’s the day-to-day girl or boy off to prom, going out and anyone with an interest in makeup. Some people just join us to see the community and get inspiration."
The beauty community is certainly one that lives and breathes online. A quick search of the hashtag ‘makeupaddict’ brings up more than 12 million pictures on Instagram – most of which are selfies of highly decorated faces with manicured brows and voluptuous pouting lips. At first glimpse, though condescending to admit, it's overwhelmingly vacuous. Does Kenyon worry Palette will play a role in the mass promotion of unnatural beauty?
“Self-awareness and self-esteem is also part of the Palette mission. My sister got bullied in school, then said she wanted to become a makeup artist. I wanted to create a platform for her,” she says.
“Young women are being heavily sexualised on social media. Everyone is trying to be the same girl with the same nose and massive lips. Individuality is slowly disappearing and something needs to change. I want Palette to celebrate uniqueness – we want to celebrate creativity and artistry in the marketplace. If it means putting on some blue lipstick, then go for it girl.
With Palette, I wanted to help young women who love beauty to find positive role models. If I can change the way one girl thinks about herself, then life’s sorted."
It's free to sign up to Palette Official, see here.