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Balmshell Cosmetics: Interview with the Twin Founders

| Monday July 20, 20092 comments
Balmshell girls, Jennifer and Fiona Lees, 31 are identical twins. The blonde sisters finish each other's sentences, exude the same feisty energy and share the same vision to create the best lip gloss on the market.

The similarities don't stop there. Jen and Fiona got engaged on the same day and are both getting married this year. But before you get too excited, there will not be a double wedding - one is in August, the other in November.

What is especially remarkable about the pair is that they have no prior experience in either the cosmetics industry or running their own business. Yet, they are proving to everyone there is always more room for one more lip gloss.

Balmshell lipglosses are moisturising, non-sticky glosses with a hint of vanilla and thankfully, no artificial preservatives. The clever design includes a removable key chain with float art featuring a little mini goddess who walks through a little "scene" such as getting dressed for a big night out. Each gloss has a different key chain so you can collect them all.

Sitting in their cozy pink and white brick and beam office with pictures of Audrey Hepburn and surprisingly all blonde staff (they say it's not intentional), including a golden retriever, we chatted about their rise to success.

How did you manage to build this company with no experience?

We decided that having no experience was going to be a benefit because it was an approach to do things. Why can't we do this? I know everyone else does it this way but we're going to do it our own way. We used what most people considered a weakness as a strength. Because we don't have experience we ask more questions. We're creating something that came out of being a customer.

No one was really expecting us to succeed so that kind of took the pressure off. It's a totally different way of using the fear. We used that to our advantage. We could play that sot of "well we don't know... why can't we do it this way?" It allowed us to think outside of the box. Learning how to retrain your brain how you look at fear.

It takes a lot of money to get a business off the ground. How did you raise money?

They were all angel investors and family friends. We had a clear vision of what we wanted. We knew what the line looked like even before we started. At the end of the day people that invested, invested in a dream and in us and our passion. People want to know if something goes wrong at 2am are you going to get out of bed and deal with it or are you going to say "I need my beauty sleep!"

We saw that our strength was in creating things but our weakness was that we had never run a business before. Our Dad's been in business for a long time so we approached him and his well respected friends and we were open to consultants and advisors who helped put together our investment plan and strategy. For every 10 people you meet there might be 9 nos and 1 yes but we were very passionate. The stuff we weren't so strong on, we got help and advice from many sources. People are really amazing. If you ask for a few minutes of their time people will tell you stuff and help you out.

What have been your biggest challenges?

At the beginning, our challenges were breaking down the barriers. We had a lot of walls that were built up and trying to figure out how to get around them was kind of fun.

The name "Balmshell" was already owned and when we hit that bump, again inexperience paid off because we thought, let's just call them (the owners of the name) and see if they'll sell it to us... and they did!

Now after having some success under our belt, the challenge is not to get comfortable. Now we are feeling some growing pains with going from 10 Holt Renfrew stores to Shopper's Drug Mart Beauty boutiques across Canada.

So what's it like to work with your sister?

Awesome! We love working together. We're so close, but there's no politics, which is nice.

Yes, we love working together! We deeply care about and trust each other, which is a big thing.

Have you had that moment yet where you feel like, "This is it! We've made it!" or are you still waiting for it to come?

There were lots of moments where we feel like we've made it. Lots of little highs, such as getting our first product out of production, or getting them placed in the Oscar (swag) bags.

Maybe we'll feel like we've really made it when "balmshell" becomes a verb... like "google". (giggles)

So what's next for the LipGloss Queens? Fall '09 they will expand into lipstick and a new lipgloss, and fall 2010 brings a new line for eyes, cheeks, and face.

Have you tried Balmshell Lipgloss yet? Rate it here

by Ali de Bold

More on Eyes, Lips, Face

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on August 09, 2009  Helenwilltroy  153 said:

wow in the oscar swag bags good for you.p.s I am totally in love with the packaging-it's inspired.

on July 30, 2009  makeup junkie  168 said:

Great interview! It's really refreshing to see a privately owned company doing so well in the midst of so many huge makeup companies. The owners are obviously passionate about Balmshell and put a lot of car into delivering a good product. Keep it up Balmshell!!

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