Anniversaries are important - aren’t they? They mark our passage through time and supply a moment in the year to ponder, review, reflect and celebrate. And that is what I have been doing this week as Look Fabulous Forever, a business I started on a wing and a prayer at the age of 65, turns seven years old.
That may not sound like much to celebrate, but as anyone who has ever started and run a business knows, the first years are fraught with challenges and difficulties. Initially there is novelty and excitement, an intoxicating adrenalin rush as you launch your baby onto the world stage and watch as it takes its first faltering steps either to acclaim or indifference. If there is just enough acclaim, then it becomes a high wire balancing act as various forces buffet your progress and threaten to topple you to the ground. I am ever conscious of the statistics: A fifth of all new businesses fail in the first two years, nearly half have died by their fifth birthday and as many as two thirds don’t make it to ten years.
So, having successfully kept Look Fabulous Forever aloft for seven years, this feels like a moment for quiet celebration.
It’s also a perfect opportunity to reflect on seven key moments which helped our business to grow, thrive and, above all, believe in ourselves.
1. October 2013: And We’re Off!
After the busiest ten months of my life, LFF was finally launched into the world at a party for about 80 friends, their friends and my family at the Icetank Studios in London. Believe it or not, that evening was the first time I took delivery of the actual finished products which arrived in a large suitcase brought to the venue by (our wonderful) cosmetic manufacturer. Talk about ‘just in time’ delivery! I also decided to dedicate the evening to my special granddaughter India whose difficult first year had spurred me on to start a whole new venture, and with the generosity of our guests we raised over £1k for the charity Unique for rare chromosomal abnormalities.
2. May 2014 and June 2015. We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat!
For seven months I ran the business alone. I sold via makeover parties in people’s homes and did rather well, getting a great response. Then our two You Tube video tutorials started to gather a very significant audience, sales surged, and I started to think ‘we’re going to need a bigger boat.’ Just at that point my daughter Anna, a PR consultant, rang me up to suggest that she join me to promote LFF. I told her there was no money and no job but that I’d love to have her help. She set about contacting Google and Facebook very successfully (they loved our story) and we were shortlisted for Best Business Start Up in 2014, and received a half-page spread in the Guardian newspaper. Then at a perfect moment for LFF in June 2015, my other daughter Suzy (who loves a spreadsheet), joined us to sort out our supply chain, deliveries and finances. This was the moment LFF became a serious business. We even moved into a proper office.
3. October 2015. What Me? Beauty Digital Achiever of the Year?
Two years in, Anna and I were invited to a big beauty industry bash hosted by CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women) in a smart Mayfair hotel. After a manically busy day, I slapped on a bit of extra lipstick, glammed up my black trousers and top with a bright pink Issey Myake cover-up and walked into a room of the 500 most glamorous women (and a few men) in London. I was nominated for an award for ‘Digital Achiever of the Year’ but Anna and I agreed I hadn’t a snowball’s hope in hell of getting it. So I felt very relaxed when the event got going after a drinks reception. And then - impossibly - my name was announced as the winner and I had to go on stage and make a speech! Practically in tears (of joy and amazement) I managed to thank all the right people and then dedicated the award to a 70 year old LFF customer who had emailed me that morning thanking me for ‘giving me my mojo back!’.
4. New Year’s Eve 2015. OMG! We’re Going to Run Out of Stock!
Thanks to our You Tube success, Google passed our name to the BBC who were making short films featuring interesting entrepreneurs to be shown in the week between Christmas and New Year on Breakfast Television. Steph McGovern came with a film crew and interviewed me in my living room (which you can see here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-35204476. I also asked my friend Sue to come and play the part of ‘interested customer.’ The resulting three minute video was then shown at 7.50am and 8.50am on New Year’s Eve. How to describe the effect on LFF? It was like being hit by a tsunami! Orders flooded in. We were inundated with enquiries and, because it was so overwhelming, our business could have drowned, deluged by the sudden, unforeseen and unprecedented demand. However, we were rescued by three lifelines. Our cosmetic manufacturer restocked us in 4 days (instead of 6 weeks), our delivery company pulled out all the stops to get the thousands of extra orders out to our new customers, and we recruited Caroline to run Customer Services.
5. February 2018. This Is So Surreal - We’re Off to the Oscars!
They say be careful what you wish for. In those dark days after India was born I couldn’t imagine anything good or positive could come from so much heartache. So, two events in February 2018 really did come as the most amazing delight and surprise. First I had a big party to launch my book ‘Living the Life More Fabulous’ and later that month Anna, Suzy and I flew to Los Angeles because our 3 Primers for face, eyes and lips had been included in the goodie bags given to all the Oscar nominees. Our week in L.A. was a whirlwind of interviews and a couple of live events before we ended up on the red carpet for the Elton John ‘After Oscars Party’. I was even interviewed by phone for an Evening Standard article before boarding the flight to L.A. Anna, Suzy and I spent the whole week saying ‘Who’d have thought…..!’ and pinching ourselves. A surreal but wonderful high point.
6. October 2018. Let’s Open a Shop!
As I was walking through our local shopping mall in the autumn of 2018, I noticed a ‘To Let’ sign on one of the shops. By the time I had reached the office 5 minutes later, I had conceived a plan to open a small retail space in which we could offer makeovers to our customers from a professional makeup artist. We opened just two weeks later, having pre-booked over 100 makeovers. A queue formed about 30 minutes before we opened our doors for the first time, and we spent a very happy day dispensing tea, coffee, Prosecco and nibbles to a steady stream of excited LFF fans who had travelled far and wide to join us. I worked in the shop for six days a week from October until Christmas and loved every minute because I was meeting and chatting with so many interesting women. A few months later we also opened in Guildford and again had a wonderful reception from customers for our professional makeovers.
7. March 2020. What Fabulous Super Troopers!
Could LFF survive as a business caught up in the maelstrom of a worldwide pandemic? As Covid 19 hit us all in March, I had my doubts. But I had reckoned without the power of community and the energy and enthusiasm of our fabulous customers! Isolated at home alone and scared by the virus, I decided to reach out and invite our loyal followers to join an exclusive club on Facebook called Tricia’s Super Troopers. I also decided to make a daily video called ‘Teatime at the Ritz’ to go out at 4pm to help us all (as Churchill put it ) to ‘Keep Buggering On’ regardless. What a life saver this has been for both me and LFF. At times running this business still feels like a high wire act, but thanks to your wonderful support, encouragement and enthusiasm for everything we do, LFF has reached its 7th birthday stronger than ever.
A huge and heartfelt thanks to you all and KBO everyone. Here’s to another seven years full of fun and surprises! Tricia x