Career change entrepreneurs: Tricia Cusden, Look Fabulous Forever

Tricia Cusden (by Daniel Hamburby)

Career change entrepreneurs: Tricia Cusden, Look Fabulous Forever

Combining her love of makeup and business, Tricia changed careers at the age of 65 to found Look Fabulous Forever, a makeup business targeting women over 50.

What did you do before you started this business?

My first career was in teaching which I gave up when I had children. Once the children were older, I became a management training consultant where I ran my own business for nearly 25 years.  I ran training courses for a huge range of blue chip companies including BT, Nomura and Dixons Stores Group amongst others.

What inspired you to start up?

I was 65 and more or less retired from management training when I had the idea for Look Fabulous Forever.  I had become very disillusioned by the makeup I was buying which was no longer working on my skin now it was older and drier.  I also felt totally ignored by the beauty industry who only wanted to talk to me about anti-ageing and how to look younger. So I decided to combine my love of makeup and business and launch a brand which unequivocally celebrated older women and embraced the changes that come with ageing rather than fighting them.

I was recently featured on MT’s 40 over 40 list in association with Vauxhall. The list includes other men and women like me who have decided to make a career change later in life. I hope it inspires others to do the same and make their passion a reality.  

Tell us about your business in 100 words

Look Fabulous Forever is an online only beauty brand with a range of makeup which is specifically formulated to work on older eyes, faces and lips.  We have kept the range relatively small and targeted so that it’s easy to choose when buying online. We’ve also got over 70 tutorials on our YouTube channel which have been seen by over 4m people to date – these help explain why you need different makeup when you’re older.  We are the only beauty brand in the market directly targeting women over 50 – an overlooked and underserved demographic when it comes to makeup.

How would you describe your business to your grandma?

My grandma is long dead – it’s the grannies of today who are our target customers!  So I would say this is for you – I want you to look the best you possibly can and I think our makeup can help.  Age is no barrier to fabulousness and I’m happy to say many, many grannies agree with us!

Where do you get advice, support or help?

As YouTube was such a fundamental part of our early business story, we had a lot of support from Google.  They have a very strong focus on SME businesses and helping them to grow using Google tools.  Similarly, Facebook was very important to us in creating our community and helping us to get the word out there via word of mouth.  They too became an ally of the business and gave us opportunities to speak on platforms etc.  We were also part of the Government’s Growth Accelerator scheme which I think has sadly ended. We had some excellent business coaching at very low cost and were able to make some important decisions as a result.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

I started the business with £40,000 of my own savings.  I decided I wouldn’t spend any more and I stuck very closely to this budget which meant I wasn’t taking a huge risk. At 65 I didn’t want to risk my neck on a new business. Once the business showed positive signs of both growth and profitability, my two sons-in-law invested under SEIS and then we took in the full SEIS amount of £150,000 with four other investors who all brought relevant experience with them to the business. 

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

In November 2015, I was awarded Digital Achiever of the Year by Google and CEW (Cosmetic Executive Woman). Winning was a total shock and I was presented the award in front of a very glamorous room of 500 beauty industry insiders.  It was an amazing moment to have the business recognised by the industry I had set out to challenge. And on a daily basis, I am very proud of the amazing reviews we receive from our customers who tell us how we are helping them to get back their confidence through using our products. “Even my husband noticed” is a not an infrequent comment we get!

How do you differentiate your business from others?

We are part of a very crowded market where there are some huge operators like L’Oreal and Estee Launder.  By remaining online, we are able to explain the context of our makeup much better than we would be able to if it was on a dusty shelf in a department store and we can keep control of the relationship we have with our customer.  We also only show our products on real, older women with no retouching or airbrushing which is highly unusual in the beauty industry. We don’t use celebrities so we have authenticity that is also unusual.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

I’ve always tried to be my own boss! One of the reasons I left teaching was because there seemed no way to improve my job or my pay packet.  I like being in control of my time and the money I earn so being my own boss has always been very important to me.

Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

Our aim is to become the premium beauty brand for older women. We are launching a skincare range next year and I am writing a book – Living a Life More Fabulous – which will be published in February. I hope both these things are a way for us to reach our goal to become a brand that’s loved by millions of older women all over the world!

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Find an idea that speaks to you rather than something that is just a means to an end – something you can feel really passionate about. Also, work out what your appetite for risk is. If I was younger, I would probably have been able to put more money into the business at the beginning and not done everything on such a shoe-string. But in the end it didn’t matter because the idea was good and it took off. I’d also look for a mentor early on who can help answer your questions but also encourage and support you.

To coincide with the launch of the new Insignia Grand Sport, Vauxhall Motors has partnered with Management Today to produce Changing Lanes – a report looking at trends of the UK workforce. Visit www.vauxhall.co.uk to discover the new flagship vehicle.