October 2nd, 2014
When researching our On The Lash article, we stumbled across CODE Beautiful, and their VLM mascara – a cult favourite of thousands of women and pro MUAs. And when we investigated further, we discovered that CODE Beautiful was the brainchild of two women who were tired of their search for the perfect mascara. So the natural choice was to create their own! Warpaint spoke to Co-Owners Kirsti Shuba and Sarah Cross to try and decode the process.
WP: Did you have experience in the beauty industry before starting CODE Beautiful?
Kirsti Shuba: Yes, I’ve been in the industry forever, and have a distribution business for skincare brands. I started my career as a therapist, so beauty is at the core of everything I do.
Sarah Cross: I did as well; my loyalty marketing agency works with beauty, hair, fashion and retail brands. In fact, that’s how Kirsti and I first met – I was working with her on her skincare brand. We love this industry, it’s an amazing place to be and it’s super addictive.
WP: How did you go from client and agency to working together as a team?
KS: Sarah was helping me with a couple of my skincare ranges and we quickly became really good friends. Chatting about cosmetics over vino became a regular activity.
WP: What was it that you felt was lacking or disappointing about existing mascaras, which drove you to create your own?
SC: We were so frustrated with having to buy different mascaras for length, volume or whatever it was you wanted, and the adverts lured us in each time, thinking that the newest one would be amazing and finally do everything we wanted, but then we always found ourselves with panda eyes, clumps or flakes by mid-afternoon. We were just always on the search for the holy grail… the perfect mascara.
WP: What sets CODE Beautiful VLM Mascara apart? How long did it take you to develop it?
KS: It took us about two years from start to finish. We had a wish list, wanting ONE product that gave us thickness, length, volume, separation, curl and super staying power.
We also wanted it to care for lashes, so we added vitamins and waxes that would encourage natural growth and keep the lashes feeling soft. The length and thickness comes from adding fibres to the formula, but keeping them mixed in so that you get amazing results without any irritation. It took a while, but we got there in the end.
SC: We developed the product from our wish list. We basically gave the chemists our vital list and then started testing different product. We’d bought all the mascaras on the market place and critiqued them for what was great and not so great. Over the months of testing we tried about 30 different wands, and we got down to two brushes that just really brought the formula to life in terms of impact. We showed them to some marketeers who said they didn’t like the look of it, to which we responded that we’re more about the results than what it looks like. Who cares that it’s not some plastic, fancy new brush that doesn’t actually do the job? So until we got the perfect formula that ticked everything of our essential list we kept going, tweaking and testing.
We couldn’t believe how many different options there were in terms of brushes, and just how important it was to get the best formula and brush combo. A lot of consumers think that a big brush equals big lashes, but in fact it’s quite the opposite. Our brush has wide gaps between the bristles, which are themselves different sizes, which mean it grabs every single lash (especially if you use our technique). It’s wider at the base than at the tip, and is really sturdy so it gives you great control.
WP: How did you come up with the name and the branding?
SC: We wanted something that had solid British roots for development, advanced technology for high quality production (we manufacture in Germany) but also something that is über stylish – so we looked to Tokyo for brand inspiration and a cool vibe. All of our products will have CODE names, and they will all be based around unlocking your inner beauty.
WP: It’s a highly crowded market for a new brand. Did you have reservations?
KS: Women on a mission – no fear! We knew we had something amazing, and at the end of the day we are two normal women creating amazing, must-have products for other normal women. We put so much energy into making sure our products are different and better than anything else that we can find. We just knew that – like us – women want amazing products for great value and that is what we will continue to do. We’re never going to try and flog lots of mascaras for different looks, that’s not what we’re about.
WP: It has been very well received and gained something of a cult following. What “pinch me” moments have stuck in your memory?
SC: We constantly have to pinch ourselves. I love going to places and people saying, “Oh, you’re the mascara girl? I’m wearing it today, it’s my new BFF!” and fluttering their lashes at me! Recently I was chatting to someone on the train and another girl overheard and said, “Oh my God, I LOVE your mascara!” It makes it all worthwhile. Not to mention when makeup artists we admire use our products – not only on their clients, but on themselves too. Having sell-outs on QVC also feels so amazing! We’re very lucky and we feel very proud. We’re really excited about launching our next few products!
WP: What are your plans to expand the line?
KS: Watch this space for two new products in the first quarter of 2015 (you heard it here first!), followed by a few more hero products next year. One thing we can promise is all of our products will have a real edge to them, giving girls something different and over and above what’s out there already.
WP: What are you hoping for over the next few years with CODE Beautiful?
SC: To unlock inner beauty for more and more women. And global expansion – we’re looking at overseas development as we speak. For us, it’s about working with cool retailers to get our products into the hands of woman all over the world.
KS: Obviously we are going to have lots of fun along the way too!