Trinny Woodall: from fashion guru to beauty empire founder

The woman, once notorious for her propensity to grab the breasts of TV fashion makeover candidates, stands in her office describing the importance of her company’s new enterprise resource planning software or ERP.

Adding local distribution to key markets such as Australia is part of this year’s growth plans for Trinny London, the brand founded by Trinny Woodall. Her long-standing partnership with Susannah Constantine on the BBC’s makeover show What not to wearbroadcast between 2001-2007, became a television phenomenon.

The demanding eye and very practical style that Woodall, 57, once brought to fashion choices and bra fit among thousands of women, is now implemented on the premium make-up brand, which she founded in 2017. The range is sold almost exclusively online, directly to the consumer of the business.

Honestly, you would forgive Trinny, the CEO, for being pretty “over” over everyone talking about Trinny, the breast-grabbing TV host.

But she takes it easy: “I think careers go by bikes, except when you finally find your entrepreneurship. . . I had 10 years, 10 years, 10 years. . . and then I had, I’m ready. . . and that was when I was 50. So all the things I’ve done before have, in a way, given me that sense of what I can bring to the table when I started Trinny London. ”

Sarah-Jane Woodall – Trinny was a nickname from childhood who stuck – has always had an entrepreneurial line. From washing and ironing shirts for £ 1 per. once below her A level, to sell socks during an unhappy period as an assistant in the city, after following her father into the economy: “I did not love it. And it was very male-dominated…[it] went downhill really fast. “

There was a spell in rehab for alcohol and cocaine addiction before a newspaper column with Constantine led to TV shows and makeovers around the world. The couple’s Ready2Shop.com parenting consultancy was launched in the last crazy months of the first dotcom boom before collapsing in 2001. It took longer to monetize their idea – to collect data from tens of thousands of women who were interest in large companies – than the market remained hot.

Still, there were management lessons from that flop. “Trust your instincts more,” she says. “Getting too much money too fast, because it was incredibly easy to raise money. It was two meetings and you had it. ”

When it came to Trinny London, who uses Match2Me, an online tool for assembling stackable pots of face, eye and lip color to suit a customer’s complexion, Woodall stuck to both of the things she learned during her first stay as entrepreneur. First, to trust oneself: “The principle was very firm in my mind from the beginning: That I would make personal makeup for women, and I wanted the target audience to be 35-plus. I would make cream-based products, and I would have that it should be premium. “

On the financial side, the company started with two interns brainstorming, and money raised from Woodall’s daughter’s godfather and a mother from the school gate, who worked in the cosmetics industry. The original storyboards about product development or personalization, first created around the kitchen table, are reflected in the “closet” in her home, where Woodall has information sheets to keep track of things today: “I have every figure on the blackboard of this company. “month by month, what we launched, what the numbers are, and then for the current year, what we’re going to do … I really like visualization.”

Woodall was still experimenting with colors and doing over women in her bathroom as research for her Match2Me algorithm as the money ran out. “I was literally thinking ‘what do I have in my house?'” Woodall says. “So I just sold all the clothes I had.”

After decades of forced purchases of clothes (her version of dry January is “no spend January”), two sales yielded around £ 60,000.

“And I have a piece of shit now. You’re probably thinking, ‘Jesus Christ, I saw her knock down.'”

Wardrobe killing is just one thing you can see Woodall do on the internet. At a Trinny London pop-up event in New York, it was the case that two women flew from Chicago to meet the woman they had first seen on Instagram using a dog diaper in lockdown to color her eyelashes. A recent (tasteful) post had her mid bikini wax while others wrapped gifts in the background.

The energetic content on her personal and corporate social media channels, with millions of followers, is an integral part of the brand’s success. And what you see is what you get: “I’m pretty consistent,” Woodall says. “I’m pretty long in the tooth, and I’m used to the skin I’m in. . . the Instagram Trinny you see is the person I am in the office. “

There are improvised Trinny moments. But most of her output on health, beauty and fashion is carefully coordinated and filmed in one day each week. “It’s about how you make it feel organic in the end. And I think it takes a lot of work,” says Woodall. “On social media, we’re making a plan two months in advance. “We have the stories for every day. The amount of content we produce as a company is probably 10 times that of any other beauty brand.”

For Woodall, “it’s actually daily market research”. The brand receives thousands of comments and direct messages a day. “Every day I sit on the toilet for lunch [and read the feedback] and I do something in the morning when I wake up. . . what are they thinking about? How are they? It tells me so much and they know so much. ”

No more than Trinny Tribe – dedicated fans of the brand, which now counts 100,000 women in 16 countries; a carefully maintained social media network.

So much for the doubts expressed by some potential investors in the notoriously male-dominated world of venture capital when Woodall was fundraising before being backed by Unilever Ventures.

“I remember a certain VC saying, ‘you got the demographic completely wrong, you have to be millennial, otherwise it will not work.’ And I said, ‘you do not believe that there are women online who are the women I talk to. They just do not have anything that meets their needs right now and that is why they are not buying.’

Woodall has raised just £ 7 million in funding, including a small round when pandemic panic set in and the world locked up. In fact, it left the business. The redeployed staff to make virtual appointments online. “We had 3,000 booked on the first day… What I call our sleeping customer came to buy.”

Sales have more than tripled to £ 44 million a year up to March 2021. The brand has now achieved more than £ 100 million in revenue since launch, growing rapidly and having a gross margin of 60-65%.

Woodall will not talk about valuation, but avoids comparisons with other makeup brands, such as millennials-focused Glossier. “If only we were [make-up and beauty] as a company I would say yes. But we will not only be that as a company, ”she says.

Trinny London will launch in a new area next month, with feverish online speculation suggesting it could be hair and skin care, clothing, lingerie, handbags or even physical stores.

Three questions for Trinny Woodall

Who is your leadership hero?

Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company. She is a truly inspiring businesswoman. Having grown the family-owned business into a global leader and well-known name for everything “home”, she beautifully combines leadership, motherhood, femininity and strength.

If you were not the CEO / Manager, what would you be?

A makeover expert or therapist.

What was the first management lesson you learned?

That I do not have all the answers and now have people on the team who know more than I do in one area and realize what relief and support it actually is, as opposed to giving myself the hard time that I do not. know everything!

“I knew I wanted five verticals,” says Woodall, who is already working on the third launch. “I told the VCs that… We want to launch with this, but we want to be a personal platform for women to find what they need and get emotional support in how they get it.”

This year’s plans include a push into the United States – and more hiring. The workforce doubled during the first UK lockdown and is approaching 200. As it grows, Woodall is worried about keeping everyone connected with the brand – which in reality means something to her.

She spent an hour at a distance with each new carpenter in lockdown. When Covid allows it, she wanders around the office, led by her assistant Louise, to find those she has not met in person. “I make a lot of big Zoom calls, but I want them to feel like I really know who they are.”

It’s too early to think of an exit from a company, says Woodall, where she still has “the majority quite far”. But the prospect of a future payday is a marker of success: “It’s money to some degree because I do not own my home and I’m 57. And I want to own my own home,” Woodall says. “Then for me it’s about me doing it. That’s a great motivation. I spent a long time growing into myself. ”

Woodall, who struggled in the city’s rigid, male environment, clearly enjoys her young, predominantly female team and her symbiotic relationship with the Trinny tribe. “The hum I got from what I did before [in makeovers] changed a woman in how she felt. . . there is nothing that gives me greater joy. . . to get women to say ‘because of Trinny London’ or ‘because of this thing I saw, I feel this about myself’. . . it is deeply gratifying. “

Her next development, as an entrepreneur and boss, “is not to be so much in the weeds, because when you start a business in the first few years, you are on every detail.”

Still, you get the impression that it is not a particularly trinny thing to relinquish control of the details.

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