Some of the best business ideas are born of personal experience and so it was for Kildare beauty pro Joann Mahon.
Her experience with troublesome skin in her teens, brought on by a health issue, led her to the world of skincare. Her love of products and treatments, and the beneficial impact they can have, prompted her to set up Millies Beauty in 2007. Fourteen years on, the business has expanded and along with bricks and mortar salons has a hugely successful online store that stocks over 100 Irish and international brands.
We caught up with Joann to find out more about her lifelong love of skincare, how she navigates the challenges of owning a business and, of course, her go-to beauty products.
How did you end up working in beauty?
When I was 16, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries and with that brought a lifetime of skin problems. I recall desperately seeking out solutions for my skin issues and there my obsession with all things skincare and laser treatments began. When I saw the impact that the right products and salon treatments were having on my skin, I knew I had to help others with their skin issues too. I worked as a skin therapist in a clinic setting and eventually plucked up the courage to start my own business.
What prompted you to set up Millies?
My family business was in retail so it was just second nature to me. This coupled with my absolute obsession with skincare meant that the Millies business was an obvious route. I saw an opening in the market for a salon that was more geared towards retail and started Millies Beauty in 2007. I really wanted to put an emphasis on selling the correct products for specific skin types and concerns and not just salon treatments. After all, your skin health is really down to how well you look after it at home and the products you use every day.
We opened our online store in 2010 as it was the next obvious move. I quickly saw how efficiently I was able to create an income for the business outside of normal trading hours and within the space of eight months, I had acquired a new location so I could expand my offering.
It was a huge learning curve - I had to learn about all things digital marketing, graphic design, web development etc. very quickly. I took a few courses and worked very hard on upskilling but I’m so glad I did. The digital skills that I acquired, and continue to acquire on a daily basis, are so essential to doing business in this digital age.
What was the most challenging part?
When the pandemic hit, I had to close the salons not knowing when I would open them again. That was a low point and a very worrying time. However, we were fortunate in that the online side of the business was well established and we were in the process of growing the team and launching a new site.
In saying that, there were still challenges. In the early days of the pandemic, my partner Paul and I worked around the clock fulfilling orders. And trying to parent and homeschool my daughter while working insane hours was really difficult.
I also lost my dear mum during this time and that was incredibly difficult. Looking back now, I don’t know how I got through that time with everything that was going on and grieving so desperately for my mother. It was one of the most stressful and saddest times of my life but I got through it.
What was the best bit of advice you have received?
Be consistent, that is the key! Decide what you want to achieve and set out consistent, achievable goals. Stick at it despite the knock backs of which there will be many along the way.
Do you think Irish beauty consumers are
more savvy now?
Yes, absolutely. It became very apparent during lockdown that people were really investing in their skincare and haircare regimes, almost as part of an overall wellbeing programme. I think a lot of people learned about the importance of buying good quality skincare and haircare and it is something they have maintained post lockdown.
what are your own top three beauty products?
The Environ AVST Moisturiser 5 is a cocktail of essential ingredients to treat any skin concern and it’s a system that I always recommend to clients. The IMAGE Ageless Total Overnight Mask is pure hydration in a jar and you are guaranteed to wake up with fresh-looking skin.
I also never leave the house without my SPF on. I have quite oily skin and the IMAGE Prevention Daily Matte SPF is the best on the market for my skin type. It’s also a great primer for makeup.
Supplement-wise, Advanced Nutrition Programme Accumax has been the biggest saviour for my acne-prone skin. I really couldn’t go without this product.
READ MORE: Five of the Best Local Beauty Brands
Images: Unsplash and instagram.com/millies