On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was… Happy Mean Girls Day!
Today we celebrate the film that shaped girls the world over and I’m very excited that Hannah, one half of the iconic brand Spectrum Brushes, who have finally made ‘fetch happen’ with their Spectrum X Mean Girls collaboration, agreed to have a chat with me about what it’s like to be the founder of one of Instagram’s hottest brands.
Spectrum is a makeup brush brand (which you will, definitely, have seen on social media) that I have fallen in love with, they are PETA registered and totally cruelty free. Adored by celebrities, makeup artists and bloggers around the world, Spectrum have created an incredibly successful brand.
But it hasn’t been plain sailing, this summer has been, to put it bluntly, an absolute shit show. They wrote a blog post about it last month and reading it I couldn’t believe how much bad luck this company had had. I was left sitting in the hairdressers asking no one in particular: WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?! They lost £10k on a sponsorship deal gone wonky, had their website ripped off by the creator and then, because that wasn’t shit enough, there was a fire in their warehouse that destroyed about £470k with of products.
And somehow they have bounced back. Sophie and Hannah Pycroft, sisters from Barry Island in Wales, founded Spectrum three and a half years ago and I knew I had to talk to them; inspiration personified. So let’s meet the girls behind this incredible brand shall we?!
First things first, I’ve got to ask, how did all of this start?! You were so young to start something so massive?
So we were on holiday with our parents in Gran Canaria having a family pow wow around the pool. We’d been creating content and concepts for a few other e-commerice and high street brands and they started to get a lot of press coverage and social media success so we decided we needed our own product,
To be honest we always felt we were destined to be self employed and do our own thing, it’s hard to explain but any job we’ve been in we always felt we could do better… so we did!
We researched clothes, shoes and jewellery, we knew it needed to be fashion or beauty related for us to really put all our energies into it. We ordered some clothing samples but quickly ruled them out because of the initial start up cost. We completely self funded Spectrum so every penny really did matter, there was no bottomless pit of funds from a private investor or the bank of Mum and Dad.
Makeup brushes came from nowhere to be honest, we’re not trained artists but we knew we could do something different with the product, they were all black and brown and BORING!
Did you have any idea when you started off how incredibly successful Spectrum would become?
We definitely always had faith in the brand and what we were doing, but it wasn’t until the second year of the business that we actually made a (very small) profit.
In the first year we made barely any money at all and our Dad would ask us every day “Have you sold much today girls?” We’d reply, not really Dad but it’ll pick up. Our monthly running costs for the website, accountants and insurance was around £350 and we’d re-invest this on a monthly basis just to keep things ticking over.
We’d constantly post on Instagram, hash tagging everything beauty related to get the brushes seen by as many people as possible – we’d definitely say we’re an ‘Instabrand”.
It wasn’t until we did The Clothes Show in December 2015 and reality stars like Charlotte Crosby noticed our stand and loved the brushes instantly. We gifted them with a few brushes and they’d post them on their Instagram or Twitter for free which really did help get us noticed.
So in short, we didn’t really have any idea how quickly Spectrum would grow, but we always believed it would be a success, we’re big on cosmic ordering and the positive power of the universe – we get it from our Mum who’s a bit of a white witch!
General consensus is that you’ve created the ‘world’s most Instagramable makeup brushes’, what does it feel like to be scrolling through your feed and just seeing your creations being obsessed over by so many?!
It’s seriously amazing and we love nothing more than scrolling through social and seeing all the brush love. We still manage and run the accounts between us because we genuinely love having that connection with our customers, it’s massively important to us.
We’re constantly showing each other customer pictures and screenshotting everything, our camera rolls consist of makeup brushes and pictures of our dogs!
It’s always amazing to see professional makeup artists share their love of the brushes too, we get a lot of support from celebrity artist which is always such a buzz for us. We’ve now officially been Jeffree Star approved too! We were on holiday with our Mum and Dad (again lol) so we watched his YouTube review over dinner then had shots to celebrate!
OBVIOUSLY you are regularly showered with love and compliments (did I mention how great you were looking today???), but the internet can be a bit shit, do you ever get any negative feedback and if so, how do you deal with it?
As much as we love the internet, you’re completely right, it can be a really negative place too. The Daily Mail did an article on our story and some of the comments were seriously aggressive – someone called me (Hannah) jungly – wtf is jungly? I think they meant amazonian princess but whatever!
Sometimes we see comments where people will slag off the brushes and that they much prefer a different brand but everyone will always have their own opinions so we just brush it off (no pun intended!)
We don’t dwell on any negativity to be honest. haters gonna hate but we always try to empower and support our followers and Spectrum Squad.
I think if I went into business with my sister we would kill each other (or at least pull each other’s hair in the office), of you guys bicker or disagree about things and how do you keep it professional?
So when we first started Spectrum, we did EVERYTHING from Sophie’s garage, packing the orders, going to the post office, sending out samples, customer service, social media… seriously everything.
We worked from the garage for two and a half years, with no window and one lightbulb. So Christmas 2016 after we’d finished 6 days at The Clothes Show we can back to pack 300 orders that had built up while we were at the show… we ended up having a full on bitch fight and hair was definitely pulled. It was at that point we knew we needed to sort our shit out and get out of the garage, so we’ve been there, didn’t quite kill each other but we weren’t far off.
Sometimes we do have the occasional tiff in the office but it’s literally 30 seconds then we get a coffee and get over it. We’re so close we might as well be conjoined but it’s only natural to disagree, we jut try and do what’s right for the business and move on.
It’s safe to say that you guys are basically living the dream in terms of BEST CAREER EVER but surely it hasn’t always been this great. Five years ago what were you doing and could you ever imagine being where you are now?
Five years ago we were working together (obvs) as a freelance wedding photographer and videographer. We’d come as a pair and offer a complete wedding package, that’s how we managed to save the money to start Spectrum. So every weekend we’d be schlepping around at wedding after wedding with absolutely no social life.
We’ve had our fair share of lack lustre jobs to be honest, working at Barry Island serving chips and ice-cream, bra fitting in La Senza through to pot washing in restaurants. More recently we both worked as freelancers in the creative industry and we both feel every job we did gave us some new skills and lessons that helped us develop Spectrum.
For many the idea of jumping in with both feet to a new business is t-e-r-r-i-f-y-i-n-g, do you have any advice for anyone wanting to do it?
It is terrifying there’s no doubt about that, we absolutely freaked out when we imported our first shipment, panicking about having to drive a van to the port to unload boxes off a boat… none of that happened thankfully but it was completely alien to us when we started out.
We’d definitely say you need to research and plan before you go full speed into anything new. We took a full year to sample and research the market. We put together a business plan for ourselves just so we had realistic ideas of what we could achieve and to keep us on track.
Trust your gut instinct and don’t be afraid to say no. When you’re first starting out there’ll be people along the way who say they can offer you this and that and that you shouldn’t be doing X you should be doing Y… but they don’t know your business, you do and you’ll know what’s best.
It’s hugely important to grow organically, we were approached by a lot of wholesalers and distributers very early on in the business but we wouldn’t have had the man power to manage the demand efficiently so we said no and grew at a pace that was right for us.
When running your own business it can be so hard to keep morale and inspiration high, how do you keep yourselves going?
To be honest sometimes it’s nice to just take a deep breath and take stock of everything we’ve achieved so far. The business is growing so quickly and amazing things are happening all the time it’s so important to take 5 every now and again and give yourself a pat on the back! Becky in the office bought us two giant hand shaped back scratchers so we can do just that!
We live and breath Spectrum so we’re always motivated and inspired to keep creating and growing but when you’ve built it from nothing it’s almost instinctive to keep pushing to the next level.
It’s hugely important to surround yourself with people who inspire and support you, make time for family and friends and that G&T.
This summer was pretty fucking shit for you guys, I think we can all agree. How did you pick yourself up after something like that happens? If it were me I thing I would have booked a one way ticket somewhere!
August was an absolute shit storm from start to finish!
When I woke up to the text on Sunday 20th August saying all our stock had been destroyed in a huge fire I shot up in bed completely in shock, screamed ‘SHIT!’ and phoned Sophie. After speaking to the fulfilment centre, 5 minutes of crying and cuddles we are straight on the emails trying to sort shit out, we don’t hang around!
To be entirely honest the love and support we had on social media from all our customers and community was absolutely overwhelming and totes emosh! That alone gave us the drive to keep going and come back bigger and better!
We’ve taken the shit in our stride and used it as an opportunity to reflect on the business and look at what wasn’t working as well and what we can do better so we’ve already got plans in action and 2018 is looking to be our best year yet.
If you could say anything to your 13 year old self, what would it be?
First thing that comes to mind is blend that hideous eyeshadow and don’t over pluck those brows!!
Next thing would be don’t let the bastards get you down, Sophie in particular had a much harder time in school at 13 dealing with bullying (more details to come in a blog post soon) but the whole experience really did make her who she is today.
Do what you love and don’t panic about the future, everything will fall into place and everything happens for a reason.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl.
Favourite 90s jam? We remember more of the 2000s to be honest and we’d definitely go for Destiny’s Child Survivor.
Your biggest inspiration? Our family… sounds sad but they’re all grafters who’ve never quite had the success they deserve so we’re trying to do it for us all!
If you were a colour what would you be? Grey… jokes! Pink for sure!
Happiness is…? Walks with the dogs and coffee by the beach.
Last thing you watched on TV? Bake Off (we love cake!)
Who runs the world? Girls!
Favourite item of clothing? Shoes, the crazier the better!
Last thing you screwed up? Our bodies! We ruined ourselves doing Tough Mudder raising awareness for Pulmonary Fibrosis.
The best thing about YOU? Our originality.
To shop the collection head over to the Spectrum website now xxxx