A CHAT WITH PEOPLE WHO STARTED UP SMALL BUSINESSES WITH 0% CERTAINTY BUT 100% COMMITMENT TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY.
Every once in a while, you cross paths with someone whose energy pushes everything to the next level - you know, the kind that lights up the room, just by being in it. Kim Maes, make-up artist/world traveler/mama, is one of those people. As an international make-up artist she's seen a big part of the world, and we were so excited when she recently launched her own online beauty shop Blos - with the yummiest range of amazing skincare products. So we totally asked her to have a little chat with us - pretty please - about her career path, including a slightly unfulfilling job at Lancôme, dealing with skin issues (there's no such thing as an easy skin, people!), and how to make a non-existing work/life balance work anyways.
HOW DID THE IDEA FOR BLOS COME ABOUT?
Well, I'm turning 40 in December, and I basically thought to myself: I can't keep lugging those make-up cases around forever. :) I also felt like taking on a new challenge, and when I was visiting my brother in LA last Summer, it hit me how wonderfully different they approach beauty: there's so much transparency, and a lot of focus on green beauty. It's really a part of a lifestyle there, and I just think there's not much like that here in Belgium. Additionally, as a make-up artist that's been active for 15 years now, I just really wanted to share my personal faves that I assembled over the years.
WHAT HAS LED YOU TO THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER?
I was one of those kids who wanted to wander around and see the world - every parents' nightmare! :) So after high school, I started traveling, doing small jobs here and there. My first beauty-related job was at Lancôme, but I didn't like it all; it was very stern and stiff, with not much room for creativity. But during that time, I had the opportunity to follow an awesome make-up course, and when I took my final test (which was sooo bad, looking back!) I was spotted by a photographer, and that kind of gave me the confidence to show my work to Marc Lagrange - I still don't know how I pulled that off! But he really gave me a lot of chances, and that's how it all started for me.
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED MOVING ABROAD?
Traveling has always been a big part of my life, but when I got pregnant with my girl Marie when I was 24, I decided that I wanted to stay here, close to my family. And all things considered, that turned out great, because I actually think that Belgium is a pretty nice place to be based, you know? It's very conveniently located, and Belgian people tend to be modest and open to trying out new things.
BLOS HASN'T BEEN AROUND FOR THAT LONG. DID YOU OR DO YOU STILL HAVE ANY FEARS THAT COME WITH STARTING UP YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
Honestly? No. I just really believe in this, you know. I do everything myself, I did the web design, concept creation, and product selection. It's a really personal project that came very natural. And I've basically prepared myself to not get any revenues from Blos for the first 2 years. For instance, I sell this clean incense from a Japanese brand called Chikuseiko, and I literally don't make any profit from it, because the import duties were so high. But I'm super proud to carry that brand, because they're very picky, and I really believe in their mission. So yeah, money has never been my motivation. And as for being scared; both in my personal and professional life I try to be as fearless as possible; as long as you learn from your mistakes, it's all good. :)
WITH A GAZILLION BEAUTY BRANDS OUT THERE, HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR SELECTION FOR BLOS?
The thing is: I used to have a very difficult skin myself. So a couple of years ago I decided to ban as much chemicals from my daily routine as possible, using clean high-quality products from Susanne Kaufmann and Grown Alchemist instead, and the transformation of my skin was incredible! At the same time, I got a lot of feedback from models about products that I was using: I noticed that a lot of them reacted so badly to 'regular' brands, so I started to look for alternatives. As far as skincare is concerned, I just think it's important to have a long-term plan. It's super important to take the time to find out what works for your skin, and to invest in that - whether it's a high-end or more affordable brand, as long as it works for you, that's all that matters.
ISN'T IT CHALLENGING TO RUN AN ONLINE BEAUTY BUSINESS?
I think my expertise as a make-up artist helps a lot. I'm very thankful that I've been able to build up credibility over the years, and I hope people know that I take skincare very seriously. I've experienced the impact of having a troubled skin myself, so I know that it's a very important aspect of your life. I really don't mess around with that. I'm also developing a sampling service right now, through which people can tell me about their issues and receive very low-priced custom samples.
WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY ROUTINE LOOK LIKE? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A GREAT WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
Uhm, I have 2 kind of days right now. The first kind evolves around Blos, giving advice to my customers, preparing packages, keeping up with my administration - things like that. I get up, have breakfast, bring my kids to school (Marie is 15 and Lou is 7), work all day, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. The second kind is chaos. :) When I have a shooting I usually get up at 5.30, drive to the location, give myself 100% on set, then go home and focus on Blos. Since my youngest recently noted that I'm always working, I do try to zoom out between 6-8pm. After that, I usually continue with work until late. So yeah, right now, there's no balance at all, haha. But I love it so much, I'm always super excited whenever I get a new order! And I get so much support from my husband, I really couldn't do it without him.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
I'm not one to plan ahead that much, but for now, I love combining my freelance activities as a make-up artist with running the online Blos shop. I love how both are intertwined, my models constantly giving me feedback on the products I'm using. And I also really like to travel a lot, so I'd like to keep that in my life too. As long as I can surround myself with like-minded people, such as the creative team behind Clouds9000 that I'd love to collaborate with soon, I'm the happiest person alive! :) I definitely want to grow with Blos, expanding our range of products and reaching more people, but I also want to keep it very close. I always want to be able to personally select my clients' samples, and write every single note that goes out the door!
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE ADVICE FOR ANYONE LOOKING TO START UP A COMPANY THAT'S DIFFERENT?
Just do it! If you believe in something, it will catch on. And if it doesn't, so what? Life's too short, just do what you want to do.
Special thanks to Astrid and Sofie who made me feel like a real super woman!