When the high street couldn’t offer what these three women needed in their day-to-day lives, they took matters into their own hands…
Lindsay Forsyth, 34, lives in Edinburgh with her partner, Blair, and runs the natural skincare brand, Bare Beauty Botanicals.
As a teenager, I suffered from mild breakouts, so I knew how important a good skincare routine was. And, I’d happily fork out on expensive scrubs, cleansers and toning lotions. The more expensive the better, I figured.
Only at 33, I developed cystic acne. It was so painful I couldn’t even wash my face, let alone put make-up on. The face washes I had once swore by, now made my skin flare up.
So, I started looking into aromatherapy, and the antibacterial and moisturising properties of specific oils. I found a great book, with a useful list of natural suppliers, and started ordering samples of different aromatherapy oils. My dining room transformed into an apothecary, as I created my own blends of cleansers and scrubs, which I tested on myself.
By October 2017, friends commented how much better my skin looked and wanted to try my products, too. That’s when I thought I could turn this into a business.
I asked a friend who was a designer to help create my logo and website. I had to get a cosmetic safety report too, so consumers knew my product was legitimate. By December 2017, Bare Beauty Botanicals had received its very first order.
Now, my company is flourishing. I always thought beauty products were made in labs, but now I realise homemade is best – it’s the only way to know what you’re putting on your skin.
Lojain Alrefae, 34, lives in Saudi Arabia with her husband, Mohamed, 36, and daughters Amelia, eight, and Ayana, four. She’s launched an activewear brand for women.
Ever since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with fashion. But living in one of the most conservative countries in the world, fulfilling my aspiration of becoming a designer was never going to be easy.
After obtaining a BA in fashion design and a personal training qualification in the US, my husband, and I, along with our daughter, Amelia, relocated to Saudi in 2012. Once there, I launched my own fitness studio, offering Pilates, boxing and spinning for women.
In Saudi, outside of a private studio, exercise for women was almost impossible. Strict traditions dictate that women must wear an abaya – a long, loose cloak – when out in public. I hated that I couldn’t exercise outdoors or run around after Amelia and Ayana, because I couldn’t risk the abaya from opening.
As the years went on, a revolution was bubbling with entrepreneurs developing designs to make the abaya more appealing. It got me thinking that maybe I could make exercise easier for women with a breathable abaya designed for fitness.
Starting to sketch, I created the Free Flow Abaya – an abaya that allows you to physically move in all activities, while maintaining a conservative, fashionable look. We launched the business, MULU, in October 2017 and within a month, we’d sold hundreds.
Now, watching women riding bikes and running in the park while wearing our abaya, I’m so proud of what we’ve created – a positive future for Saudi women.
Julia Minchin, 53, lives in Somerset, with her husband, Jeremy, 53, and has three children, Tom, 20, Olly, 18, and Sophie, 15. She runs Hippychick.
Like most new parents, when I found out I was expecting my first baby in 1997, I filled my house with a long list of ‘essentials’. I vividly remember my first trip out with Tom. It was so tricky trying to navigate my heavy pram. As Tom got older, I stopped relying on the pushchair, and started carrying him on my hip.
It was quicker and easier, but it meant I’d get shooting pains in my back if I stood for too long with his weight on my side.
So when a friend came to stay at the end of 1998, and bought this unusual hip belt with a foam ledge attached to the side where you could sit your baby, I was fascinated. ‘Where did you get that?’ I asked her. ‘From a shop in Germany,’ she said. ‘But I’m sure they’ve got something similar on the high street here.’ Only, I couldn’t find one. That’s when it hit me – I could create my own version of the hip seat.
With the help of a friend who worked in manufacturing, we drew up some designs and approached a manufacturer’s workshop to discuss making it. In January 1999, I applied for a loan, set up a website and chose the name Hippychick for my company.
I then approached local retailers to see if they’d be interested in supplying my product. But it wasn’t until I went to my first baby show in August 1999, that the Hippychick Hip Seat really took off. That weekend, we sold out of our entire supply of 300 hip belts.
Twenty years on, I still feel a swell of pride when I see my product in the high street shops. Who’d have thought becoming a mum would be the best thing to happen to my career!
Words by Sarah Holmes & Bess Browning