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Mar­cia Kil­gore’s life has fol­lowed the clas­sic rags-to-riches nar­ra­tive, whereby a tena­cious per­son who comes from noth­ing lights upon a bril­liant idea, launches a suc­cess­ful busi­ness and goes on to live a charmed life. But there is one dif­fer­ence in this tale: the 49-year-old beauty en­tre­pre­neur from Saskatchewan, Canada, didn’t come up with just one bril­liant idea, she came up with five – which have all gone on to be­come global suc­cess sto­ries, in­clud­ing FitFlop and Beauty Pie. And de­spite hav­ing sold two of her brands for mil­lions, she is still hard at it.

Mar­cia lost her fa­ther to brain can­cer when she was 11 and watched her mother strug­gle to make ends meet. The youngest of three daugh­ters, she was the one who most keenly felt the pres­sure to be re­spon­si­ble. ‘I was driven by the idea that no one would look after me but me,’ she says. She fol­lowed the path of so many be­fore her des­per­ate to make it and, in 1987, upon leav­ing school, moved to New York City. An ac­com­plished ath­lete – she was a cham­pion weightlifter in her teens – she be­gan work­ing as a per­sonal trainer, which proved ex­haust­ing: ‘I’d start at 6am and fin­ish late at night.’

As Mar­cia had an in­ter­est in skin­care, hav­ing suf­fered from acne, she be­gan giv­ing fa­cials in her tiny flat. She started with her data­base of per­sonal train­ing clients, but be­fore long was treat­ing the likes of Madonna, Oprah Win­frey, Bette Mi­dler and Uma Thurman. ‘Name ba­si­cally any­one from that era and they were my client. I de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion. It started out with them ly­ing on my floor be­cause I couldn’t af­ford to rent space. They’d want to stay for ever and tell me their life story.’ It’s not hard to see why. Mar­cia is crack­ing com­pany: warm, witty, real and not at all ar­ro­gant about her suc­cesses. She and her French hus­band Thierry Boué (who works in sus­tain­able, al­tru­is­tic ven­tures such as anti-plas­tic ini­tia­tives) have two sons, 13 and 11, and di­vide their time between Switzerland, so the boys can grow up bilin­gual and ski, and London, where Mar­cia’s busi­nesses are based.

Her knack for fa­cials ‘or­gan­i­cally’ spawned Bliss, the wildly pop­u­lar transat­lantic spa chain she set up in 1996. Three years later, Moët Hen­nessy Louis Vuit­ton bought a ma­jor­ity stake in Bliss for a re­ported €25 mil­lion, which earned Mar­cia the moniker ‘the new Estée Lauder’. Then came bud­get beauty line Soap & Glory, which was meant to be ‘a hobby’ while Mar­cia fo­cused on her ba­bies but was snapped up by Boots in 2014 for a sum ru­moured to be more than €45 mil­lion.

It was while wish­ing she could use those sliv­ers of time spent walk­ing the kids to nurs­ery to get a bit of a work­out that, in 2007, Mar­cia dreamed up FitFlop, the ➤

er­gonomic footwear brand now sold around the world, with an ad cam­paign fronted by Uma Thurman (who signed up be­cause of her friend­ship with Mar­cia).

Mar­cia’s next ven­ture was Soaper Du­per – an en­vi­ron­men­tally minded bath and body line, which launched in Lib­erty in 2016 and is now stocked in Tesco.

Most in her po­si­tion would be look­ing ahead to turn­ing 50 with the smug sat­is­fac­tion at hav­ing ir­refutably ‘made it’. But Mar­cia, who thrives on the adrenalin rush that comes from con­jur­ing up new busi­nesses, is do­ing noth­ing of the sort.

Her lat­est idea came in the form of Beauty Pie, which she launched at the end of 2016. The web­site of­fers lux­ury cos­met­ics and skin­care – which Mar­cia buys di­rect from the beauty labs who sup­ply all the big brands – at fac­tory prices. Sub­scribers, in­clud­ing Jo Malone and Bobbi Brown (‘they both know a good thing when they see it’), pay an €11.50 monthly mem­ber­ship fee.

Here, Mar­cia talks light­bulb mo­ments, ob­vi­ous ideas and try­ing to make her mother proud…

I know when I’ve had an amaz­ing idea be­cause all my hair stands up. There are some that are good, but not great, and I know the dif­fer­ence be­cause it’s not a hair-stand­ing-on-end feel­ing. The truly bril­liant ideas are scary. With Beauty Pie, I was ter­ri­fied. I thought, ‘I can’t do that.’ And then the next sec­ond it was, ‘I have to do that.’

I am al­ways my own cus­tomer. I have never done mar­ket re­search, I just con­nect the dots. I am not a shop­per – I wear a Cos T-shirt ev­ery day; I have ten in black and ten in grey. So when I do find my­self crav­ing some­thing, I’ll think, ‘Lots of other peo­ple must want this, too.’ I am my own lit­mus test as to whether I have spot­ted a gap in the mar­ket.

One of the things that will make or break you is un­der­stand­ing your mind’s abil­ity to screw you or help you. The mind is very pow­er­ful and jumps to neg­a­tive con­clu­sions and makes as­sump­tions. It’s clos­ing a loop all the time, but that loop may not be cor­rect. Had I un­der­stood more about my brain 25 years ago, I would have reached where I am now faster.

One busi­ness has never been enough for me. I’ve heard that en­trepreneurs hedge their bets and, in my case, I think it comes from hav­ing lost my fa­ther young. I’ve al­ways car­ried the feel­ing of need­ing a backup plan. I also get bored eas­ily and like va­ri­ety.

No beauty prod­ucts en­tered my house when I was a child. I don’t re­mem­ber my mother ever putting on lip­stick. My in­ter­est came from hav­ing such bad acne that I took a skin­care course to learn how to fix my own face. Then mod­el­ling agen­cies would send me their girls who were per­fect-look­ing ex­cept for the fact that they had acne. I saw how trans­for­ma­tive tak­ing care of your­self through beauty treat­ments could be.

I chose the name Bliss be­cause when you give a beauty treat­ment, you want your cus­tomer to have a bliss­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. It was a sim­ple con­cept. Life, es­pe­cially in New York then, was so busy and stress­ful. I re­alised peo­ple were com­ing for fa­cials be­cause they wanted their skin to look good, but also be­cause they wanted to get away from stress. I had to coach my ther­a­pists: don’t com­plain; don’t talk about your­self, or talk much at all. Be pos­i­tive and lis­ten.

I haven’t found it easy to make my mother proud. I was on the cover of Cana­dian Time mag­a­zine in 1999 – it was a pretty big deal. I called her up and said, ‘I’m on the cover! Don’t you want to go out and buy 40 copies?’ And she was, like, ‘I’ll go to the news­stand and have a look.’ She’s hum­ble be­cause she comes from a fam­ily who had noth­ing; her mantra is, ‘Don’t be proud.’ When I was fi­nally earn­ing well, I bought her a cash­mere scarf, but she re­fused to wear it be­cause she said it would be ‘show­ing off ’.

I am mother to two very sassy boys. Would they ever ad­mit to be­ing in­spired by me? No way. They just make fun of me. But peo­ple say that chil­dren learn from the ex­am­ple that their par­ents put for­ward. They’ve seen me work­ing hard, and so I be­lieve they will, too.

I see Beauty Pie as the Net­flix of beauty – the equaliser. Net­flix has done to Hol­ly­wood films


what Beauty Pie is do­ing to the big cos­met­ics la­bels – mak­ing the best prod­ucts ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one from the com­fort of home with a mod­est sub­scrip­tion fee. And don’t you think even Reese Wither­spoon has Net­flix? She knows there’s not just one way to watch movies. We also have our own prod­ucts, such as our Ja­panFu­sion range – the equiv­a­lent of Net­flix’s orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming.

Beauty Pie was born out of a de­sire to give all women the same ac­cess to cos­met­ics that I’ve had through work­ing in the in­dus­try. There are a few labs that sup­ply most of the la­bels, and the way they set out their prod­ucts is like a beauty smor­gas­bord. I’d go to events and leave with a suit­case full of amaz­ing stuff that cost me prac­ti­cally noth­ing. I had a light­bulb mo­ment where I thought, ‘I need to find a way to bring women to the fac­tory with me!’ Talk about kid in a candy store.

These days women don’t rely on hav­ing a brand to de­fine them. Smart women are happy to buy Beauty Pie if you ex­plain that it’s a lux­ury prod­uct, and if you get the pack­ag­ing right they will be­lieve in its value. Peo­ple used to feel they had to align with a beauty tribe, but now ev­ery­one has their own iden­tity on In­sta­gram: when you’re cu­rat­ing your own brand, you don’t need to pay for some­one else’s.

At some point some­one asked me to be an ex­pert on ei­ther Dragons’ Den or The Ap­pren­tice, I can’t re­mem­ber which. I de­clined be­cause I re­alised that un­less you’re ready to make a fool of your­self, there’s no point. They want drama and neg­a­tiv­ity and I just couldn’t do it. I don’t watch those shows.

I don’t lose sleep wor­ry­ing about my busi­nesses. I’ve given peo­ple great jobs for long pe­ri­ods of time. There are so many sto­ries of night­mare bosses – I’m only a night­mare once or twice a year and usu­ally only for about ten sec­onds when I’m stressed. I’m not a re­cur­ring night­mare. If I have been one, I apol­o­gise im­me­di­ately.

My best ideas are al­ways the most ob­vi­ous ones. A beauty ed­i­tor re­cently con­grat­u­lated me on Beauty Pie and said, ‘Of course you thought of this, it’s so ob­vi­ous.’ I see things that oth­ers don’t. When peo­ple ask me, ‘What’s next?’ I al­ways think of how TV pro­ducer Marci Klein replied when peo­ple put that ques­tion to her after she’d won loads of Em­mys: ‘Haven’t I done enough?!’

n beau­; mem­ber­ship is €11.50 a month or €113.50 a year

Uma Thurman – a friend of Mar­cia’s – stars in the FitFlop cam­paign

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