Kirsten Carriol, founder of Australia-based lip and skincare brand Lanolips, has brought old-school Australian skin salve lanolin (found in sheep’s wool) to the world’s attention. Her line of lip balms and tints has been called “unimproveable” by The Times UK, won over 50 beauty awards internationally and garnered a legion of fans worldwide. In fact, Drew Barrymore was so impressed by the range that she called up the office personally to ask about the product. (“That was actually quite a moment,” recalls Kirsten.) But it was the launch of the Lanolips range on luxury website Net-a-Porter that has trumped all in terms of excitement. Well, almost.
“I remember getting Net [-a-Porter] and that being a real adrenaline rush and I remember the first sales figures we got when we launched it,” says Kirsten. “That was probably the biggest rush ever.”
It was an unwavering conviction in the strength of her product combined with the helping hand of a friend, Jose Bryce Smith, the founder of O&M, and a good dose of persistence that helped Kirsten get an in with Net-a-Porter.
“She [Jose] introduced me to the head of cosmetics there [at Net-a-Porter] over email about two years ago,” says Kirsten. “I think she might have actually even had a tube [of Lanolips] in her hand at the meeting with one of the Net buyers, which is so sweet of her. Josie said to me ‘contact them, they love the product’, blah blah blah.
“I emailed them of course, why wouldn’t you, straight away. And I heard nothing. I kept on going, I kept on emailing and updating them on our progress. I just kept sending little updates on us and it wasn’t until, and I do not know why, but it was maybe May last year that I got that magical email from them saying, ‘Can you make a meeting in London at this time to present your brand to us?’”
It turns out getting a foot in the door was just the first step. “Then you get the meeting and all the hard work starts. A meeting really doesn’t mean a lot, that’s the entry point. We sat down and I told them the story of the brand and I showed them all of the products and we talked about all of the third party approvals and the awards.
Luckily, the product spoke for itself. “Ultimately, I think what it came down to was that they just loved the product. They’re in the position where they’re curators and they are trusted to choose the best products for their customers and I guess they realised it is the best.”
Here’s Kirsten’s advice if you’re looking to do the same and be snapped up by Net-a-Porter.
1. Product + packaging is key
“If nothing else, you need to have this. You have to have a good product. An excellent product. Without a good product, pack up and go home. It’s also got to look good. It’s not about price, it’s about being the best. You can’t be in the middle. As a brand find your pedestal, stand on it and shout. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.”
2. Network, network, network
“Use your contacts if you have them. You can’t beat an introduction.”
3. Don’t give up
“Be persistent, try everything (but don’t harass). Timing probably plays a large part. Send them samples, send them presentations, send them updates and be persistent. It’s about having relevant news to go to them with.”