19 April 2017
White Rabbit Skincare has taken the vegan beauty community by storm and requires little introduction. But how much do you know about its amazing founder, Melanie, and how she made her small skincare business her full-time job? First up in my new Cruelty-Free Careers series is the lady herself talking all things business and her journey to accidental entrepreneur.
Hi Melanie, for those of us not familiar with yourself and White Rabbit Skincare could you give us a bit of a background?
White Rabbit Skincare is a luxury, cruelty free skincare brand which has been created to address the need for high performance, but naturally based skincare products. Our products are 100% naturally derived, cruelty-free, vegan and always carefully made by hand to ensure the highest quality. They are certified cruelty free/vegan by PETA and endorsed by Naturewatch.
Where did you the idea or motivation for White Rabbit Skincare come from?
I was diagnosed with the skin condition psoriasis as a teenager, and didn’t want to use the steroid creams prescribed by doctors. Not only are these packed full of chemicals (and remember: 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream!), they are often tested on animals, and as a huge animal lover, this was a no-go for me. So initially I started using things like coconut oil and shea butter on my skin, then started making my own ‘proper’ skincare products. Interest started to pick up from friends/family and beyond, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Was running your own business a lifelong dream or did the idea come later in life?
I often think of myself as an ‘inadvertent’ or ‘accidental’ entrepreneur – I’m no Alan Sugar type who has been doing it my whole life; I just think the opportunity as it were happened to me at the right time, and I’ve been incredibly lucky that it has developed from a hobby into my full time job!
What did you want to be while you were growing up?
Anything animal-related: I remember for years wanting to be a horse riding instructor, then in my latter teenage years a marine biologist – I was obsessed with Orcas (killer whales). I ended up (pre White Rabbit Skincare) going to university to do an Honours degree in history!
What was your career like prior to starting White Rabbit Skincare?
Mostly admin/office based. My first job was a Technical Records Officer in an aircraft maintenance company, then as an office assistant in a food company, then a receptionist at a welfare-to-work organisation and finally before White Rabbit Skincare, a sales and social media assistant at an events company! Such roles have taught me how to be organised, work well with other people – and be patient!
Were there any new skills you had to learn to start your business?
Too many to list! When you have your own business, you are literally a Jack-of-all-Trades, and it is incredibly different to working for someone else. It is without a doubt the biggest challenge I have ever faced – and probably ever will be – but I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else now!
Did you have anyone helping you in the background – such as friends or family with a particular skill set?
White Rabbit wouldn’t be where it is now without the help of family, friends and organisations such as The Princes Trust or Entrepreneurial Spark. My family and friends are amazing at helping out at events or working into the wee small hours when we’ve got a big order due out – such as the recent inclusion of our comfort cleansing balm in the You Beauty Box. I’ve also very fortunate that our accountant is one of my friends from university, and my Mum is product labeller extraordinaire!
If you are thinking about starting your own business, I would highly recommend contacting the aforementioned above organisations. We’re still with E-Spark now – which is a business accelerator – and they have helped push me out my comfort zone and get my business to where it is now, and where it’s going!
What has been one of the biggest challenges?
Other than practical issues, such as finance – which all new businesses face – one of my personal biggest challenges has been confidence, and believing in myself. But I’m now at the stage where I take EVERY opportunity given to me – you never know where it will lead – even if it terrifies me, and work to make myself and my family proud!
We first met when you took part in the @CfBloggerschat – has social media and blogger outreach been a massive part of your growth?
Definitely. It’s now one of the first places people refer to for reviews, advice and so on – plus it’s an excellent means of us interacting with our customers.
What other marketing channels do you use to promote your business?
Social media such as Instagram and Facebook is really helpful/important to us, and also things like our blog and YouTube (although admittedly this needs work!). We also like collaborating with bloggers/youtubers/influencers, and regularly attend events/exhibitions – we love meeting our customers (established and new) in person.
Do you have any plans for White Rabbit Skincare in the future?
World domination (in a eco-friendly, ethical, earth-loving manner of course)! But seriously I would love for WRS to become a global brand; one that people automatically associate natural, vegan skincare with. Our vision is to be ‘the most influential natural and vegan skincare brand in the world’!
Thank you for your time Melanie, does anyone else have anything else they would like to ask Melanie?
P.S. I already have a few of these interviews lined up, but would love some more. I'm not specifically looking for entrepreneurs either - of you're an accountant/receptionist/PR person for an animal charity/cruelty-free beauty company/vegan food brand, I'd love to hear from you!
14 April 2017
For a blog that is primarily recognised as a cruelty-free beauty blog, my beauty tag has been a bit quiet this past year. In fact, when I have blogged about beauty it has been a press sample. Eh, oops? There has however been a straightforward reason for this: I was trying to use up everything I already owned. At some point last year I was finding it difficult to close the lid of my beauty box and some of my natural products were, well, not looking that fresh anymore because I had too many of them to finish using before the sell by date. Plus, I still had animal tested products and non-vegan items floating about my cupboard.
Thankfully the time has come to say that my beauty box once again closes and that I finally have a fully vegan perfume collection (remember this Anna Sui gift set blog from 2012? I finally shifted the last of it a month ago). So what does one do when they have achieved this task? Buy a whole lot of new beauty products. But this time I am restraining myself and trying hard to avoid any buyer's remorse. Here's just a collection of what I've been buying this month.
Barry M Flawless Colour Correcting Wand for Dark Circles. I have been a fan of green concealer for years and would recommend it to anyone who isn't blessed with a naturally even skin-tone. But despite suffering from prominent dark circles, this is my first foray into a peachy concealer to balance out purple tones. At first glance the colour looks a little too close to a regular concealer, but time will tell whether it becomes a staple in my beauty stash like green concealer has.
Barry M Flawless Light Reflecting Concealer. I'm cheating a little bit by including this as I've been loyal to it this product for a year now. I like it and you should buy it.
Barry M Brow Wow Pencil & Brush (Medium - Dark). For years I have been using the HD Brows pallet, but my e-mail regarding animal testing never got replied to so I know when it finishes I'll need a replacement. I picked this up as possible substitute and have already given it a whirl. Turns out it is strong and dark when applied making it great for my evening look but not for a day in the office. It will definitely get used from time to time but I don't see it becoming a daily staple.
Barry M Coconut Infusion Nail Paint in Storm. I'm not exactly new to Barry M Nail Paint and already have a full bag of polishes under my dresser. But I've been finding myself drawn to muted colours as of late and my collection was definitely low on neutral shades. So I was glad to let this grey-brown into my life.
Barry M Flawless Original Primer. This is the last product from Barry M, I swear. When I got to the till in Superdrug I found out it was 2 for 3 across beauty so picked something else in a hurry (for any smart asses: I bought the eyebrow pencil and concealer on a separate shopping trip). I've been of the opinion that only high-end primers are worth the purchase - but with a special deal on it was time to give a drugstore primer one last try. We'll see if this changes my opinion.
Lush Caca Rouge Henna Hair Dye. I'm cheating again by including this as everyone knows this has been keeping my hair fiery since 2012.
Superdrug Solait 50 SPF Moisturising Sun Lotion. While sun-protection is not exactly the most exciting purchase I've ever made, my upcoming trip to Kenya definitely is! Obviously sun screen is very important for such a trip, and will be the first time I'll be putting vegan sun-protection to the test.
Gosh Rebel Eyes Mascara. One type of beauty product that I definitely became low on was mascara, and I opted for this one from one of my favourite beauty companies. While I feel I'm in the minority here, I love a small rubber brush and this is just that. Fingers crossed this is good.
Superdrug Hair Therapy Cleansing Conditioner. I've posted no physical evidence of this online yet, but my hair now only falls to just past my shoulders. As a result I'm no longer in the market for heavy but super-moisturising hair masks, but something that adds moisture but doesn't weigh the hair down. This hair treatment is described as light weight and ideal for keeping coloured hair vibrant - fits the bill!
Superdrug Active Haircare Shampoo for Normal Hair. Keeping on the topic of haircare, I decided it was time I got a shampoo specifically for my swimming bag. Aside from chlorine, it also claims to protect against UV rays and sea salt, so it might just make its way into my Kenya suitcase.
Original Source Green Banana & Bamboo Milk Moisturisering Shower Milk. I'm not new to Original Source Shower Gels and already rate them highly - but this probably the best smelling one so far.
Superdrug BB Cream in Light. Something I'm very much in the market for right now is a great day foundation/tinted moisturiser/BB Cream/CC Cream that covers the 'worst of it' but is natural looking at the same time. While I've already found my holy grail of evening make-up foundation, I've not found my daytime equivalent and I picked this up in hope it would fill that beauty shaped hole in my life. I've used this once already and while it does make my skin look brighter, it doesn't do much in terms of hiding imperfections (maybe if you have dull skin but even skin-tone you might like this?).
What have you been purchasing recently?
7 April 2017
If you flick through Pinterest or Instagram you'd think vegans luxuriously lie around in the morning sipping herbal tea while digging our fork into a tofu scramble. But in the real world we're probably stuffing our faces with toast as we run out the door.
I mean, who has time in morning? I live 15 minutes from my office and my alarm goes off when some of my colleagues are probably leaving their house. As much as I love food, I'd rather get some extra sleep. Plus, who can control work rage when you've only had avocado on toast? Not me.
Look, I'm definitely not opposed to crafting the perfect vegan fry-up or taking time for prep French Toast at the weekend, but when I'm heading out to work I want something tasty, filling and convenient. Even if it would look a bit shit on Instagram. And because this post is about keeping it real, all photos are genuine phone snaps from half eight in the morning. You're welcome.
This fail-safe has been with me 2012 and it's not going anywhere. I like my toast with spread and Tesco-brand Marmite (sticking it to the big man at Unilever, y'all).
Sounds a bit fancier than it is. The evening before I grab a mason jar because I'm a recovering hipster, and fill it with almond milk, soya yogurt, chia seeds, oats, maple syrup (sometimes golden syrup because it's cheaper) and vanilla essence. Sometimes I add banana and coco nibs when I'm feeling fancy/happen to have them in the cupboard. I work using the measurement suggested in these recipes.
One vitamin that can be limited in a vegan diet is B12 and one of the few sources is fortified cereals. So I usually have a cereal box popping about my cupboard. I can't say I'm particularly brand-loyal when it comes to cereal and I usually buy what is on special offer (pro vegan tip though: ASDA own brand coco pops are vegan). Splash with almond milk and drizzle with some maple syrup and tada!
I usually have a bad of frozen fruit in the freezer so sometimes I'll make one up at night ready for me in the morning. Smoothies made with frozen fruit are also typically better if left to defrost a little. My favourite recipe is still this one I shared four years ago.
I don't have these for breakfast very often because I haven't got enough willpower to buy a packet of yoghurt and keep them for particular times of day. But if there's one there at 8:30am I'll take it.
No, fruit is not filling and I would never have it as a stand-alone breakfast treat. So I have it as a 'dessert' after devouring one of the above.
1 April 2017
I love my superheroes but when it comes to picking a personal favourite, it's Batgirl. Hands down. The first time I ever flicked through a Batgirl comic I was immediately taken by her balance between feisty and calm. Brainy but also good in a fight. Her redheaded-ness. And her vigilante backstory that is less I'm-a-rich-orphan-playboy-who's-parents-were-murdered and more I'm-going-to-fight-for-the-better-good-because-its-the-right-thing. (Internet nerds: I know Barbara Gordon isn't the only Batgirl, but she was the first one I became familiar with so pipe it down).
Obviously I am overjoyed at the news that Batgirl is getting her own film, with Joss Whedon at the helm (did I mention that I'm also a Buffy fan? Oh, I did...very recently). The announcement did take me by surprise because - despite personally being a big fan - I didn't think she was lucrative enough. I had high hopes of her showing up in another DCU film as a sidekick (I'm still not over that Jenna Malone 'surprise character') or even her own television show, but never thought someone would consider her for her own title film.
Which is why the nerves are kicking in a little. Will it be given the budget to compete with Avengers or Wonder Woman? Is she mainstream enough already or would it have been smarter for her to have a cameo elsewhere first? As with all film adaptions of our favourite comics and books: will they do it justice?
We'll have to wait and see, but in the mean time here are my hopes for the film. Are you listening Whedeon?
1. Joss Whedon employs female crew members
While Joss is very talented and I appreciate how many strong female characters he has created for the big and small screens, it's not enough. It doesn't fix the underlying problem of why there's a lack of strong female characters (answer: film execs are still mostly men). If Joss really is as much of an alley as he claims he'll be using his clout in the industry (and give up his own privilege) to discover and mentor talented young female directors/runners/script writers/special effects wizards/costume designers.
2. Gail Simone
On that note - wouldn't it be amazing to have the super talented Batgirl writer Gail Simone involved?
3. Feminist metaphors and undertones
One of the reasons why it's important Joss hires women to work with is to call him out and prevent any faux-pas (which all alleys do from time to time). Batgirl has always been a firm feminist favourite thanks to her intelligence and practical costume choices, so to not have a girl-power undertone would be out of place.
4. Stephanie Brown and Oracle
I know this will never happen as Barbara Gordon is the version of Batgirl most people are familiar with, but I love Stephanie pulling on the mask while Barbara is the brains behind the missions. While shooting Barbara in her back (while naked! as a plot device to hurt her dad!) was an absolutely ridiculous decision, the writers did what they could with the situation and created something amazing from something so shitty. Barbara Gordon/Oracle became one of the best representations of a wheelchair user in comics (and pop culture in general). It would be great to see this replicated for the big screen (or a TV show).
5. Black Canary
I think we can safely say that Birds of Prey isn't on the table (boo!) but Black Canary regularly pops up in Batgirl comics and she's one of my favourite non-central characters. She's currently on the TV show Arrow so has received some mainstream attention - maybe it's time for some more?
6. Dick Grayson
While the writers need to ensure that they don't make Barbara nothing more than a man's love interest, she and Dick Grayson are one of my favourite comic love stories. While their romance is on/off, whenever they share comic scenes I just feel it. I ship them like a teenager (so does Tumblr).
7. Alysia Yeoh
As Barbara Gordon's best friend in the New 52 incarnation, it would be difficult to not include her. As the first trans-gendered character in a mainstream comic, her inclusion would break new grounds and would be a great opportunity for a trans actress.
8. A Gotham City Sirens cameo
If there's an upcoming film where a Batgirl teaser cameo would make sense...it's the Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwomen mash-up. It would introduce her to a wider audience and we'd get a first glimpse of her, without it feeling forced.
9. Emma Stone
With some dubious casting choices recently made in the DCU, it's time fans were listened to. Emma Stone has been a top choice long before Batgirl was announced and I can picture her in the role. Though there are already rumours Lindsey Morgan will play her.
10. Suitable for teens (and maybe children)
The DCU has been a bit dark so far, and maybe its time to lighten it up a bit. If Whedon goes down a Batgirl of Burnside route then it could open the universe up to a younger audience. Even if he goes for a different incarnation of the character, she is a younger member of the Bat-family so a teenage-aimed film could totally work. It would be nice to have a superhero film that parents can actually take their kids along to without being traumatised.
11. That it's actually good
As a massive fan of Batgirl, I have a vested interest in this film doing well. But that's not the only reason. Female superheros aren't taken nearly as seriously and many internet nerds dismiss female superhero films - even before they're released. While female superheroes shouldn't have to prove themselves, they do - and it's not cool.
Plus I'm a DC girl at my very core and I think I speak for all fans when I say the DCU needs a film that can recapture the awesomeness of The Dark Knight. Not another Zack Snyder shitstorm.
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