A quick look on Kester Black’s website will tell you they don’t just create nail polishes.
Instead, they aim far, far higher.
In fact, Kester Black will quickly tell you they are Australia’s most ethical beauty brand. And not only do they walk the talk, they also aim to redefine the industry standard and help to support others to follow in their footsteps. Because that’s how important ethical practices are to them.
We had a chat to Anna Ross – founder of Kester Black and achiever of many, many small business & leadership awards – about why she started and why she loves what she does…
Tell us a bit about the people behind your company
I started Kester Black back in 2009 as a jewellery line after finishing my design course in NZ, and I then created 6 nail polish colours. As for a little more about me – I love cats (especially my chocolate brown Burmese!), I love yoga, and I love to travel. At Kester Black we are a team of 6, going on 7, and everyone who works for us are young & spirited. Everyone works for Kester Black as they believe in our values: to do good, to work as a team, and to care about the environment. Everyone cares about ethical practice in some way, and we have a really diverse range of personal circumstances – some are vegan; some aren’t; some are young mothers.
What inspired you to start your company and when did you start it?
After starting as a jewellery line, I learned I could change the colour of rings with acrylic colour, and quickly learned there were no ethical nail polishes on the market. I realised an ethical nail polish product was a major point of difference. I looked at ethical practices, environmental sustainability and therefore the use of natural products, and was asked whether I’d like animal products to be used in the manufacturing process. I of course said no, and quickly found out how common the use of animal products are. For example, red nail polish colour could not be created naturally without the use of animal products, so we had to consider some synthetic ingredients for ethical reasons.
What would an ‘average day in the life of’ look like for you?
I’m up at 5am, and I meditate for an hour. I check emails, shower, and then run or ride to work. We then have a morning ‘cuddle’ at work (as I like to call it, otherwise known as a team meeting!) and talk about our schedules for the day. We then move onto looking at current projects – branding, packaging and so on, or putting working on logos & colours for our new product range. We check customer enquiries, and Rose & Elena get busy packing and sending customer orders. We all then break for lunch, however I fast during the day (I started fasting earlier this year after having issues with chronic fatigue and muscle quality, and it has left me with far more energy and far greater muscle composition). In the afternoon, we are back to our computers working on projects – colour names or forecasting & planning our next products. We all finish at 5, and I then run or ride home. My partner has dinner on the table for me when I arrive, and we then don’t do too much for the rest of the night. I meditate for an hour before bed. Even if I’m out for dinner or with friends, I’ll always still fit in an hour of meditation before bed!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I really love business. I love my job, and I love my team. It is honestly a pleasure for me to come to work in the morning – we get to problem solve, we get to make pretty stuff, and we get to talk to really, really nice people as our customers are genuinely lovely.
What is your favourite product in your range?
Peace Talks – it’s a super light mauve colour. A beautiful, pastel mauve. (add link to product on Kester Black website here)
What is an interesting way of using your products that not many people would know about? Actually, not many people know how to properly apply nail polish! So here goes:
Shape the nail then wipe the nail surface with nail cleanser to remove any natural oils. Apply a thin layer of base coat. Allow to dry. Apply a thin coat of nail polish. Allow to dy. Repeat for a second coat. Finish with a top coat. Cover the tip of the nail to avoid chipping. To prolong your manicure, apply top coat to the tip of the nail every 2 days. Soak up the compliments!
What experiences lead to the values you have instilled in your company?
If you weren’t running your company, what would you be doing? I’d be building a house in NZ – in Wanaka. I’d be 2 blocks back from the lake, and running and meditating. And perhaps running a cat sanctuary! I also recently heard about a position in the Greek Islands managing a cat sanctuary, where the sanctuary manager is the only inhabitant of the island other than cats. So that’s another idea! (I love cats since getting my cat – I was previously a dog person!)
What is your favourite way of winding down and taking time out?
Meditation and yoga. I’ve meditated for years and at first found it somewhat difficult, but after really learning how to meditate I find it easy. And really indulgent!
Here at Retreat Yourself, we LOVE dreaming BIG – what is your vision for your company?
Our vision is to be a global brand leader in ethical beauty, and to also be completely open source to other brands to copy what we do. If a brand copies us, it raises the bar for ethical beauty worldwide. Before we started, there was only one other fully accredited beauty company in Australia – we feel we’ve helped to change that.
For anyone out there wanting to start their own business, what would your biggest piece of advice be?
Get your hands dirty to start with. Jump in and just do it, and feel your way through. I didn’t have a business plan – I started it because I loved it. It was a hobby first before it became a business. In planning for the launch of my second business next year I’ll use all of my learnings and we’ll do things far more efficiently, but I absolutely wouldn’t trade my experiences.
And lastly, what does a fulfilled life look like to you?
Minimal! Not being unhappy, not being happy – just being. Not attaching stories to circumstances – just being ecstatic as you are. Looking after myself & my partner, and positively affecting other people’s lives which I do through Kester Black. I feel fulfilled when I know that I don’t care about my materialistic possessions.
You can read more about Kester Black, including exactly why they are Australia’s most ethical beauty brand, at www.kesterblack.com.