Photo courtesy of Kait Smith (left) and Sara Bulhoes (right).
The self-funded venture Glass House Cosmetics, born in Woodstock, Ontario, was initially just a side hustle for criminal paralegal Kait Smith and salon owner Sara Bulhoes, who took the chance to do more with the beauty business during the pandemic. Soon after the launch of their first product, a luxury lip gloss, it became apparent from a speedy sell-out that their hustle should not be a side one. Next, they ventured into blushes, mascaras, and other cosmetic products, managing to gain shelf space in retail outlets all over Southwestern Ontario.
Smith chatted with Elixuer about her and Bulhoes’ entrepreneurial experience, how Glass House Cosmetics is a brand helping women simplify their beauty practices, and how the brand strives to be environmentally and socially conscious while standing out in the market.
Tell us a little bit about the partnering and founding experience for you.
The underlying dynamic of this business endeavour, in a nutshell, was the desire to be busy and creative during the pandemic. We were both suffering during the first pandemic lockdown in different ways — Sara’s salon was closed without any re-opening date in sight, and I found myself working my very demanding job from home, with a six-month-old baby and a six-year-old who needed homeschooling.
It was a sweet escape and a positive ray of light in an otherwise stressful time. We started out as just lip glosses, and it naturally grew from there after our four original glosses sold out almost instantly. We realized quickly we had something that there was a big demand for. Since then, we’ve expanded into additional products — everything from blushes to mascaras and much more.
What are the ways in which Glass House Cosmetics hopes to “uncomplicate” beauty regimens for women?
We have tried to approach this model in two ways: the first being, you don’t have to be a make-up artist to apply these products and look good. Half the time, I don’t even use brushes. The collection for the face is very straightforward and can be spiced up easily just by switching up lip colours. The inspiration for Glass House Cosmetics was luxury lip glosses and lipsticks.
The second part of our business model is to take the stress out of make-up selection and application. We make ourselves personally available to our customers for virtual consults and colour matching. We will often chat with customers about their concerns, their needs, and will work to put something together for them that makes them feel incredible, all while working within their budget. We’re striving to make it a personal and pleasant experience.
In hopes of marketing to a socially and environmentally conscious audience, brands now need to tick all the boxes. How does Glass House Cosmetics hope to be safe and sustainable?
As someone who has suffered from persistent cystic acne for the better part of a decade, I am extremely careful about what I put on my face and body. I was so cautious even during our sampling and selection process because I was terrified of breaking out, so it was important that we got it just right. I think more people struggle with skin concerns than we are led to believe. Not only did the products have to perform well, [but] they had to make our skin happy.
You’ll notice the shelf life of our products is on the lower end in comparison to other products on the market. This is because they are formulated without preservatives, which can be harmful to our skin and the environment. We also ensure all our packaging is recyclable, and we opt to eliminate unnecessary packaging. You will note certain things do not come in boxes or plastic wrap, and this is why. We knew from day one that we wanted to [be] Canadian-made, vegan, and hypoallergenic, and we work every day to make sure that remains at the forefront of our products.
Given that you are the first southwestern Ontario makeup brand, how does it help you stand out in the beauty market?
I know there are other brands that exist out there — we find that they are mostly associated with salons/spas, although I am sure some are independent as well. We know there’s always going to be other companies or brands in the market offering similar products; however, what makes us stand out is the product quality, the brand experience, and the fact that we’re relatable.
We are working mothers, wives, sisters, and friends. We’re transparent about our lives, and we tend to be very active on socials. We make ourselves available to interact personally with customers because we genuinely care about them and want them to be happy with the products they purchase from us.
We also stand out because we are actually creating opportunities for enhanced revenue for stylists and estheticians or boutique owners by offering very affordable wholesale opportunities. This model gives beauty industry workers the chance to carry our products in their salon or store, which not only look great on their shelves, but they get to earn additional income too.
Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer