Kaitlin Smith – On Her Journey of Sustainable Beauty

Date

Spring 2024

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The spread of the coronavirus challenged entrepreneurs to meet new business needs. As small businesses prepared to close down amid the ever-raging virus, others were inspired to open. This was the case for Kaitlin Smith and her partner Sara Bulhoes, who founded the self-funded venture Glass House Cosmetics in Woodstock, Ontario. 

As a group of women working towards the goal of enhancing the concept of clean beauty products, Smith and Bulhoes wanted to cater to the local community in Ontario and the rest of Canada. They founded Glass House Cosmetics, a joint venture partnership that enabled them to explore their passion for beauty.

Both Smith and Bulhoes have full-time jobs. Smith is a paralegal, and Bulhoes is a full-time hairstylist and salon owner, each bringing their passion and talent for beauty to launch their joint partnership. 

Glass House Cosmetics’ motto is to encourage women to put their best face forward, no matter what life throws. The concept behind the name originates from the famous saying that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Hence the name Glass House Cosmetics, which encapsulates the idea of taking risks, being bold and rebellious.

The company sells clean beauty products, an umbrella term used to describe cosmetics and skin care products free from harmful chemicals. Their idea was to first create lip glosses in a fresh, creative, and innovative way and sell them in the small town of Woodstock, Ontario. The need to introduce something new to the local community quickly gained traction and catapulted into a venture that now aims to expand into new markets beyond Canada. 

After launching their first lip gloss and seeing it immediately sell out, they ventured into other beauty products, which include an entire collection of products like blushes, foundations, bronzers, mascaras, and much more. 

Currently, Glass House Cosmetics is evolving by the day, uniquely selling an exclusive mix of clean cosmetics and botanical skin care products in outlets all over Ontario. Smith spoke to Elixuer about her entrepreneurial experience co-founding Glass House Cosmetics, recommending beauty products from their collection, and provided helpful tips for women seeking to start a business in the beauty industry. 

Can you tell us about Glass House Cosmetics? When did you first establish the company?

Glass House Cosmetics and Glass House Beauty is a female founded and self-funded “clean” (by definition) cosmetics and skincare that takes a small batch and botanical approach to makeup application and skin wellness. It’s ideal for people struggling with sensitive and acne-prone skin. I personally have very sensitive skin, so I am the “guinea pig,” so to speak. Nothing gets added to the collection without being personally tested on us for several months. The idea was born in 2020 during the notorious first pandemic lockdown.

How did you come up with the concept of Glass House Cosmetics?

The concept came from the need to be creative and productive in the midst of the pandemic lockdowns. Sara my partner and I were both struggling with the lockdown for different reasons. We came up with this idea to start a fun and trendy line of lip glosses and lipsticks. The concept evolved over time into what Glass House is today. We never planned or expected it to expand the way it has. We weren’t dreaming big; we just wanted to have fun with it.

What made you delve into the beauty industry?

Sara has been making moves in the beauty industry in her career for over a decade. She owns her own hair studio and does education and mentoring for aspiring stylists. She is so well connected in the beauty industry. I approach the industry from a consumer standpoint. We are both creative people by nature, so the idea not only felt fun and exciting, but was also something that could be a success given our complementary strengths.

What advice would you give women looking to start a business in the beauty industry?

A social media presence is everything, start there and make it a reflection of your brand and who you are as a person. Actually, connect with your customers and create friendships and trust with them. “Knock on doors” and ask people to try or retail your products, don’t be shy. You have to put yourself out there; otherwise, the answer will always be “no.” Be authentic! 

What products from your collection would you recommend to women?

Everything! But if I could only pick one, our BB Cream. It’s our best-selling product month after month. One hundred percent of our customers who have purchased it once purchased it again (thank Shopify for the analytics). It’s so light and airy it makes skin look dewy, even, and healthy. It doesn’t clog pores; it’s hydrating, and it has some SPF in it. It’s absolutely a staple for everyone, whether their makeup routine consists of the bare minimum or full glam.

How does Glass House Cosmetics aim 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 process and selection because I was terrified of breaking out. More people struggle with skin concerns than we are led to believe. Not only do our products have to perform well but they also have to make the skin happy.

You’ll notice that the shelf life of our products is on the lower end in comparison to others on the market. This is because they are formulated without preservatives, which can be harmful to the skin and environment. 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. 

What are you most proud of when you think about your company?

I am so proud of Sara and I for how far we have come in this business, but also as people. This brand was born in a very dark time for humanity, almost three years ago. We’ve managed to turn it into something successful, beautiful, and fun. Our friendship has become stronger as a result. We work effectively and harmoniously together, and that really shows. We recently turned down an offer from a pretty well-known retailer because their offer did not align with our core values and the value we place on our brand. I was proud of that because it would have been so easy to accept the offer just for some exposure. I’m proud of us for holding out for the right brand partnership(s).

What are your goals for the future? Where do you see Glass House Cosmetics in five years? 

I would be absolutely elated to keep the momentum we have now. I would love the opportunity to wholesale to more salons and clothing boutiques. It would be amazing if we came across a brand or retailer partnership that aligns with our values and goals. The sky is the limit! At the end of the day, if we can keep this business alive and thriving in addition to our full-time careers, and we are still having fun doing it, that’s a win for me!

David Messiha | Staff Writer 

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