How I Got My Job: Ellen Kavanagh, Co-Founder of Waxperts

The waxing brand boss tells us how she got to where she is – and where she's going next.

Ellen Kavanagh Waxperts

Name: Ellen Kavanagh
Age: 35
From: Dublin
Job Title:  Co-founder of Waxperts
Studied: I didn’t go to third-level education; instead I did a course at Coogan Bergin when I was 25
Twitter: @Waxperts @WaxpertsEllen @WaxpertsWax

Pic credit: Naomi Gaffey

Did you always want to work in grooming?

No – when I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was totally lost, and I was 25 when I went back to college to do beauty.

What was your career path?

I worked in retail after school. I fell into it basically – my mum just got sick of me hanging around and said, “go and get a job!!!” I started in French Connection, and then was headhunted for Louis Vuitton. I adored working there. It’s left me with a very expensive obsession.

What does a typical day look like in your job?

It depends on whether I’m travelling or not. But if I’m here, it’s get up early to check and reply to any urgent emails. Faff about checking social media. Get my son – and me – ready. Drop him to crèche. Get to the office and start the day. I drop into our salon in Dún Laoghaire every day, too. My day has to done by 4.30pm so that I can pick Cooper up. Then when we get home I can catch up on anything I’ve missed. We’re doing some work in the US, so due to the time difference I could be answering emails late at night.

Mostly, though, I try to keep our evenings free from too much work – my fiancé is self employed too so he gets it. Basically I never stop working and I’m okay with that. I love it.

What challenges have you faced?

Well shortly after I opened the salon I found myself kicked out of my marriage and home. So that wasn’t ideal. But you survive! The salon opened in 2008 and grew all the way through the recession. So I’m extremely proud of that.

When we decided to launch Waxperts as a professional brand we did it all ourselves. And we’ve stayed totally self-funded with no investment or loans. Only when I read #GIRLBOSS by Sofia Amoruso did I realise what an achievement that was for us. Challenging, but totally rewarding.

What have been your career highlights so far?

Securing our UK distributors, Sweet Squared. They are the world’s number one distributor of Shellac and CND nail products. It took a year to get the deal, and they were adamant they wouldn’t take on a non nail brand. But I knew they were the right people for us so we worked hard and finally got them on board. And it’s been a huge success.

What’s the best part of your job?

Hearing from therapists and customers how happy they are with the products. Some of our stockists were ready to close and having Waxperts has saved their business and that’s amazing to hear. And it’s always great getting a tweet from someone that’s had an amazing wax and is so happy!

And the drawbacks?

Like any industry there can be cattiness but we try to just focus on our journey and our customers and let karma deal with the rest.

What do you think has been key to your success?

Honestly I think it’s because we always put our customers first. Whether it’s the salon or the wax distribution, our customer is number one. Always has been, always will be. And we’re always super positive. We’re like an Instagram motivational post! #GoTeam!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to set up their own business in Ireland?

Approach your local enterprise office (LEO) and get free advice from as many people as you can. Look into the mentor programme, Going for Growth. I can’t say enough how transformative that’s been for me. Stay positive and don’t give up. You have to really believe 100 percent in what you’re doing and stay focused on that. And dream big!

What’s the earning potential with what you’re doing – is this about love or money (or both)?

The waxing industry globally is worth billions and we totally believe that Waxperts will become the market leader in the professional waxing range in the world. More than that, though, we have training courses that we’re passionate about. We want therapists to improve their technique and for no one to get another bad wax again!

What sort of career progression are you looking at; if you’re the boss, what’s next?

That’s pretty scary, right?! Being a leader, you’ve a lot of responsibility not just for the growth of the brand but for all the people involved with it. We are expanding to different territories so hopefully by the end of 2015 we’ll be in a few more countries. And we’ve a couple of more professional products to launch too.

See Ellen’s Style CV in the August issue of STELLAR – out 15th July.