When Trinny Woodall founded her skincare and makeup company Trinny London in 2017, she was often met with skepticism. But since then, she has turned it into a successful business, seeing a sales boom during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trinny London products include makeup in a wide range of shades, colors and coverage intensity, as well as skincare tailored to specific skin types and issues. An online tool helps customers pick the right products that suit them and support their skin in the best way.
Speaking to CNBC’s Tania Bryer last month, Woodall explained that she believes being an online business helped her when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“We did triple, quadruple the business during lockdown,” she explained, adding that before then, growth had been more steady.
“It was a pivotal moment,” she said. Before the pandemic, most beauty brands focused on selling their products in person, making it harder for them to adapt to selling online as they had less of a presence there, Woodall noted.
Building a brand
But it’s not just about the product — making sure it reaches the right people is also crucial, Woodall suggested.
“Building a business in today’s world in the industry I’m in is about heralding a community of women and talking in a language they understand,” she said.
One of the ways Woodall has done this is through social media, both through her own and Trinny London’s accounts and online Trinny London community groups, known as “Trinny Tribes.”
“Social media allows you to be honest and candid and bring people on a journey,” she explained.
Now, being genuine and realistic online is a key part of Trinny London’s brand and marketing strategy. This means talking about products in an unfiltered, accessible way and making sure the message matches the customer — rather than using a 20-year-old model to sell products to 35-year-olds, Woodall explained.
“We want realism, we also want aspiration. And the balance between realism and aspiration is really crucial,” she added.
The financial side
Another key part in building Trinny London was securing investors to fund the business. Data from research firm Pitchbook shows a valuation of $22.19 million in July 2018, with its most recent deal size at $36.1 million in July 2021. Forbes reported that the valuation had hit $250 million in early 2021. Data from research firm Dealroom shows the firm booked £59.8 million ($74 million) of revenue in 2021.
But marketing a female focused brand to predominantly male VCs wasn’t always easy, Woodall said.
For example, many of them would bring in their assistants or secretaries and ask them if they would buy the product, she said. Others would tell her that women in their 30s and 40s would never buy from an online focused brand, and she should target younger women instead — but eventually Woodall was successful.
“How we tell the story of what we want to build is crucial as female founders,” she told CNBC, adding that she learned to tell her story in a way that meant “people could hear what I wanted them to hear.”
She knew all the key figures and her vision inside out, she explained, but sometimes she needed to take it step by step to help others understand it in the same way.
“I wanted to bring someone in on the whole idea and sometimes you need to do chunk pieces,” Woodall said. “People can follow how you’re going to do it and then they don’t feel ‘I’m lost in this execution’,” she added.
Her biggest piece of advice for female founders however isn’t about the money, or the product. It’s about staying focused on your idea and your goals.
“If you’ve got an idea and you go out there you need to stick to your own lane,” Woodall said, adding that paying too much attention to what others are doing can be a hinderance.
“It takes away your sense of your vision and your belief in your doing what you know and you’ve woken up every morning thinking ‘I love’,” she concluded.