Once a fixture at Brisbane’s weekend markets, Cherry Blooms’ Jellaine Dee is now conquering global retail markets.
In 2011, Jellaine Dee attended a Sydney trade show promoting her Beauty Bag Organiser, a product she’d been selling with some success at Brisbane’s weekend markets. During some downtime, she decided to stroll around Darling Harbour.
“I’m a bit of a shopaholic and I found myself at a random Korean store that not many Westerners poke around in,” says Dee. “I came across this amazing beauty product, but the labelling wasn’t in English – and no-one in the shop could speak English.”
That didn’t deter Dee. Once home, she managed to track down the Korean factory responsible for manufacturing the beauty product. Months later – and with the addition of her own plant-based and beeswax tweaks – the Gold Coast-based entrepreneur had rebadged the product and was on the path to success. Brush On Fiber Lashes (eyelash extensions) is now the flagship item of her company, Cherry Blooms, selling in 110 outlets at prestigious US department chain Nordstrom.
The big breakthrough for Dee and Cherry Blooms came in 2013 at a Las Vegas beauty expo. Accompanied by six-month-old baby Ava, one assistant, two local make-up artists and about a dozen suitcases packed with product, Dee set up a demonstration booth offering free eyelash extensions. She not only attracted big crowds but big buyers, too.
“My first order was for over $100,000 from a Canadian distributor. It was incredible.”
“In Australia, I’d been selling to salon owners who’d buy 30 units, but here people wanted to buy in pallets. It was a different world, and I had to pretend that I was in their league,” explains Dee. “On top of that, I had very little money, so our terms were ridiculous: 100 per cent up front and a 21-day wait for the product.”
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Dee was holidaying in New York after the expo when the emails started coming through. “My first order was for over $100,000 from a Canadian distributor. It was incredible,” she says. “It just cemented the fact that I did the right thing by going to Vegas.”
The company continues to expand, courtesy of an increasing range and timely promotion (its mascara was selected for inclusion in both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards gift bags). On the back of the Nordstrom deal, Cherry Blooms’ turnover has skyrocketed from A$2.2 million in 2014-2015 to an estimated A$10 million in 2016-17.
With plans in place to launch products in other US and European chain stores, the race is now on to raise capital. The US cosmetics market is set to generate revenue exceeding US$62 billion this year, and Dee is already planning an exit strategy, buoyed by the estimated US$200 million purchase of skincare brand GlamGlow by Estée Lauder in 2014.
“We’re looking to sell for US$100 million, and our first three years of financials were more impressive than theirs [GlamGlow’s],” she says. “Our product is used by women of all ages every day and mascara will always be in a woman’s make-up kit. We’re not a niche product.”
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