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The Spectrum Sisters - Sophie & Hannah part 1

The Spectrum Sisters - Sophie & Hannah part 1

Although a few people will already know, we thought it would be a good idea to share our story on the blog for anyone who doesn't know the story of Spectrum.

The company is now just over 3 years old, which is still so young!! It feels like Spectrum has been around forever but maybe that's because it's us two sisters working together, and we've always been best friends so it's a natural thing for us to have ended up as business partners.

We started Spectrum together for quite a few reasons. We used to work as freelancers creating online content for a few other brands which we always loved doing, and it felt like a natural move to find our own product and create a brand for ourselves. Also, we both live in Wales and our work always took us to London, and we wanted to have a job which we loved but we could do in Wales. There weren't too many options around so that was another reason to start our own business.

a couple of pics from freelance days...always behind a camera taking pictures of gorgeous girls or boys, could have been worse! Oh and twiggy my doggy always loves to watch when I'm editing pics.

Picking a product was fairly straight forward, we were funding the startup ourselves so when we costed up clothing which was our first choice it was going to be far too expensive to get off the ground, secondly we thought of jewellery, but again to get the quality that we'd want it was going to be too expensive, and then Hannah suggested makeup brushes, and we both agreed instantly as we knew there was room in the market to create something really exciting, everything at the time was really black, brown and practical without much design going into the product itself. 

We both saved up really hard for a couple of years while we were freelancing because we knew for a while we wanted to create something for ourselves. We had to save up 10k each to start the business, which was really not that much to start a product based business but still we saved everything we had to get the cash together. Luckily I could take all the website pictures and the product shots as I'm a photographer, and Han built our website and did all the graphic design so our only initial costs were the stock, setting up the accounts, shipping the products over and paying import duties and VAT. So for a startup business we were fortunate enough to be able to do the majority of the work ourselves, this is the main reason we could start Spectrum without an investor or a loan.

Our mum came up with the name, we were all sat watching TV together (probably TOWIE or MIC - we love reality TV!) We were trying to think of a good name that summed up the brand, and after some rubbish suggestions (rainbow brushes, magic makeup brushes, think pink get it) our mum came out with 'Spectrum'. We did a quick bit of googling to checkout the domain names available and decided on because it allowed us to expand the range and encourage customers to grow their collection of brushes, so we loved it!

us with our mum, or Mama Spectrum as she likes to be called now.

So we had the name, bought the domain, just had to get the product perfect. Lots of people ask how we physically started the business, with relation to suppliers, how did we find our supplier and how did we contact them, well that was thanks to google. We literally google searched makeup brush suppliers, and were taken to a database of factories where you could contact and speak to suppliers directly.

We had samples sent to us from different factories to test the brushes, we mainly gave them to our makeup artist friends from photo shoots to try and give their opinion. We knew straight away we didn't want to use animal hair, or animal products, and we wanted to be a cruelty free company, so we've always used synthetic materials in our products. We were sent brushes with animal hair too, but as well as being against what we wanted to do, they really didn't feel as good as the synthetic ones which are super soft and amazing quality. We're so proud to be PETA registered and Vegan certified as a company.

We tested and sampled for around a year, before deciding on our original pink, blue & purple colourway. We loved the bright colours and of course you can never have too much pink! More importantly, they were different and definitely stood out against the majority of other products available at the time.

Here we are at our first product party in 2014. We made the product display out of 4 IKEA shelves glued together and asked my old teachers to help so they drilled the holes the right size for the brushes for us and put some MDF on the back which we had this big sticker made for! Very DIY but it looked fab for no budget!

There wasn't any secret trick to us finding the right supplier, it came down to the samples, communication from the factories, and also costs of course. Luckily one of the suppliers let us order a small opening order of 300 of our first product, which was a 25 piece set in pink. At the time this sounded like a lot of brushes, and I think it was around 10 boxes of brushes which got delivered to my garage in Barry, South Wales, which is where the business was based for the first 2 years.

It definitely was not a case of the product being an instant sellout, we didn't hardly sell a thing for the first 6 months, and we didn't actually go full time Spectrum until January this year! We still did freelance work because we didn't start taking a wage until January as we kept all the cashflow in the business so we could keep growing and expanding it. For the first year of business we had to keep reinvesting our own money from freelancing to keep the business afloat...they say it's 2 years for a business to start becoming profitable, and it was definitely the case with us, year 3 was huge for us! We're now into year 4 and it's definitely the best year yet :)

Because we didn't have any money for marketing at all, we really did rely on social media to help spread the word about the brand, and luckily the trend for unicorns and mermaids took off not long after we started, and customers who did purchase gave the feedback that the brushes reminded them of unicorns, and we happily took that feedback and went with it.

We did a couple of trade shows in our first year, here's a pic from the very first one we did in Essex...our stand looks nothing like this now! We got this little dressing table off Gumtree and painted it ourselves in the garage, drove up in Hannah's old Honda Civic and set up ourselves, everyone else had a Range Rover and we definitely were the odd ones out! we thought the balloons made it look a bit more fancy, again with no budget we did what we could!

The shows helped us reach a larger audience and grow the brand awareness, and then about a year after we launched the original pink collection, we launched the Glam Clam, and after that point the business changed and went to the next level. More on that in part 2.


P.S the little feature pic is us the day before our first trade show in Essex, we usually celebrate anything with a glass of bubbly!


Spectrum Facts:

Spectrum is British brand.

It's always been cruelty free & vegan.

Owned by sisters Sophie & Hannah with no other investors, share holders, or parent company.

Self funded and started from Sophie's garage in Barry.

We both used to freelance as content creators, we're not makeup artists.

I still take all the creative pics for the website and shoot all our models! Hannah does the graphic design, gifs, and makes the amazing videos you've seen.

We design everything ourselves with lots of care and love, we definitely don't buy straight off the internet and put our logo on unoriginal designs!

Year 1 was slow, year 2 was better, year 3 was amazing, year 4 will be the best!