The beauty market has never been bigger — or more competitive — with new brands large and small popping up daily, all fighting for a piece of very pretty pie.
TEXT: JOSIE STEENHART
Two things set Indigo & Iris apart.
First, instead of just looking for a big investor to inject soulless cash into the start-up, founders Hannah Duder and Bonnie Howland turned to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to launch their first product, Levitate mascara.
In just 24 hours, Indigo & Iris had raised more than $12,000. Three weeks later, they were at $39,000 and, by the time the campaign closed, they’d locked in nearly $128k.
Which leads into the second point of difference, and what really makes them disruptors in the industry. What motivated such a juicy sum and generous response to what, on the surface level, was simply funding the production of yet another mascara — no matter how magical it promised to be — was that Indigo & Iris’ ongoing blueprint is to donate a huge 50 per cent of their profits to charity.
For Levitate, that charity was The Fred Hollows Foundation, which works to restore and preserve sight to those in need in the Pacific Islands.
“When Bonnie was 18 she was in Vanuatu and saw a woman’s sight being restored and how her life was changed after a surgical procedure that we wouldn’t even think twice about in New Zealand,” says Duder. “She then flew straight to Auckland and into an intern role at New Zealand Fashion Week, where she saw someone cry over the wrong colour beige shoe.”
“For me, I had studied law and business at UC [University of Canterbury] and been taught how important profit was, and the drive to make more and more of it no matter the cost. But I also studied the problems we’re facing in today’s world, with a lot of those being traced back to the normal business structure of working to fill the shareholder’s pockets, corporate greed and corruption.”
“So both Bonnie and I were driven to do something good while proving you could still do good business,” she says. “Bonnie had worked on the idea and vision for nearly two years before she asked me to come on board as CEO. I then knew we needed to raise money to get our mascaras launched, as we had a huge minimum order quantity from our Italian suppliers — they made the best mascara that was vegan, cruelty-free and high quality so we really wanted to launch with them.
“We needed to raise money to make the first order, so my mission was that. Once we had the moolah it was six months of hard work getting the website up, a product made and then boom, we launched in May 2018.
“Donating 50 per cent of our profit is not a marketing technique,” asserts Duder. “The reason we started Indigo & Iris was not because we really love make-up (although we do), it wasn’t to make a shitload of money, it was because we really want to make a positive impact in the world.”
It’s not hard to believe — giving away half your profits is no token gesture.
By the time Indigo & Iris launched their second product fundraiser in September 2019, this time to create a set of luxe lipsticks with 50 per cent of profits going to Dress For Success, the donations from Levitate had helped 300 people regain their sight.
The crowdfunded cash also means no compromises had to be made on the quality of the product either, with thorough R&D going into both products to create lush, effective formulas.
“We spent years creating Levitate, focusing on perfecting the formula, which is made with love in Italy,” says Duder. “It was a no-brainer for us to leave out the things that are not needed — no animal testing and no animal ingredients, but to definitely include the goodies like coconut oil, ingredients that ensure your mascara is safe to use near your eyes and keep it perfect all day long.”
Legitimately a case of a brand being good and doing good.