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Home / News and Insights / Insights / Millie Kendall – Ruby & Millie

In the second article of this new monthly series, Mireille Dagger, beauty lead at BDB Pitmans, speaks with Millie Kendall, the co-founder of the eponymous makeup brand Ruby & Millie.

After Millie and co-founder, Ruby Hammer, decided to discontinue their joint brand to concentrate their efforts on other projects, Millie (amongst other things) founded the British Beauty Council in 2018 – a not-for-profit organisation that has been instrumental in championing and pushing for change in the beauty industry.

Whilst in the back of a black cab racing around London, Millie took us down memory lane, revealing how she seized the opportunity to create a first-of-its-kind beauty brand in a world before social media, and how she navigated the perils of brand protection despite a lack of sound advice.

How did you get into what you do?

With Ruby & Millie, it was accidental. Despite people thinking that my background was as a makeup artist, I was in public relations when a contact of mine at Boots told me that they were on the lookout to buy a new beauty brand. At that point in time Boots had a limited number of own brands and no existing brands were fitting the criteria that they were looking for. That was the ‘lightbulb’ moment – we were going to establish a new, exciting and entrepreneurial brand to reshape the curve to fit that bill.

From that moment, I started to organise an inventory of products needed to make a brand; I needed 12 foundations; 6 powders, the list continued – there were 365 in total. Similar to a website designer, I needed to create the framework first before I could even envisage the design or anything else.

What advice would you give to founders at the beginning of their career?

Learn to sleep standing up. Jokes aside, my advice is to have thick skin and I say that in light of how things have changed. Back when I co-founded Ruby & Millie in 1998, there was no social media as we now know it, there was no MailOnline comments forum…

Today, social media trolling and negative, often groundless reviews are rife – it takes a strong person to take what is necessary from those comments but keep their  head held high and remain positive.

In addition to that, regardless of your education and the number of contracts that you may or may not have poured over, if you are signing something, you have to read and understand its contents. You either have a responsibility to do it yourself or to engage a lawyer who can do that for you.

What do you wish you had known whilst growing your business?

I should have consulted and sought legal advice much earlier on. When Ruby and I first created the brand, the trade mark, to our ignorance, was registered in Boots’ name. To use the name ‘Ruby & Millie’, Boots granted us a licence to use our own names… instead we should have had the trade mark registered in our joint names and have licensed it to Boots. Think about that for a moment. We needed permission to use our own name…

What made the biggest impact in scaling your business?

Respect. When dealing with brands, suppliers, retailers, you will rarely be given the opportunity to engage with the people at the top. Instead, you will be dealing with the people on the ground and those in the middle. Knowing and respecting those people is vital as they really are your champions and the ones whose voices will be heard, hopefully, by the ultimate decision makers.

In her responses Millie touched on a number of areas, such as contract reviews and brand protection, which may require specialist legal support. Please feel free to get in touch with Mireille if your business is facing similar issues and you require legal assistance.

You can find out more about Mireille’s legal expertise here and by following her on Instagram at @The_Beauty_Lawyer

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