Q&A: Charlene Flanagan, co-founder of Ella & Jo Cosmetics
Ella & Jo Cosmetics is an award-winning Irish skincare brand created by skin and makeup experts Charlene Flanagan and Niamh Ryan. Here we talk to Flanagan about the philosophy behind the brand, upcoming beauty trends, and the company’s plans for world domination!
When did you establish Ella & Jo Cosmetics and why?
We established the business in 2016 and launched our first product, the Squeaky Clean Brush Cleanser, in 2017. Our innovative formula cleans, antibacterialises, and dries brushes, making them ready to reuse in minutes, without the need for water.
There are more bacteria on a used, dirty makeup brush than on a toilet seat. There is also a huge connection between blemishes and congested skin and not cleaning makeup brushes regularly.
It was always the elephant in the room when Niamh would have skin consultations with clients. The statistics showed that 89% of people did not clean their makeup brushes regularly enough, mainly because the process took too long. That’s where the journey started, and Squeaky Clean continues to be one of the leading makeup brush cleaners on the market.
What’s the philosophy behind the brand?
We have core values as a brand, including community, innovation, growth, care and fun. We always act in an ethical way towards our customers and each other, even if it’s not convenient or beneficial for us. We ensure that our customers are always respected. We stay ahead of the trends, using research, results, and feedback to continue developing must-have skincare solutions. We maintain a consistent passion for developing ourselves, our community, our products, our global reach, and lastly, compassion is at the core of everything we do. This extends from our ingredients to our planet, to our community, and to our customers. We do the kindest thing because we believe in it.
What makes Ella & Jo special?
The customer is at the forefront of everything we are and do. Our mission is to help them find confidence in their skin, to put the fun back into skincare routines and to deliver amazing results.
What have been your biggest challenges over the years?
The industry has undergone significant changes, with price and capacity being major factors. Many ingredients and packaging materials have been subject to shorter lead times, which can lead to a situation where a formulation or component is approved and passes testing, only to suddenly become unavailable. This, in turn, causes delays in product launches and puts pressure on the forecast. The quality of the Irish cosmetics industry is incredible. Though we’ve sampled products multiple times across the world, including in Italy, Korea, US, France and all the international powerhouses in the cosmetics industry, nothing has compared to the quality of Irish products.
How do you build loyalty amongst your customers?
We pride ourselves on having a fantastic customer service team. As co-founders, we are also the faces of the brand, and we have direct contact with queries and customers through our social media channels. We have the customers engaged at all stages of our product development processes and have real women reviewers who get to trial new products before they hit the market. Additionally, we offer a VIP programme that provides exclusive offers, access, and conversations. Of course, we also reward our VIP customers through various online activities.
You state that you are a skincare brand that sells self-care and empowerment to women. Can you explain more about that?
We believe you shouldn’t feel bad about your wrinkles. Your changing looks are a reminder of the gift of life you’ve been blessed with for years! Internal and self-development work and awareness are important to both of us. We understand that feeling happy has nothing to do with having perfectly smooth, youthful skin. Nobody reaches Nirvana, finds inner peace, or achieves self-realisation once they have wrinkle-free, glowing skin. That’s not a reliable source of endorphins. Base your happiness on things like being alive, breathing, and having friends and family around. That’s when you start to feel differently, and people notice it but can’t quite put a finger on it.
We always incorporate elements of breathwork, mindful moments, and various self-care practices into our product launches, communication and content creation, and we collaborate with individuals who share the same values.
What has been the impact of social media on the beauty market?
It has been an incredible asset to our brand and allows us to project our mission and values on a global scale. Whereas once traditional marketing and only retail-based sales channels would limit a business’s growth, social media allows us to express our creativity, lets our brand voice shine through, and lets everyone see the joy that Ella & Jo can bring into their day.
Your products are currently sold through the Ella & Jo website and in selected pharmacies in Ireland. How do you see the business developing in the future?
Global domination, LOL! We are collaborating with some incredible people from around the world. We know we have amazing products, incredible repeat rates, and customer feedback that constantly blows us away. So, we want the world to know that Irish skincare offers quality and a unique experience, making it the next best step in their skincare routine. Our products have so many amazing benefits, injecting fun back into your skincare routine while also being mindful of the planet. We care about our sourcing and incorporate natural ingredients wherever possible.
Can you give us any insight into upcoming beauty trends for 2024?
Wellbeing and positive beauty aren’t going anywhere, and thankfully so. It has been our ethos since the beginning, and we are so glad to see it naturally taking effect in the industry. Ingredients such as Bakuchiol, which is an alternative to retinol and is included in our Relax and Renew Night Cream, will be very popular. Niacinamide was the ingredient of 2023, and again, it’s going to be huge; you’ll find this in our Hydrating Hyaluronic Serum and our facial treatment, The Miracle Mask.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for Ella & Jo over the next few years?
We are focusing on international markets and growing the brand on a global scale. As an Enterprise Ireland client, we have incredible access to numerous markets, so the opportunities are endless. Roll on global domination!
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