Q&A: Brendan McDowell, founder of BPerfect Cosmetics
Founded by Brendan McDowell in Belfast in 2012, BPerfect Cosmetics now has an award-winning product range that is loved by celebrities, makeup artists and customers alike.
Here we chat to McDowell about the secrets of his success, plans for future expansion, and his part in the upcoming BBC Three programme Made Up in Belfast, which follows the BPerfect team in a behind-the-scenes reality show on the beauty industry.
Tell us a bit about your background prior to setting up BPerfect Cosmetics?
I worked in sales and my most recent job was for Living Social. This was a daily deals website, similar to Groupon, where I worked with a lot of beauty salons. At the time, I noticed a gap in the market for a good eyebrow product.
What inspired you to establish the business?
My dad. Unfortunately, at the age of 43, my dad passed away. During the last three years of his life, he stopped his career as a builder and created his own business. I’ve always worked in sales and have succeeded in being the top seller in most companies, so I was inspired to stop working and selling for other people and start selling for myself.
What’s been the main challenge in getting to where you are today?
Knowing when and how to add structure through growth. Every so often we’ve had a department break due to the level of growth, and for the company to succeed we needed to hire the right people at the right time to overcome the problems. For example, three years ago, our operations broke down because we didn’t have the right skill set for our warehouse.
Can you tell us about your product range and what makes it special?
We’ve developed real, luxury make-up at an affordable price which is definitely one of our selling points. Additionally, we’ve worked with a lot of key influential make-up artists to help create products that are bang on trend.
As well as selling online, you now have nine stores in places like Belfast, Dublin and Glasgow. Do you have plans for any more openings?
We have four stores in Northern Ireland and some in Southern Ireland as well Glasgow, but what we really want next is stores in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Work is currently underway on this and I’m actually going to visit units in Liverpool and Manchester next week, so hopefully we’ll be able to open two/three stores in England by Christmas.
You have a cult status with celebrities and social media influencers. How has this been achieved?
Our cult status with celebrities was mainly organic. For example, when we launched the carnival palette with Stacey Marie, a lot of the big YouTubers in America (i.e. Jeffrey Star), had all organically started using the product. I think when people started seeing these stars using BPerfect, it helped us get the products into the hands of more people. At the time, we were one of the first brands that had developed a really high pigmented colour palette and, due to the collaboration, it went viral over YouTube which was brilliant for us.
Who is your typical customer and how do you keep them engaged?
Our typical customers now are TikTokers who love and absorb learning online. We keep them engaged by posting educational content that brings them back to learn more. TikTok has blown up over the last few years and we’ve used that to our advantage for sure.
BPerfect Cosmetics has recently embarked on collaborations with Love Island winner Ekin Su Cülcüloğlu. Who else have your worked with and how have collaborations contributed to the company’s success?
We also have a tanning range where we worked with Jac Jossa and then we have the globally successful carnival palettes with Stacey Marie. Collaborations have been a huge part of the company as they have helped us develop the brand over the years.
We hear you and BPerfect Cosmetics will be starring in a new BBC 3 reality series called Made Up in Belfast. Can you tell us more about that and how it came about?
Yes, we have the TV show is coming out and it’s very exciting! What we’ve done is create a make-up UK version of Selling Sunset, however, there’s less drama and more banter. We’ve kept it really upbeat and fun with some great one liners. It’s following myself and eight of the team and you’ll have an insight into our personal and work lives. So, you’ll get to see the hard work we put in but also the fun we have throughout, alongside how we juggle our personal lives.
Have you got any predictions for future trends or opportunities in the beauty sector?
From the research we’ve been conducting, fuller and heavier make-up is coming back in, meaning fuller coverage and heavier eyes. Pre-covid, it used to be more minimalistic, but after two to three years of this, we think fuller coverage and heavier eye make-up is set to make a return.