A CORK woman was inspired to create her own eye brow product after seeing how her sister was affected when she lost hers after going through chemotherapy.
And beauty therapist Therese O’Leary couldn’t think of anyonebetter to launch her Blinks n Brows ID Brow Kit with, than her close friend Susan O’Neill.
Both are originally from the city — Susan now lives in Douglas and Therese in Passage — and their strong friendship started over the offer of a lollipop, several thousand feet in the air, some 11 years ago.
Susan explains how she was on a flight to Portugal with her two toddlers when she realised she needed said lollipops but didn’t have any.
Therese, who she remembers as a “serene stranger”, was beside her with her own toddler and another on the way, and came to her rescue.
“We ended up in the same hotel and on the flight home and I remember writing my number with an eye pencil on a bit of paper and sending my three-year-old up the aisle to give it to her. We joke that it’s like the start of a love story!” said Susan, now mum to a 15, 13 and six year old.
Fast forward to a few years ago, and Therese’s sister was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemo. She’s now well, but it really resonated with Therese how losing her brows meant she lost some of her identity. Seeing the challenge her sister encountered and how hair loss affects women generally, especially their eyebrows, Therese decided there had to be an easy solution on the market for this problem. But having tried and tested the many brands on sale that promised perfect brows, none delivered a quick and easy solution in her mind.
So the mother of two (a 14 and 11 year old) decided to come up with it herself, and with Susan, has just launched ID Brows, which they pledge is a ‘a two-step technique that gives you perfect brows in seconds, anytime, anyplace, anywhere!’
The product is straightforward and easy to use, but the process to get it to market required the grit and determination which the pair have in buckets. Having come up with the idea and undertaken a huge amount of research, Therese completed the Greenshoots Emerging Entrepreneur programme at the Rubicon centre at CIT.
Susan got on board in February, 2017, and remembers their motivation throughout was simply to get the product to people who needed it most.
“We were doing beauty workshops and could see first-hand the difference the product could make and all that positive feedback only drove us harder. It really was a case of sheer determination,” said Susan.
“We pretty much learned everything on the job. We assumed we’d have to get it made in China, but eventually one of us asked if we should try to get it made here in Cork. We literally googled ‘plastic, manufacturing, Cork’ and came up with Ned O’Flynn Plastics, Little Island, who made a mould for us,” said Susan.
The product (which currently comes in two tones, with plans to expand the palette) is made in China but the packaging is made by a Wicklow company and the pair have worked with Cork-based design agency, Greenhouse, who they are full of praise for. They are also currently working with, and getting support from, the local Enterprise Board.
“We’ve been very lucky with all the people we’ve met on the way. The support we’ve had is unreal. It really is a wonderful thing to do business in Ireland,” said Susan.
The product is currently available online and is stocked in The Brow Bar (which has three salons) with other stockists coming on board all the time.
“The feedback we’ve been getting is so heartwarming. A friend of ours has alopecia and said she doesn’t remember not using the product. It’s that life-changing,” said Susan.
The pair already have plans to expand their product range, all the while with an emphasis on finding easy solutions to real problems.
“We’re currently working on a prototype for eyelashes which are suitable for those who have none,” said Susan.
And on top of all that the friends operate an entirely free, online service called Mission for Confidence, which is essentially a free, centralised directory for non- medical services for those going through or in the aftermath of cancer. There’s information on everything from natural skincare products and treatments; underwear; mindfulness and cancer support groups and so much more.
“We’re all about finding easy solutions to real problems and we’re just really proud to be making a difference to people who need it,” the firm friends say.
Blinks n Brows ID Brow Kit costs €44.99 from blinksnbrows. com
See missionforconfidence.com for more