A newly-launched beauty company founded by two young Manchester entrepreneurs is now being sold to a US retail giant.
Entering the $390 billion beauty industry is never easy, but for Jenna Meek and Jess Hunt – who founded independent label REFY in Ancoats last year with no external investment – their products spoke for themselves and within only six weeks of launching, they’d grabbed the attention of one of world’s leading beauty retailers, Sephora.
And now, the brand’s first product range – a three-stage brow collection – has launched online and in 320 Sephora stores across the US and Canada this month.
This makes REFY the first Manchester-based business to achieve this feat.
Entrepreneur Jenna and beauty influencer Jess – who met on a photoshoot – saw a gap in the market for fool-proof makeup products that “enhance rather than hide natural beauty”, with no makeup artistry skills required, and it all started when Jenna noticed Jess’ extensive eyebrow routine.
“It was something ridiculous, like five different eyebrow gels, multiple brushes, and then a pomade and a pencil to do my brows every single day,” Jess said.
Jess’ loyal Instagram followers constantly asked what products she used on her brows, and so creating a streamlined brow collection made sense for the pair. They decided to bring together their skills in business and marketing to join a new wave of independent beauty brands who owe their success largely to social media thanks to highly-engaged cult followings.
REFY’s three-stage brow collection puts “simplicity at the forefront” and is designed to leave you feeling “confident and empowered” as it can be used to achieve a natural look or more exaggerated, fuller brows.
Within two months of the self-funded business’ launch at what was a turbulent time for many brands in November 2020, REFY was approached by senior buyers at Sephora.
The buyers had bought the products themselves, and were “seriously impressed”.
Jennifer Cohen – VP Makeup Merchandising at Sephora – said: “Sephora is thrilled to partner with REFY and continue bringing our clients innovative products that meet all their beauty needs.
“REFY delivers bold, powerful formulas that help promote and celebrate confidence [and] we are so excited to introduce this brand to our clients and know that it will be a wonderful addition to our assortment.”
Jenna Meek commented: “Sephora is the biggest beauty destination in the world for premium cosmetics and was the number one retailer Jess and I wanted to partner with in the US when we launched the business [as] its unconventional approach to keeping pace with the latest brands and trends makes them the most loved beauty community in the world.
“We’re super excited to bring REFY to a new audience in the US, encouraging more people to embrace their natural beauty and feel confident enough to celebrate themselves with uncomplicated, versatile products.”
When REFY first came onto the scene offering a simple way to achieve the ‘no makeup makeup’ look, consumers responded by buying over 100,000 units in the first six weeks – ensuring an entire stock sell-out on more than one occasion.
The brand also quickly captured the attention of mega-influencers such as Molly-Mae Hague, and Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson and Leigh-Anne Pinnock – who are now all loyal fans of the brand.
It’s only looking up for this Manchester business success story.
Featured Image – REFY
‘Provocative’ life insurance firm hit with advertising restrictions after using Harold Shipman picture
A life insurance company that controversially used a picture of Harold Shipman in a recent advertisement is to have all of its future marketing campaigns restricted.
Leicester-based firm DeadHappy – which is known for its strapline ‘life insurance to die for’, and has a reputation for shocking adverts – grabbed headlines last week after it used a picture of the infamous Manchester serial killer alongside the text “Life insurance: Because you never know who your doctor might be.”
The use of Shipman’s picture understandably received a barrage of backlash online, and was consistently branded “tasteless” and “disgusting” by critics.
The advert was even condemned by the families of some of Shipman’s victims.
A “popular” and “well-liked” local doctor, Shipman had been practising in Hyde for over 20 years, but went on to become Britain’s most prolific serial killer after doubts were raised over the validity of the will left by one of his patients following her death in 1998.
Shipman was eventually found guilty of killing 15 of his patients back in 2000, with his total number of victims said to be around 250.
After the advert continued to draw backlash, and a number of formal complaints were made by industry professionals, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – which is responsible for regulating the financial services industry – has now ruled that all of DeadHappy’s future adverts and marketing campaigns must be cleared by its risk carrier before being allowed to run, according to BBC News.
The FCA now states that the company “must cease to communicate any further financial promotions that have not received prior approval”, which means future adverts will need to be cleared by DeadHappy’s insurance provider, Shepherds Friendly.
On top of being hit with these restrictions, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has also said it is currently in the process of reviewing more than 50 complaints about the Harold Shipman advert.
DeadHappy has now apologised for the advert.
Addressing the FCA’s ruling, Andy Knott – founder of DeadHappy – said: “In our attempt to be provocative and make people really stop and think about their need for life insurance, we have made a mistake and for this we apologise.
“We will now go away and immediately review all of our current and future marketing campaigns to ensure we learn from this mistake.”
Shepherds Friendly says it is “committed” to its values and the advert “does not align” with them.
“Following the FCA’s restriction on DeadHappy’s activities, we are ensuring those requirements are complied with,” a Shepherds Friendly spokesperson concluded.
Featured Image – BBC
New images give sneak peak at £210m redevelopment plans for ‘eyesore’ Manchester hotel
New images giving a sneak peak at impressive £210 million plans to redevelop a Manchester city centre hotel once branded an “eyesore” have been released.
The former Renaissance Hotel is undoubtedly one of the most divisive buildings on Deansgate, was notably once labelled an “eyesore”, and had been facing demolition since 2018 – but plans were eventually unveiled to redevelop it into a part-office, part-hotel, and part-residential complex a few years back.
The brutalist structure is set for a whopping £210 million makeover, which is being overseen by Property Alliance Group and Starwood Capital.
Developers have now released a handful of new images showing what the new offices will look like.
According to redevelopment plans, the offices within the building will be spread over four floors and be around 36,000 sq ft in size.
With work expected to begin on the building by the end of next month, plans also show that there will be a communal roof terrace, a wellbeing studio, bike store, and showers with changing rooms, as well as flexible office space.
Speaking on the redevelopment plans, Alex Russell – CEO at Property Alliance Group – said the project is as “important” to the company as it is to the city of Manchester.
“It demands best-in-class for design and amenities to maximise its riverside location [and] we cannot wait to relaunch this vibrant and engaging destination for the city’s residents and visitors.”
Will Lewis, who is the founder of OBI, which is the company that’s been tasked with “bringing the commercial space to market” added that he wants to see both large and small companies rent office space within the building once redevelopment is complete.
“New build office development of this nature is unique, as it enables both large corporates seeking a self-contained HQ and SMEs to take space on a floor-by-floor basis,” he explained.