My big idea: Ellie Carlile's beauty range byellie

The charismatic cosmetics entrepreneur on how she grows with 100% ownership
BizAge Interview Team
Ellie Carlisle

Hi Ellie! What's your elevator pitch?

Launched in 2021, byellie focuses on elevating beauty routines, with affordable products with that added element of self-care. Fast forward two years and byellie is a beloved beauty brand with a community that celebrates self-confidence. 

What does the market need? [expand on the shortcoming of the current solutions on offer, and why you offer something new]

It started during COVID-19 - I had bad skin due to stress and a breakup. I was using prescription acne medication which just made it worse, my lips were becoming cracked, sore and bleeding so I searched high and low for a solution. I found that how a product looks and how well it performs didn't necessarily go hand in hand. At the same time, with the lockdown, online I could see many other people investing in self-care and looking for products that created salon-worthy results, from facials to brow lamination, in the comfort of their own homes and in turn boosting confidence and that mind-body connection. So, starting with a standalone lip balm, we’ve expanded into other simplified products that slot easily into everyone’s day, whatever their routine making it feel as luxurious as possible – from the packaging to the aesthetics, it's a 360-degree approach to that experience - I want someone to open their box, know the products will stand out on their bathroom shelve, feel like they’ve treated themselves but it hasn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Where is the business today?  [Give us a progress report]

Everything changed after the “Brow Shape”, the response was phenomenal. The brand exploded on social media thanks to reviews and reaction videos of the products, we’ve gained over 134.3K TikTok followers, 4.4 million likes plus 16.7M views on the brand #byellie - one video demo of the “Brow Shape” gaining 23 million views on TikTok, already spotted on Selling Sunset’s Chelsea Lazkani and Kim Kardashian's MUA Ash Kohlm giving her seal of approval! The range has sold tens of thousands, with international demand from the UK, Europe and the US, turning over six figures YoY, 6 team members and a warehouse expansion. 

What made you think there was money in this?

The heart of byellie is to make our customers feel like their best selves, the sweet spot for us and our products in the market is that we sit across both those moments from sitting down in front of the mirror and getting ready for a night out with friends, slowed-down self-care routine to the on-the-go person need that 5-minute touch up during their commute. 

What's your biggest strength?

Understanding your customer is key! Make-up and skincare are so personal to everyone, although the brand is by ellie the products and lifestyle are for our customers, they’re individual experiences, pain points and needs. For example, I think it can be easy to look at a content creator and feel like you must work with them or have them try the brand, but it’s not about me it’s about the customer - it’s about being strategic and always having our customers are the forefront of our minds, do our customers even follow said content creator? Are they aligned with our brand values? 

What is the secret to making the business work?

Build a circle of like-minded entrepreneurs around you, it can be lonely building a business - when I was looking to move warehouses I found myself trying to figure out where to start and who to ask for help. I’ve often found myself wondering “Who do you ask?” or “Where’s the instruction manual?”. Culture is key - I wanted to find positive, uplifting people, and I did. I appreciate everyone’s ideas and a good workspace. I think work culture is important. I love working and I love being at work. So being around people that are enjoying their job, is important – and they’ll do it better too. At the end of the day in the beginning you doing it all and people say you can’t do it all but I think you can and you have to this way you learn so much about every aspect of your business and yes you might not be amazing at it all but you give it a good go and you quickly learn what your strengths are and your weaknesses that need work. I’m constantly researching, learning and listening to my gut. I get it so wrong sometimes but I make sure not to make the same mistake twice. 

How do you market the company?

In our fast-moving world, the beauty industry can be overcrowded by competitors and independent brands, such as byellie, could be overshadowed by larger legacy brands. We’ve spent no initial investment on influencers and ambassadors, it’s been word-of-mouth marketing and organically building our social media audiences across TikTok and Instagram - this has been crucial in the brand’s success. Our content strategy focuses on filming the products in use, UGC testimonials and tapping into viral TikTok audio clips - and the rest of the team takes huge pride in creating content that connects and engages without customers. TikTok Live & TikTok shop is changing the way young people buy beauty with many looking at it as the QVC for Gen-z, we invested a lot of time and resources into getting this right - it’s myself on TikTok Lives, it’s here I’m able to connect with our audience in real-time to increase brand recognition, build the profile and maintain visibility in the beauty and skincare space. 

What funding do you have? Is it enough?

We had no funding, and still don’t, I own 100% of the business. The initial investment was my savings of £2,000. 

Tell us about the business model

At the moment we are a D2C beauty brand, and we wanted to solidify and build our community to establish our foundations for the brand first showcasing we can stand on our own before working with retailers or influencer partnerships. With financials, I think as an entrepreneur you have to make it a priority to pay everywomen else first from staff to suppliers before paying yourself - keeping a steady cash flow is vital so you afford supplies and keep stock available. I didn't start paying myself until just over a year into the business, I kept everything within the company and paid my staff first. Making a profit and pricing is a constant learning curve, especially with external factors affecting your pricing you have to constantly forecast to ensure the growth and development are sustainable. Creating a strong trustworthy team is by far the best foundation of a company - everyone in the team should understand their role and how it fits into the bigger picture. In the beginning, I struggled to delegate, as Founder it’s something I’m working on but in the beginning, it’s you doing everything - from accounts, and marketing to packing orders so it’s important to find a team that will deliver the same love and high standard. I found delegating and having trust with employees is fundamental for business growth because it means I can give the time and attention to focus on my strengths in the business. 

What were you doing before?

From working in Harrods to health clubs, as a cleaner, lifeguard, and even with horses I dropped out of university in 2019 - then with the issues I was having with my lips, I took my life savings of £2,000, and an interest in business and brand development to test formulations and craft the holy grail lip repairing product and so the byellie lip balm was born. 

Are there any technologies you've found useful?

I would be lost without my phone - I have all my financial, social media and other apps I use for running the business on there. It’s also how I go live and film content, it enables me to quite literally run the business from my pocket and on the go. 

What is the future vision?

Part of our plan is to expand into retail across the US, UK and Europe. We also have a huge, and growing, community in the US so we will be focusing our efforts over there too. I also want to continue my own personal growth, networking and meeting other like-minded business owners. Growing byellie with new products that are just as effective and loved as the ones we sell today 

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
March 7, 2024