Imagine if you could apply your daily mascara and give sight to someone who was blind? That’s just what beauty brand Indigo & Iris did, only they didn’t just imagine it. They did it.
Miss FQ’s digital content producer Terri Dunn spoke with millennial CEO Hannah Duder of Indigo & Iris to find out how she and business partner Bonnie Howland launched a beauty brand curing treatable blindness in the Pacific Islands.
How do you make a business partnership work?
Comms, it’s all about the comms. Like any relationship – love, business or friendship – you have to have good communication. Bonnie and I are like yang and yang in all the right ways and we talk about everything. Bonnie is actually amazing though, there are not many people in her position who could hand over the reins of their baby like she has. But I also try and give Bonnie a lot of freedom with her ideas and not just be her boss for the sake of it.
What is Indigo & Iris all about?
Indigo & Iris is a beauty brand that gives a damn. We have started with our stunning mascara called Levitate – it is honestly an incredible mascara, just as good as the top brands you already know and use. What makes our brand special is that we give a damn and we donate 50% of our profit to impact projects. Right now we are working with The Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand who cure treatable blindness – this is so cool because when you apply our mascara to your lashes, you are supporting someone to be able to see again.
Tell us about the Indigo & Iris consumer and how you arrived at your aesthetic.
We have a lot of fun with our visuals and how Indigo & Iris looks and feels. It has been really easy because we are just being ourselves, not trying to share the “right“ thing. We are a fun and honest brand and it just keeps growing, evolving and getting better. We have always looked at our consumer in a different way to traditional marketing – we don’t think “oh it’s a female aged 18 to 25, living in Ponsonby”. We think about our consumer as a person who feels a certain way, who wants more, from not just their makeup but the world.
“We think about our consumer as a person who feels a certain way, who wants more, from not just their makeup but the world.”
Obviously, they want a really good quality product if they’re spending their money on it but they also want it to be a conscious product and brand; ethical and progressive, doing cool shit in the world. We don’t exclude men from our audience, because c’mon it’s 2018 – we know by now that not just women who see the fun in makeup. Our main strategy is to create an amazing product, be ourselves and have fun; get it out there and see who likes it.
Tell us about the Levitate mascara.
When we were creating the formula we tried literally every mascara on the market, we chose our favourite three and literally would not stop until the formula was as good as the top three on the market. Levitate is a great mascara, it’s buildable, super black, easy to remove at the end of the day but it does not fail you during the day. It’s not waterproof but you can get a little sweaty or cry and it’s still beautiful. It takes a little longer to dry than some mascaras because it’s so creamy and easy to apply perfectly. Of course, it is also vegan and cruelty-free.
How did you arrive at the name Indigo & Iris?
When Bonnie was coming up with a name she wanted it to symbolically represent the ocean, something that connects us all and really inspired the brand. Indigo & Iris are both shades of bluey purple that fit beautifully together she had a gut instinct and chose it, later realising the iris reference to the eyes.
Was there something missing in the market that Indigo & Iris sought to solve through its product?
I think there is something missing in every market and its businesses using their power and influence to make a difference. There are a lot of brands making a f**k load of money and they could be doing something better with it than just filling shareholders pockets.
How important is sustainability and transparency for the brand?
Transparency is huge and easy in my opinion. Just tell the truth and let people in. Environmental sustainability is equally as important but harder. But we will always make the most sustainable choice we can. (And I am working on a tree growing mascara brush!)
Can you talk us through some of your biggest challenges so far?
Biggest challenges would be the main ones most businesses have and that’s sales. We now have to keep up sales and make sure our business is sustainable. A big learning for me is that people can talk a lot of talk but getting them to put it into action is the hard part.
What’s important to grow a business and brand?
Friendships, networks and relationships. There’s no need to be competitive and step on people as you grow. You have to love what you’re doing and love who you’re a working with and be happy. As soon as it becomes work and you lose passion you need to get out and move on.
Anything else you’d like to add or want our readers to know?
My least favourite statements: “This is how it’s always been done”; “Stick with it”; and “Man up”.