As a group of women working towards common goals for STYLE Canada’s brand and business, we understand the value of peer support in the workplace. We decided to bring like-minded women in business together and feature them in an ongoing series: #LeadingLadies. Learn more about #LeadingLadies Kait Smith and Sara Bulhoes, their friendship and how they started Glass House Cosmetics, below!
AH: What was the inspiration behind the name, Glass House Cosmetics?
KS: When thinking of the name for GHC we wanted something unique but also meaningful. A lot of cosmetics companies have one syllable names (which are often associated with commands) – a concept we loved but knew also provided us a space to be a little different. You know the old saying,”people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”? Well, Sara and I are both admittedly “stone throwers” and a little rebellious at heart. The name to us is synonymous with being pretty and elegant, but also a little rebellious and wild.
AH: What influenced you to start a cosmetics line together, and how did you two decide on makeup as your next entrepreneurial adventure?
KS: Sara had been wanting to create makeup palettes for a while (unbeknownst to me) as part of her lifestyle/hairstyling brand “Tamed” but didn’t feel like it quite fit in – she wanted it to be its own entity. When I (Kait) approached her about wanting to start a lipgloss/lipstick company, she took that and ran with it. I approached Sara with the idea initially because I was looking for a creative outlet in what seemed like a never-ending pandemic lockdown. Sara and I had been friends for years and I knew we were like-minded in a business sense, and that she would have insights into good connections within the industry. It really just snowballed from a little idea.
AH: Both of you come from different professional backgrounds, how has that benefitted the process of creating and running Glass House Cosmetics?
KS: We really do when it comes to our professional backgrounds, but we also cross over in a lot of ways. Our responsibilities are unspoken but they just work. We have complementary strengths and weaknesses. I still have a full-time career as a criminal paralegal and Sarah is a hairstylist, owning her own salon.
Sara is the reason the collection is as beautiful and flawless as it is – she takes care of 90% of the purchasing and selection process, her connections within the industry are the reason we have such amazing suppliers who only formulate Canadian made products – it’s something we really pride ourselves in and GHC owes that to her. I make sure that the business and daily operations are flowing smoothly, taking the lead on all things administrative, promotional, legal, customer relations, and finances. If one of us is in the thick of it with work, or with our families, the other person just steps up without asking. I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s the perfect balance.
AH: What is the best part about working with your best friend?
KS: To be totally honest, Sara and I have been friends for about 15 years, but we were never at best friend status. She was (is) my hairstylist and friend, and we loved spending time together when we got together with mutual friends. We’ve definitely become closer working alongside each other and talking daily for the last year and a half. I think that was the golden ticket going into this whole thing, we liked and respected one another, but there was still that boundary where we could be completely candid and blunt without worrying that we were going to hurt the other person’s feelings because that “best friend” element wasn’t present.
AH: Your beauty brand started with lip gloss, was it always the plan to expand towards creating more makeup, such as mascara and blush etc.? And how did you come to that decision in your journey?
KS: It was not always the plan in my mind, but Sara definitely had other plans. As soon as we launched The OG four (what we affectionately refer to the first four lip glosses we created, and essentially the products that have funded this entire endeavour), she was like “Okay, let’s do palettes!” (see #2). And I was like- “great idea, let’s!”. We definitely egg each other on in that way, we’re both chock-full of ideas.
AH: Why is clean beauty important to you and your brand’s philosophy?
KS: Clean beauty is especially important to me after dealing with acne-prone skin for about 10 years. I’m a bit of a control freak, so not having control over my skin and its issues for that long was absolutely terrible. It almost feels dehumanizing, being such a social and outspoken person at heart, and having these skin issues interfere with your confidence and assertiveness. You don’t even want to know the things I’ve done or the money I’ve spent trying to find products and brands that didn’t upset my skin. Sara, being such a pioneer in the industry knew that it was clean beauty or nothing. She is blessed with nice and stable skin, she’s a lucky one! Every item found in the GHC line consists of Canadian-made, vegan and hypoallergenic products and this will always be the case for us.
AH: What are you most proud of when you think about Glass House Cosmetics?
KS: There’s a lot we are proud of, but two things stick out to me: We have an employee! It might not seem like much, but a lot of start-ups can’t or don’t hire for some time. We made it a priority to hire a young woman (Emma Searles) to assist us with all of our Social Media and marketing almost immediately – we wanted someone that could grow with us. She has taken on so many other roles and we are so thankful for her! The second thing I am most proud of is how many women have reached out to us, telling us how our brand literally pulled them out of the pandemic lockdown slump. We got them excited about makeup again, and they’ve been treating themselves and remembering to put themselves first. We’ve always believed that looking good meant feeling good and wanted to give women the tools to put themselves first before heading out to conquer the world. The psychology behind a quick makeup application or a good outfit is unbelievable!
AH: What advice would you give to someone who dreams of starting a cosmetics brand?
KS: Just do it! The time is passing anyway. In a year, or five years, the time will still have passed. So if not now, then when? Also, get clear on your goals. Be passionate and authentic. People can see right through BS. If you truly believe in your heart that your brand is the best thing since sliced bread, your customers will pick up on that and probably adopt that thinking as well. That goes for anything though, any business idea, not just cosmetics. Believe in yourself.
AH: What are your long-term goals for Glass House Cosmetics?
KS: I would love for Glass House Cosmetics to become a household name in the Canadian beauty industry. I want to be in the purses, and on the vanities of women everywhere, of all walks of life. The stay-at-home moms, the working moms, the Bachelorettes, the CEOs, Nurses, Judges, Doctors. I want something as simple as our lip gloss to remind women everywhere that they can and should strive to shatter the glass houses that try to contain them. I want it to be symbolic.
Last modified: November 18, 2022