Business tips

Running a successful ethical business: Lipstick Republic

Michelle Hodgman chose her business name, Lipstick Republic, because it was feminine, powerful and community-oriented. It’s a perfect fit for her e-commerce site, which stocks cruelty-free cosmetics from a range of beauty brands previously unavailable to Australian consumers.

What was the inspiration for Lipstick Republic?

“I’ve been a make-up enthusiast since my early 20s. When I moved to Canada in 2011, I was introduced to all these brands I hadn’t heard of before. I didn’t last long overseas – about six months – and when I came home I had product withdrawal, so I decided to import a few of the brands.

“Lipstick Republic, the online site, was launched in August 2012 from my second bedroom. I transformed the room into an office and it’s now full of shelving, boxes and bubble wrap.”

How would you describe Lipstick Republic’s online offerings?

“Every product we stock is cruelty free, meaning the cosmetics haven’t been tested on animals, and some are vegan. The products are unique, with an element of craziness or colour – they’re vibrant and bright. Our beauty brands are ‘rocky’ and trendy and stand for something.”

Why did you decide to open an ethical e-commerce store?

“The concept of testing on animals is barbaric and I’m surprised it still happens in this era – it should be unheard-of and phased out. I decided to take a moral stance with Lipstick Republic by only stocking cruelty-free brands and vegan products. In the past 12 months there’s been a lot more awareness about the topic, and feedback from our customers is they love the stance that Lipstick Republic has taken. Today’s consumer is becoming a lot more interested in these issues.”

Who are Lipstick Republic’s typical customers?

“Women from 16 to their early 40s. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by our older customers – we initially thought our market would be more youth-oriented. We’ve expanded and culled product lines over time as we get to know what people want.”

How does Lipstick Republic compete with well-established online cosmetics businesses such as StrawberryNET?

“It’s a question of quality over price. Mainstream brands can sometimes be cheaper, but the majority are involved in animal testing. You can be assured that whatever product you purchase from Lipstick Republic is harm free. Plus the beauty brands are small businesses themselves. I’m a one-woman show and every comment or question is personally answered. It’s not about the numbers, but people.”

What kind of growth have you seen?

“It’s been a slow process, but Lipstick Republic is experiencing growth every day. People who order from us tend to become customers for life – they’re loyal and dedicated to what we do. I think they like being a part of something that makes a difference.”

What are your top-selling products?

“Lipstick is our most popular item by far. It’s amazing how it can transform an outfit, change a person’s self-perception or boost their confidence. Our most popular brand is Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (OCC) from New York. Its Lip Tar is hugely popular – it’s a super-pigmented lipstick in a tube that lasts all day and you can mix the shades.”

What led you to implement a SecurePay payment gateway?

“I liked the fact that it’s Australian owned and run, and is supportive of small start-up businesses. After making initial contact and establishing my business needs, the set-up process was really simple and the payment gateway integrated smoothly with my shopping cart software.”

What value does SecurePay add to your business?

“Every payment is secure – I’ve had zero fraud cases since starting with SecurePay. The customer service is great, too – I’ve had one issue in two years and it was a user problem at my end and very quickly resolved. I think it’s the most trusted payment gateway in Australia and it’s nice to deal with people locally rather than overseas.”

What are your goals for Lipstick Republic?

“I’d like to start a retail shopfront one day, bring out a range of make-up brushes and start a Lipstick Republic cosmetics line.”

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