When it comes to beauty magnates, in Australia, they don't come much more spot-on than Kirsten Carrioll.
As the founder of Lanolips, Kirsten has built a brand that is not only highly effective, but is adored by women around the world. Sold at exclusive stores including Net-A-Porter, Nordstrom and Sephora, Lano has become a global phenomenon for good reason. Australian owned and using lanolin only from Australian and New Zealand wool, tested on people (not animals), and entirely natural – Lano’s products are the safe, effective way for mothers to gain that elusive glow and soft-as-butter skin in the 2.5 minutes we have allocated to ourselves each morning. We spoke to Kirsten ahead of Lano’s exciting e-commerce store launch (shop the entire range here!) about how she’s built this remarkable brand, how she makes the juggle work with two children, and her tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us a bit about your background before starting Lanolips?
I grew up on my grandparent’s sheep farm in South Australia. This is what inspired my love of lanolin — a cruelty-free substance in sheep’s wool that keeps sheep protected from the elements. In shearing season, my grandfather (who had super rough and thick farmer’s hands) would come home with really soft hands from the lanolin in the wool. We always had lanolin lying around for all skin ailments — it’s something that was just part of my childhood. I ended up working in beauty marketing for 15 years and tried absolutely all the latest fads, but realised nothing worked as well as the lanolin that I grew up with — which is why I created LANO.
What drove you to create your own products, and your own business?
I was coming back from my honeymoon in Europe and was about to board a long-haul flight and wanted a lip balm that was actually going to keep my lips hydrated. None of the 10 I had in my handbag did the job. I remembered using lanolin as a small child on my parent’s sheep farm and my dad calling it ‘nature’s wonder moisturiser’ and thinking, ‘why am I not using lanolin?’ It was on that flight that I decided I was going to bring lanolin back.
How do you juggle your business with motherhood?
Just let go of the notion that you can do everything. Get your priorities straight, focus on those things and accept that anything that falls outside of that will be neglected (for a while at least). And attract and empower great staff, and keep them happy.
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your day to combine both work and family?
I’m fast. I like to keep mornings quick and simple and take shortcuts. I focus on giving loads of love to my children and then I want to get out of the door quickly, looking as good as possible. But first, I check my emails for urgent things from the USA from the night before (I won’t lie on that). Then, I feel I can give my full attention to my two sons, to chat to them, give them love and breakfast and pack them off for school for the day. Then it’s a rushed job to get myself ready, have a shot of coffee and then into to the office. My morning beauty regime is a cleanse with my Lano Cleansing Bar and moisturising my face and body with Lano Everywhere All-Over Multi-Cream – it’s literally 2-steps in my skincare for face and body, and it works for me. Once I’m in the office, I nail down my USA emails before 9 am, then I plan my priorities for the day. Each week I have a conference call with my USA and UK team, and every minute I have catch-ups with my Sydney team as we work in a super close-knit structure and environment. Emails are great but phone calls and verbal conversations rule when it comes to productivity and getting stuff done fast. From there – who knows! One day I could be working through the logistics of launching the brand in SEPHORA Europe, the next day it’s finalising our next campaign shoot. It’s very varied, which is exactly how I like it. I would hate each day to be a carbon copy of the other. I get bored easily and LOVE change.
What advice would you give to women hoping to start their own business?
Be passionate about what you are doing, be honest and be diligent. There have been so many tough moments; business is hard. Any business is hard. My only advice from that would be, do not start a business unless you absolutely are 100% passionate about it and know everything about it. Because if you don’t, when it gets tough, it’s the passion and the love of it that will carry you through. There are millions of lessons I’ve learnt in the last few years, not one in particular, but if I didn’t have the love for it and the passion, I could never get through. And a lesson I learnt late in business was to really listen (and take help) from people around you who know. I used to think I knew everything but there is so much knowledge around me, from my family to my husband’s family – I use it every day to lean on.
Can you explain what the beauty is behind lanolin?
- The molecular structure mimics human oils.
- It holds double its weight in moisture.
- It acts as a moisture reservoir and barrier at the same time.
- It’s natural and a renewable resource! So it’s really the number one choice for dry lips and skin.
Your products are celebrated all over the world, and are for sale everywhere from Net-A-Porter to Free People. What has been the highlight moment of your journey?
Getting my first email from a happy customer, signing the deals with Sephora, and all the genuinely personal connections with my team that I enjoy every day.
What beauty tips do you have for mothers who are looking for a quick, but effective, boost?
Do more, with less. I’m a sucker for a beauty-hack – a lip balm that doubles as a cheek tint is essential. I can’t live without Lanolips 101 Ointment, St Tropez Tanning Mousse, Tweezerman Tweezers and Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser with SPF 30.
Have you had any particularly testing moments, and how have you managed through them?
My daily business life is a series of big ups and downs every day. I’ve had to teach myself to stabilise the rollercoaster of the ride, otherwise I would go crazy with the drama of it all. To me, challenges are just another problem to solve. My biggest challenge has been balancing my time – to make sure my staff are happy, my retailers are happy, my customers are happy, my suppliers are happy, and my brand is happy.
Where do you see the future of Lanolips?
If you had asked me five years ago where I saw Lano, I’m not sure I would have been able to say SEPHORA, Net-a-Porter, Nordstrom and Bloomingdales. That would have felt too ‘big’ and yet, here we are. So, to answer, I don’t know. I just want to continue to build a cult brand that everyone from Drew Barrymore to Kaley Cuoco and Alicia Keys – to my mother and sister, love.
Do you think running a business is the ideal scenario for working parents? What are the biggest challenges and the greatest joys?
It has its positive and negatives. I don’t think there is an ideal scenario, just the one that works for you. I envy a lot of what parents have if they work for someone else. But there are lots of benefits in my position also.
Tell us about the launch of your e-commerce store - how long has this been in the works?
It’s taken two years. We have just been busy with launching in physical stores around the world that we didn’t have the time!
What have been the positives of growing as a wholesale business?
The physical access to people in corners of the world that we would never have dreamed of and that language barriers may have precluded us from online – like Poland, Greece, and Czechoslovakia for example. It has also made us take a global approach to the brand and ensure the benefits of the products and language we use to explain ourselves make sense from various cultures. It’s been a really careful and interesting learning process. One thing we know for certain – is that dry skin is universal. The way we communicate it just needs different subtleties sometimes.
What excites you about going direct to consumer?
Quite simply – opening up the pipeline to direct discussions with the people using our products. We have always had this via social media, but direct feedback after the immediate purchase will be so valuable and I’m excited to hear what people say!
What are some of the greatest learnings you’ve had about business since you launched?
Stay true to your brand strengths, and don’t try to be everything to everyone.
If we could add three things to cart, what would they be?
What are the top lessons you hope to impart on your children?
Effort trumps talent every time. Try your hardest, don’t give up, and you will succeed.
Finish this sentence … “Running a business is …”
Finish this sentence … “Motherhood is …”
The air that I breathe.