Trini Udal: from fashion guru to founder of the beauty empire


The woman, once known for her tendency to grab the breasts of candidates for fashion change on television, stands in her office, describing the importance of her company’s new enterprise resource planning or ERP software.

Placing local distribution in important markets such as Australia is one of the points of this year’s growth plans of Trinny London, the brand founded by Trinny Woodall. Her long-standing partnership with Susanna Constantine on the BBC Transformation Show What not to wearwhich aired between 2001-2007, has become a television phenomenon.

The demanding look and very practical style that Woodall, 57, once brought to the fashion choices and fitting bras of thousands of women, is now used in the first-class makeup brand she founded in 2017. The range is sold almost exclusively online, directly to the user of the company.

Honestly, you would forgive Trini, the CEO, for being “above” everyone who talks about Trini, the tits-grabbing TV presenter.

But she takes it step by step: “I think careers go in cycles, except when you finally find your entrepreneurship. . . I was 10 years old, 10 years old, 10 years old. . . and then I had, I’m ready. . . and that was when I was 50. So all the things I did before somehow gave me a sense of what I could bring to the table when I started Trinny London. ”

Sarah-Jane Udol – Trini was a childhood nickname she kept – she always had an entrepreneurial streak. From washing and ironing shirts for £ 1 at a time during her A-level, to selling socks during an unfortunate period as an assistant in the City after following her father in finance: “I didn’t like it. And he was very male-dominated. . .[it] went down very fast. “

There was a period of rehabilitation for alcohol and cocaine addiction before a column in a newspaper with Constantine led to television broadcasts and changes around the world. The couple’s Ready2Shop.com fashion advice business started in the last frantic months of the first dotcom boom before ending in 2001. Riding their idea – to collect data from tens of thousands of women of interest to big companies – took more time than the market remained hot.

Still, there were leadership lessons from that failure. “Trust your instincts more,” she says. “Raising too much money too fast because it was incredibly easy to raise money. There were two meetings and you had them.

When it comes to Trinny London, which uses Match2Me, an online tool for assembling flower pots with face, eye and lip color to suit the client’s complexion, Woodall sticks to both of the things he learned from his first experience. as an entrepreneur. First, to trust myself: “The principle was very firm in my mind from the beginning: that I wanted to make personalized makeup for women and I wanted the target market to be 35+. I wanted to make cream-based products and I wanted that to be first class. ”

As for finances, the business started with two interns who considered a brainstorming and money raised by the godfather of Woodall’s daughter and a mother from the school’s gates who worked in the cosmetics industry. The original stories of the evolution or personalization of products created for the first time around the kitchen table are mirrored in the “cupboard bank” in her home, where Woodall has information sheets to keep track of today: “I have all the figures on this board business. . . month by month, what we started, what are the figures and then for the current year what we will do. . . I really like the visualization. “

Woodall was still experimenting with colors and transforming women in his bathroom as research into his Match2Me algorithm when the money ran out. “I literally thought, ‘What do I have in my house?'” Udal says. “So I just sold all the clothes I had.”

After decades of compulsively buying clothes (her version of dry January is “January is not spent”), two sales have led to around £ 60,000.

“And now I have a bunch of clothes. You’re probably thinking, “Jesus Christ, I saw her kill.”

Choosing a wardrobe is just one thing you can see how Woodall does on the internet. At a Trinny London pop event in New York, her attraction was that two women flew from Chicago to meet the woman they first saw on Instagram, using a closed-door dog diaper to paint their lashes. . In a recent post (with taste) was her wax mask in the middle of her bikini, while others were wrapping gifts in the background.

Vigorous content on its personal and corporate social media channels, with millions of followers, is an integral part of the brand’s success. And what you see is what you get: “I’m pretty consistent,” Woodall says. “I’ve been in the tooth for a long time and I’m used to the skin I’m in. . . The Instagram Trinny you see is the person I’m in the office for. “

There are impromptu moments of Trini. But most of her health, beauty and fashion productions are carefully coordinated and shot in one day each week. “It’s about how you make that feeling ultimately organic. And I think that requires a lot of work, ”says Woodall. “On social media, we are making a plan that is two months in advance. . . we have stories for all days. The amount of content we produce as a company is probably 10 times more than any other beauty brand. ”

For Woodall, “this is actually a daily market research.” The brand receives thousands of comments and direct messages per day. “I will sit in the toilet every day for lunch [and read the feedback] and I’ll do a little in the morning when I wake up. . . what do you think how do they feel That tells me so much and they know so much. ”

No more than Trinny Tribe – loyal fans of the brand, which now numbers 100,000 women in 16 countries; a social media network that is carefully nurtured.

So much for the doubts expressed by some potential investors in the male-dominated venture capital world when Woodall was raising funds before being backed by Unilever Ventures.

“I remember one particular VC saying, ‘You got the demographics wrong, you have to be millennials, or it won’t work.’ And I said, “You don’t believe there are women online who are the women I’m talking to. They just don’t have anything to meet their needs right now, so they don’t buy. “

Woodall raised just £ 7 million in funding, including a small circle when the pandemic panic struck and the world closed. In fact, it boosted the business. He redeployed staff to make virtual meetings online. “On the first day we had 3,000 booked. . . what I call our sleeping client came to buy. ”

Sales tripled to £ 44 million in the year to March 2021. The brand has already generated more than £ 100 million in start-up revenue, is growing rapidly and has a gross margin of 60-65 percent.

Woodall will not talk about evaluation, but avoids comparisons with other makeup brands, such as Millennial-focused Glossier. “If we were just that [make-up and beauty] as a business, I would say yes. But we will not be just that as a business, “she said.

Trinny London will launch next month in a new area, with hectic online speculation suggesting it could be hair and skin care, clothing, lingerie, bags or even physical stores.

Three questions about Trini Udol

Who is your leadership hero?

Chrissy Rocker, founder of The White Company. She is a truly inspiring business lady. Having grown the family business into a world leader and a name for all things “home”, she perfectly combines leadership, motherhood, femininity and strength.

If you weren’t a CEO / leader, what would you be?

Transformation expert or therapist.

What was the first leadership lesson you learned?

That I don’t have all the answers and now I have people on the team who know more than me in a field and realize what a relief and support it really is, as opposed to creating difficulties that I don’t do, know everything!

“I knew I wanted to have five verticals,” said Woodall, who is already working on his third start. “I told venture capital that. . . we will start with that, but we will be a personalized platform for women to find what they need and get emotional support in the way they get it. “

Plans for this year include a boost in the US – and more hiring. The number of employees doubled during the first blockade in the UK to 200. As it grows, Woodall is concerned about keeping everyone connected to the brand – which is what it means to it.

She spent an hour remotely with each new carpenter in conclusion. When Covid allows, she walks around the office, run by her assistant Louise, to find those she hasn’t met in person. “I make a lot of big calls on Zoom, but I want them to feel that I really know who they are.”

It’s too early to think about leaving the business, says Udal, where she still has “the majority for quite some time.” But the prospect of a future salary is one of the markers of success: “It’s money to some extent because I don’t own my home and I’m 57 years old. And I want to own my own home, ”says Udal. “It simply came to our notice then. This is a great motivation. I spent a long time growing up in myself. ”

Udal, who struggled in the rigid male environment of the City, is clearly enjoying her young, mostly female team and her symbiotic relationship with the Trini tribe. “The excitement I got from what I did before [in makeovers] it changed the woman in how she felt. . . there is nothing that gives me more pleasure. . . women to say “because of Trini London” or “because of this thing I watched, I feel it for myself.” . . that’s deeply satisfying. “

Her next development, as an entrepreneur and boss, “is not to be so much in the weeds, because when you start a company in the first few years, you are in every detail.”

However, you are left with the impression that giving up control over the details is simply not a scary thing.



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