June 04 2020 – Michael MacDonald
Introducing Samantha Freedman, the Beauty Editor turned Beauty Buyer.
We were recently joined live on IG by Sam talking through her career working at titles such as Grazia and Tatler, and how she transitioned to start her own beauty business; Curate Beauty, the UK’s first wholesale marketplace for indie beauty brands.
We have captured Sam's key questions here in case you missed the live....
When you left school did you study journalism, or know you wanted to work at magazines?
Absolutely not. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and like many other 18 year olds had no idea what kind of jobs were out there, apart from the general go-to’s.
I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I wasn’t sure what. So when I left school I decided to do an art foundation course and hoped that by the end of another year I’d be clearer in mind of where I wanted to go. To be honest, I wasn’t at all. I think I left my course feeling more confused. I had really bad dyslexia so for me the thought of being a writer was completely out of the question, it was only until I started learning through work experience, landing a dream internship at Vogue within the beauty department, that I knew that that was what I wanted to do.
What advice would you give other students in a similar position?
Get as much experience as possible, by trying lots of different jobs first hand, you can really understand what a role involves and help find the perfect fit. It took me a while before getting to magazines until I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I worked in advertising at Tesco, PR at beauty agency Halpern PR and in-house at Stella McCartney, until finally Vogue came about.
How did you transition from intern to your first full-time position?
It took me a year in total to land my first job. After Vogue I interned everywhere including Good Housekeeping, Grazia and Harpers Bazaar. It felt like I was never going to get a job, but luckily a position came up at Tatler as Beauty Assistant and I got it!
What did your role involve as Beauty Assistant?
It was pretty fantastic, a girls dream! I’d see the latest brands and products launching, attend events, it was the magazines centenary party when I was there, which as you can imagine was pretty fabulous. I’d write my own pages, help style shoots - including one with the brilliant Cressida Bonas and Emilia Fox- and best of all, I got the opportunity to learn more about the hierarchy in magazines and network making lots of great contacts.
Where did you go next?
After Tatler I then moved onto Stylist (which was brand new at the time!) And then over to LOOK where I worked my way up from Assistant to Editor, over a six year period. LOOK at the time (although it’s sadly closed now) was the UK’s best selling weekly fashion magazine, so as you can imagine it was a hub for inspiration, newness and exciting deliveries! When digital started to take over I decided the best thing to do was to move over, this time to Grazia.
What have some of your career highlights as a journalist been?
Travelling to the international fashion weeks, and being up close with some of the greatest models and celebrities in the world. Meeting Naomi Campbell to Bella and Gigi Hadid, has got to be a big ‘pinch-me-moment’. You get to learn so much while on the ground backstage at shows, interviewing the glam squad and picking up some of the greatest tips and tricks. I also feel honoured to have interviewed beauty and fashion icons from Jourdan Dunn to Sarah Jessica Parker. I also think the best and biggest love for the job has always been the ‘new in shelves’ in the beauty cupboard. I am after all a beauty junkie! We’d be sent hundreds - no exaggeration - of products every week and it would be our job to sort the fad from the fab and decide what to feature.
At what point did you decide to transition your career into buying?
I could see first hand the explosion of indie beauty brands come onto the scene and I was lucky enough to speak to the brand founders and hear about the triumphs, but also understand their struggles. One thing they all struggled with was finding great stockists, so I wanted to find a way to connect these inspirational brands with new retailer opportunities.
It was also at this time that department stores like Debenhams and House of Fraser were starting to close a number of their stores. Indie brands didn’t want to be featured within crowded department stores, they wanted space in independent retailers, where they could get the visibility they needed.
So I left my position at Grazia - first trialing the idea with a lot of my peers to give me the confidence to leave - then started consulting for different retailers who were looking to add a beauty category. I saw first hand the demand of these retailers wanting to add beauty, but not having the time, expertise or money to do so. I would do their buying for them and build a complimentary beauty category using my knowledge and contacts.
What sort of retailers were you woking with at this time?
I had a wide range of retailers - fashion brands, boutiques, beauty salons and fitness studios too. Anyone can simply add beauty, I think if you can get the brand match right, it can really help elevate retailers into a lifestyle space.
Tell us about how this evolved into Curate Beauty…
I met my now business partner about a year ago, Margot Vitale. Her background was in retail, working as a merchandiser at Saks Fifth Avenue, and together we decided we needed to find a way to make buying digital. The current wholesale model is antiquated and time consuming for both brands and retailers, so we set out to create - the UK’s first wholesale marketplace for indie brands. Essentially a next-generation digital tradeshow!
How does Curate Beauty work?
Retailers can make an account with us, then browse and buy across multiple different indie beauty brands, they can then checkout with them all in one transaction. We launched in February 2020 and now have over 90 brands signed up across all categories from skin tools - rollers and gua shas - to skincare - conscious and sustainable brands are a big focus for us. To sexual wellness must-haves - sustainable condoms and organic tampons, we even have crystal sex toys! Our platform should enable more retailers to branch into beauty, with limited time and resources being spent on paperwork and negotiations. I just love Bubu as a new brand to market and if they hadnt already been so well connected to many of the retailers we work with, they would of been and are a perfect fit for Curate. Independant Brands created and led by passionate entrepreneurs, have a compelling story and product mix, with no stone left overturned.
What is the best part of your job?
I love working really closely with the retailers to help them discover new brands and products they’ve been struggling to get their hands on, and I love providing these indie brands new outlets for them to reach new customers and sell their products. I definitely think my skills as a journalist have been so transferable and having seen so many brands launch, I know what makes a sellout. We’ve also partnered with a machine intelligence platform to help predict trends based on Google searches, so we can make sure we’re finding brands in thriving categories, which of course will benefit sales with our retailers too.
How can people hear more about Curate Beauty?
Please follow us on Instagram @curatebeauty, and check out our website www.curate-beauty.com, the site is blocked at points to avoid sharing too much wholesale information to customers, but we have a great blog on the site called Buyer’s Notes, which gives an insight into the brands and retailers we work with, as well as industry insights from our team.