Boost My Business shines a spotlight on a start-up who've created their own range of make-up for men.
Fiona Alston spoke to Charlotte Matabaro who co-founded the male cosmetics company Mohecan with her work colleague Marc dos Reis.
Prior to its inception the pair were entirely new to the world of manufacturing cosmetics, having begun the company over a casual chat in the car.
Travelling home from town one Sunday evening, they were discussing the impending work week when Matabaro asked dos Reis what his dream job would be. He replied he’d like to own a male cosmetics range.
"That was the beginning of Mohecan," says Matabaro, "and that was three years ago. Basically, every day since then, we've been killing ourselves, trying to launch our brand."
"The whole business came out of that one trip to town," she continues. "It's insane. We didn't have a background in cosmetics, neither of us had run a company before, we were both working in recruitment."
"I think we were just crazy enough to say you know what we can do this and somehow we've ended up here, I don't know how but we're here," she says.
Initially they researched the market and built the company while they were still working full-time. They believed in their idea; the challenge was getting others to take is seriously.
"To date, that was the most stressful part - looking for a manufacturer that would take us seriously," explains Matabaro.
"We were a start-up, we were two people from Ireland, who didn't have a background in cosmetic manufacturing and didn't know what we were doing. Trying to get a foot in the door was the hardest part of this entire process."
But finally, they found a door that was open and life became extremely busy for the recruiters.
"We were having to take days off when we had to fly all over the place to the different labs and different meetings," she says.
"We were trying to start a company, manufacture a product, while holding down a nine to five job without letting anyone know what was going on. It was really stressful."
"Dos Reis worked on getting the product exactly what he was looking for, a light product that didn’t give the make-up look once applied unlike the shine and thicker appearance of women’s cosmetics.
"Men want a product that's discreet, and that can only be achieved by having a water base that doesn't have a scent or doesn't have any glitter in it so we ended up with 100% water based products - it was about an eighteen month process," says Matabaro.
"Men want to look like a better version of themselves, but they don't want it to be obvious and that's the feedback that we get. They want a discrete product that was important to Marc and he just would not settle until it was right," she says.
Of course, there was a lot more to learn about the cosmetics industry after getting the product developed but they got to grips with the regulations around testing and packaging and finally they got their products launched to market.
This year’s sales started very well for them.
"It was all happening January and February," says Matabaro. "We had achieved more sales in that period than the previous seven months and then Coronavirus hit and everything just stopped dead, it was like someone pulled the handbrake."
During lockdown sales dwindled - they are very much a niche product and with everyone stuck at home there was less demand for the feeling of a 'flawless image’ - make-up was not a priority.
The whole company has been self-funded and they are both now working full time on the business. They received a stipend when they took part in the New Frontiers programme with Enterprise Ireland but they have struggled to get any other funding for the project.
"If you are manufacturing products in the beauty space, and other people I've spoken to in this country will tell you, it is an uphill struggle, it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill," she explains.
Things are beginning to look brighter now for Mohecan. They’re due to attend their first travel retail trade show, virtually in October and have signed up with Shannon Retail Innovation.
"Joe Harvey owns that company and he's been really good at holding our hand and navigating us through this whole travel retail space. It's new to us but its something we’ve always aimed at but we didn't really know how to dip our toe in the water," says Charlotte.
The brand name is an alternative spelling of Mohican tribe which the pair studied as part of their research into male make-up.
"We came across the Mohican tribe and their history, and the men used to paint their faces before they went to war," explains Matabaro.
"And Marc joked ‘that's like any Friday night in town, isn't it? - the men painting their faces before they head downtown," she says. "We just changed the I to an E so it looks like he."