You might not have heard of Zoe Boikou – but if you're a make-up enthusiast you've probably used one of her best-selling make-up brushes which are stocked in Sephora stores online around the world.
Zoe had a humble upbringing, moving to German at age ten, the Greek-born beauty boss couldn't have predicted that she was about to turn the industry upside down when she launched her eBay store in 2008. After discovering a lack of high-quality, reasonably priced makeup brushes on the market, Zoe decided to take matters into her own hands and began selling make-up brushes on the popular e-store.
A decade later, ZOEVA’s collection has grown from ten brushes to hundreds of make-up products and tools, and Zoe remains as committed as ever to creating quality products at a reasonable price and helping women around the world celebrate their individual beauty.
Here, the CEO and founder of ZOEVA opens up about how she turned her passion project into a multi-million dollar business.
mc: Could you tell us about how ZOEVA came to be the global brand that it is today?
ZB: "It all started in 2008. For a long time, I was looking for good quality brushes at an affordable price but I couldn’t find any and couldn’t afford the higher end ones. I realised that there needed to be something available in this area so I bought 10 brushes with no logo on them from a manufacturer directly and tested them. They were really good, so I opened an eBay shop to see how they would do. They sold out very quickly with a profit, and that was the birth of the company. I worked out of my living room for three years, doing everything from customer services to orders.
"In 2010 an Italian YouTuber bought one of my brush sets. I didn’t know because at the time I was working alone and didn’t have any time to check platforms like YouTube. She showed the set in a video and overnight the orders exploded from Italy - and I couldn’t understand why. A few days later, I found out and by this point, the video had over 200,000 views and everyone wanted the brush set. It was sold out for several weeks as I couldn’t handle the demand. That was the first take-off moment."
mc: Did you have any doubts when you first started and how did you overcome them?
ZB: "Of course. However, my family situation was challenging and to gain financial independence for my family, as the oldest child I had to dig deep, envisage the future and WILL myself to make this happen. I had to learn fast, work every hour I could and just keep going. Today, as then, I have a very strong vision and know where I want to go and you must always use this gut instinct and direction when you want to realise and achieve the dream product or business idea."
Work hard, work diligently and never, ever give up on your dream.
mc: As a female beauty boss did you ever encounter and gender bias and how did you overcome it?
ZB: "The problem with bias is that you can’t always directly put your finger on it. I do think that women and men are often much more willing to just take an unqualified direction from their male boss than from a female boss but bias can also take the form in employees too. Men and women alike—imposing higher, gendered expectations on a female boss.
Women are often expected to assume the role of caretaker in the workplace. Exhibiting nurturing characteristics can be seen as very important for a female leader, however, with men, it’s just a ‘nice to have’. At ZOEVA we educate employees about their own unconscious bias. Although this does not guarantee that attitudes will change, it does help the teams to understand their biases and to work towards eliminating them.
mc: Do you have any advice for women who might be wanting to launch their own business?
ZB: "Work hard, work diligently and never, ever give up on your dream. Read a lot and stay totally informed about your category or industry."
mc: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and why?
ZB: "Don’t wait for evolution, just evolve. I was told early in my career that there aren’t many women CEO’s and Founders in business, and that only made me want to move forward more. I knew merging purpose and beauty was the future, so I buckled down to learn everything I could about the industry."
mc: For the uninitiated, why should we invest in make-up brushes? And where’s a good place to start for someone new to that world?
"The difference that good makeup brushes can make to a beauty regime is nothing short of amazing. This is why every makeup artist in the world has a full set in their kit at all times.
"When it comes to creating flawless makeup looks, makeup brushes can completely transform the way that a product performs on your skin. A great place to start is on the feature you like to emphasise the most. For example, I am obsessed with authentic and real skin tones coming through foundation so I adore the 104 Buffer brush that perfectly gives a flawless complexion when you apply foundation with it but allows for a seamless veil so that you can still see ‘you’ through it."