Making sustainability the foundation
This beauty brand has gone from shoestring budget to global recognition, all without losing sight of its ethical ethos.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Anna Ross would find business success. Her entrepreneurial flair surfaced when she was just 16 years old in Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island. “I wanted to go to fashion school so I created a menswear range for a local store,” says Anna, founder of sustainable beauty brand Kester Black. “I struggled at school because I’m dyslexic but I loved making things so Mum bought me a craft book and I worked through that. Fashion was great because it was tactile and I ended up with a finished product. That was exciting for me.”
After graduating from fashion school in 2009, Anna asked her mother for a business loan. “Mum said ‘absolutely not’ and that I needed to go overseas and experience the world,” says Anna. “Flights from Dunedin to Melbourne were cheap so I ended up in Australia.”
She worked as a design assistant with a Melbourne fashion label but really wanted her own business. Shipping a sewing machine across the Tasman cost too much so Anna started making jewellery. She hit a roadblock when searching for nail polish to add colour to her pieces. The fix? Make her own. So, in 2012, Kester Black was born.
“It took 18 months because I was a nobody but I kept emailing polish manufacturers and wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Kester Black launched with $2500 and made $90,000 in the first three months. The next year, turnover was $500,000 and the range went from six colours to 60. “It was a wild success because businesses hadn’t really thought of selling nail polish in design and fashion stores like candy on a counter. Plus, we had a beautiful, quality product.”