Poppy King: On Lessons and Lipstick

Armed with no formal training and pure passion, Poppy King’s first foray into cosmetics started when she was fresh out of high school.  Poppy Industries cosmetics gathered a cult following in her native Australia and five years later, expanded into the US.  After twelve years, she accepted an offer to join cosmetics giant Estee Lauder as Vice President of Creative Marketing for Prescriptives.  But her entrepreneurial itch never ceased, and now she’s back stronger than ever with a new line and a new book, Lessons of a Lipstick Queen: Finding and Developing the Great Idea that can Change your Life.  This time around, she’s adding experience to her ever-expanding list of aptitudes.
When we asked Poppy her reasons behind penning Lessons of a Lipstick Queen, we found her motivations were very similar to our own: to help people make ideas happen. As for steps she personally took in forming her business, she explains: “I applied for grants, awards and special councils to find financing instead of going straight to a bank. In the end I found a private backer, but it was the process of thinking unconventionally about money that helped me. I made the decision to do one and only product — lipsticks.
They call it “narrow and deep”; instead of doing a large number of products I just chose one category, and that made it more special. I also took the line to non-cosmetic retailers such as small clothing boutiques, which then gave the lipsticks a fashion edge rather than the typical cosmetic one.”In order to stay organized in her own creative endeavors, she’s found that it helps when she’s assisted by others. “I have always been challenged by the balance between structure and creativity. I am naturally creative but not naturally structured, and I have had to learn not just to rely on creativity, but to build structure at the same time. I have learnt how to ask for help in that area and make sure the people around me make it their priority.”I spend a lot of time visualizing the new idea as a three-dimensional entity first and then working backwards from the vision of that product in someone’s hands.

Her development method starts at the most logical place: the finished product. “I spend a lot of time visualizing the new idea as a three dimensional entity first and then working backwards from the vision of that product or idea in a store, or in someone’s hands. It helps me to stay clear on the path along the way to that goal. I am totally motivated by my customer, my end user. I think and imagine and talk to that person all the time, and my mission is not for quantity of customers but for the quality of my customers’ experience. I would rather exceed and thrill one customer totally than elicit a tepid response from ten.”

As with many creatives, King sometimes finds it hard to let others contribute to her creative process. Luckily, she realizes the benefits of collaboration. “Being a very independent person, I have struggled with collaboration at times. Whenever I push past my reluctance and allow other trusted people into the process, the end result is much better than anything I create alone. I am very solution driven so I get inspired by other people’s needs that are not being met; many of the products I create come from other people mentioning something and then I go on to explore it further and bring my creativity and language to it.”

Complacency is the enemy of creativity.

She also believes that experience does not necessarily equate to success, but rather what’s important is a solid grasp of concepts. “My whole career has defied conventional wisdom, as I have no formal training in anything I have done and conventional wisdom places more emphasis on theory than practice. I have always felt that if I understand something deeply it doesn’t matter whether that understanding comes from training or experience, as long as it is thorough.”

Finally, King offers these words of wisdom when it comes to creative roadblocks: “Complacency is the enemy of creativity. Never rest on your laurels; always be curious and you will always be creative. The world and the people in it are amazing and inspiration lies within both.”

Heather Ann Snodgrass

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Heather is the founder of Darling, where she makes amazing nail products for beautiful girls.
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