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Meet Kaitlin Smith and Sara Bulhoes, Founders of Glass House Cosmetics

Streamlining the modern, busy woman’s cosmetic routine while keeping products 100% Canadian, hypoallergenic AND vegan? We hear an enthusiastic “Yes please!”

Notable caught up with Kaitlin Smith and Sara Bulhoes, the powerhouse creators of Glass House Cosmetics to chat all things beauty and business. 

Glass House Cosmetics, a pandemic born beauty company striving to bring simplicity to an often over-complicated beauty space. Kaitlin, is a full-time criminal paralegal and Sara, a full-time hairstylist and salon owner, each bring their own extensive skill set making them the perfect team to launch a pandemic-born beauty business.

How did you come up with the concept for Glass House Cosmetics?

Kaitlin: The concept for Glass House actually started with the idea of creating lip glosses only. Where we’re from, Small-Town Ontario, the market is blessed with a lot of creative artisans but no one around here was doing cosmetics. We saw a need to introduce something fresh and innovative to the community, but we also wanted something that we could grow outside our small town and expand into new markets and even the U.S. eventually. Lip colour is the only thing I have in rotation in my beauty routine – everything else stays the same day in and day out. This is where the inspiration for the brand stemmed from.

Where did the name “Glass House Cosmetics” originate from?

Kaitlin: The name came from the famous saying “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” We are risk-takers, envelope pushers, and a little rebellious by nature, so we wanted our name to reflect that. What’s more risky or rebellious than investing everything you have into a start-up during a pandemic?

On that note – When did you launch GHC?

Sara: The idea came about mid-pandemic lockdown #1 and it took several months to get the business side and logistics in place. We officially launched our first products, 4 lip glosses in January of 2021. When they completely sold out, we knew we had a concept and product people were eager for. We then launched an entire collection for the face in May of 2021, including blush, foundation, bronzer and more.

What made you want to delve into the beauty space?

Kaitlin: Sara is a senior hairstylist and owns a successful salon, and is so passionate about all things in the beauty industry so the knowledge and the connections came organically to her and this idea made perfect sense that way. I am passionate about beauty too but from a consumer standpoint. I struggled with acne-prone skin for almost 10 years, and I’m in a career that requires me to put my best, fearless face forward each day. A huge part of maintaining a radiant complexion and having that confidence is by using sensitive, ethically sourced products for all skin types, and having full confidence in what you are putting on your face! Long story short, we couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for in our geographical area, so we created it ourselves.

Did either of you have any previous background in the beauty sphere?

Sara: Yes, as mentioned above I am very involved in the industry and have my own salon. I specialize in custom colour, colour correction, and extensions. I’ve won awards through Schwarzkopf Professional and I am an educator for MilkShake. Kait became certified in Eyelash Extension application and put herself through a post-graduate program just by taking clients in the evenings and on the weekends, navigating scheduling around that of her new baby (#momlife). So we both come by it honestly but from different and complementary angles.

What is your mission with GHC?

Kaitlin: Our mission is this: Feel good, look good. But not in a superficial way – we are all about embracing natural beauty too! Most importantly, we want the products we have created to facilitate small changes in the mindsets of everyday people that they can, and should, put themselves first -even for a quick #5minuteface. Our goal from day one was to be confident that the products we created are not going to break you out, so even on those no-makeup days, you still feel amazing! We’ve worked hard to keep this at the forefront of every product we make. We understand how the habit of throwing a lip gloss or lipstick in your purse to re-apply throughout the day gets lost, especially when you’re in the trenches of motherhood and/or career building. But it’s those small habits that really empower you. Never underestimate what a kickass mascara or lip colour can do for your confidence!

What would you tell anyone looking to break into the beauty space?

Kaitlin: I would tell them, find a Sara! Lol. The connections in the industry are literally everything. It can take years to make those connections and build a rapport with other businesses/suppliers etc. Having someone on your team who is already well-acquainted is a blessing. Also, many have warned us that this is a “cut-throat” industry, to which we say, no way! Radiate so much kindness and light that those types of people don’t even know how to be around you.

Tell us in more detail how COVID-19 has changed your business.

Sara: Covid was a blessing for Glass House. I suddenly found that my salon I had worked so hard for, closed for months on end. Kait and I dove all into this business idea, and I can honestly say I don’t think it would have been possible if I did not have all of this newfound spare time. It was a perfect creative outlet for someone like me that thrives off of creating things, day in and day out. In addition to that, there was such a huge rally for the #smallbizmovement where we live, that I attribute a tonne of our success to when and how we launched. People really showed up for us in a time that a lot of small businesses were suffering. We were lucky because we started as a totally web-based business so our overhead was low.

What has been the best surprise in how people have shown up for you or your business during this time? 

Sara: We have customers that buy every single product as it comes out. We have some customers that post their makeup look on a regular basis and tag us on socials! Women especially, of all ages, were going out of their way to purchase their everyday products from us, instead of running out to the mall or the pharmacy, and we know that because we communicate with all of our customers via DM’s and have assisted hundreds in the colour-matching process. It’s been unbelievable. We have even given some of our customers their own promo code because they have influenced the people close to them to buy our products. We appreciate our customers so much.

What have you learned about connecting with your community as you build your company?

Kaitlin: Since we are both from a small town and we are both social creatures, I feel like we were already well-connected in the community we live in. To take it one step further, we’ve done our best to use those connections for good! We recently did a drive for back to school where we filled backpacks with school supplies for kids in need and provided them to our local Starbucks for their backpack drive and to the United Way in Woodstock. So many of our friends, many of which happen to be other small business owners joined in. We filled like 12 backpacks to the brim with school stuff just off a percentage of sales. That felt so good. I feel like that is a perfect example of community, coming together and building lasting relationships.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself and your business since the launch?

Kaitlin: Well, I’ve learned just how much I can multi-task!

Sara: Same on multitasking. I’ve also learned about how well people are responding to small and women-owned businesses right now.

Do you think this is going to change your industry going forward? How?

Sara: I think the industry is pretty unchangeable. What sets us apart is that we are streamlining the industry to be more inclusive targeting busy moms especially which a lot of brands don’t do, and we are doing our small part to help generate income for other small business owners. In the last few months, we have started wholesaling to salons, spas and speciality boutiques. It’s a great way for us to introduce people to our brand and also help the salon expand their retail shelf, and create additional income by selling our products at our suggested retail cost. If a makeup artist walked into a department store, he or she is going to pay full price for products to use on clients. We offer a competitive wholesale price and the opportunity for people to make additional income.

What would you tell your teenage self, if you were to meet them today?

Kaitlin: I would tell her to stop socializing! Focus on school! Missing one social event is not the end of the world.

Sara: Stop caring so much about what people think. You can literally do anything you want in life, don’t sell yourself short.

What is the easiest thing people can do to support your business right now?

Kaitlin: Aside from making a purchase, the best way to support our business is just to engage on socials – liking and sharing a post goes a long way. Also just talking about our brand – telling your mom, or your friends about us, so that maybe they keep us in mind when they need to re-stock their makeup bags. It all means a lot.

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Brittany Johnson

Brittany is a Toronto based freelance writer, avid traveller, sheet mask hoarder and Nora Ephron enthusiast.