Viola Levy chats to Cult Beauty's Co-Founder about how it all started...

Alexia's obsession with hunting down the best beauty products began during her time as a model. "Backstage, I noticed certain products had been gaffer-taped, as they weren't made by the beauty brands sponsoring the show and could get the make up artist into a lot of trouble if they were photographed; but the artists couldn't live without them (hence the tape). I needed to know what they were."

After stints working in fashion journalism and PR, she met Jessica DeLuca and in 2008 they launched a new online beauty destination. "As a customer, I found the beauty industry a little overly prescriptive and condescending, with a heavy reliance on old-fashioned stereotypes and often confusion, pseudo-scientific advertising. Jess and I wanted to create a trusted treasure trove for beauty magpies, the go-to for 'skintellectuals' and a haven for the beauty-confused."

Lex and Jessica operated out of the latter's basement flat, and built the business through rigorous networking and a lot of hard graft ("In the early days I was so sleep-deprived, I would sometimes turn up to work with only one eye made up!"). Fast-forward ten years and Cult Beauty has a team of 120 people and was named one of the top ten fastest-growing business in the UK by the Sunday Times Fast Track 100. So, what was the secret to their success?

"We've always worked hard to earn our 'trusted beauty insider' status. Trust is really important - once you've earned it, people come back again and again.

"Obviously being online, there are no counter consultants or testers for customers to try. How do you overcome that hurdle? "This is where bloggers and influencers come in - consumers can go online and see someone with their skin type and tone trying a product and reviewing it. This is the modern way of working out whether it will suit you. We were working with the blogging community before anyone else was really paying attention to them, so we all 'grew up' together in a way. There is a natural affinity, because we're as obsessed with beauty products as they are."

Two early recruits were key to forming the foundations of Cult Beauty. "Our International Buying Director Stacia came on board early on with a no-nonsense understanding of the retail world and a nose for the next big thing. Having that really solid base was essential for us to be able to grow."

The other was Content Editor - Verity, who helped establish the site's unique tone of voice. "I love beauty brand's that have authentic 'triumph over adversity' stories and Verity's a natural storyteller with a great sense of humour. One of the things that makes us very different; we don't regurgitate marketing spiel. That's why we always had the 'Why it's Cult' description next to every product. It's not just about what it does, it's telling you why you with fall in love with the product as much as we did."

Keeping the site tightly curated is also key. "When we find another brand that does the same job better than a similar product, we would rather replace it. We want you to find what you want really easily without being overwhelmed."

What aspect of the business is she most proud of? "Our team of passionate beauty connoisseurs who work their socks off to make Cult so special.

"And it's definitely the female-founded brands we've championed over the years. I think of the 200 brands we stock, they make up about 65-70%."

Since establishing Cult Beauty, which product discoveries has she found to be the most save-from-a-fire brilliant? "My favourite range is {Therapie}. The {Himalayan Detox Salts} (£40) or what I call 'Insomnia Salts' are like natural tranquilisers and the {Protect Bath & Body Oil} (£44) boosts your immunity, especially at times of stress.

"In terms of products that will blow you away, gosh, there's so many. {Allies of Skin} {1A Overnight Mask} (£87) - very few things are better than that for an instant upgrade - together with Viseart's iconic palettes (from £26.50). Another one is Vintner's Daughter's {Active Botanical Serum} (£175). It a sk-investment, but the long-term results are breath-takingly good.

"Alfresco's {Natural Insect Repellant} (£12.50) is an unsung superhero - it's a natural moisturiser that repels mosquitos. And then there's the {simplehuman} {Sensor Mirror} (from £119.99) - it not only helps me perfect my cat eyeliner, but as the years roll on, it's become my early warning system for 'Veronica' and 'Doris' - what I've affectionately named my two chin hairs."

Although Cult Beauty is no longer a small start-up, Alexia is confident they'll stay true to their original ethos. "The Cult Beauty message is really easy to keep; we exist to distil the global beauty industry down to its brightest and best - from the latest scientific discoveries to 100-year old remedies that have never been bettered - that will never chance."

"And lastly, whose make up bag would she most like to delve through? "Definitely Jennifer Aniston's. She's a pretty 'girl next door' who transforms herself into a show-stopping Hollywood vamp with amazing make up!"

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