Buried in the heart of Vancouver’s west side neighbourhood, Kerrisdale, nestled among other independent, quaint stores sits India Rose Cosmeticary. Its gilded gold logo on the window shines, acting like a beacon to draw in both neighbourhood wanderers and makeup lovers from all over the lower mainland that are coming to shop the exclusive, illustrious cosmetic brands that lay behind the door, atop gilded shelves, nuzzled together on cascading marble. At the helm of this beauty haven is Blanche Macdonald Freelance Makeup graduate, India Daykin. At only 24 years old, India has assembled a goop-like collection of beauty brands under one roof and expertly navigated life as a Vancouver entrepreneur, having just recently celebrated the anniversary of first opening the doors of her shop two years ago. India sits perched on a white fluffy chair, in the calmness of her stunning space before opening for another busy day to tell us about her exclusive brands, finding a work-life balance, and the benefits of a “Good Will Hunting” view on life’s hurdles.
Where did the “Cosmeticary” part of your name come from?
That was my branding person’s idea. She found this word and brought it to me and we tossed it around and in the end, I felt like it helped give context to what we sell. People don’t usually know how to say it, but that’s ok.
You carry super exclusive lines. How do you decide which ones to bring in?
When it started, it was mostly things that I found creeping other Makeup Artists on Instagram and seeing what they had in their kits. I tried to find and shop some of these products but I couldn’t seem to find them anywhere. If I really wanted a product, I would have to order it and pay duty for it. I would always think “Wouldn’t it be so nice if all these products were in one store?” So I decided to look into getting all these brands under one roof and it turned out that there was a good number of brands I wanted to carry that had the same distributor. I’m lucky enough to be getting to the place where I’m approached by brands but I still do a lot of research on Instagram.
Is it a struggle to merchandise so many lines in a small-ish space?
It’s hard! It’s not like fashion where there are seasons and collections that are new then go on sale to get cleared out for new things. Brands will introduce new products and not phase any out and for a long time, I didn’t put anything on sale. Now I decide based on whether or not the product excites us anymore and whether it’s evolved to still be a good fit for the store. There are certain lines that we like two products from that do really well with our customers. It’s really about trimming the fat and looking at things objectively.
And did you always have a vision of what the store was going to look like?
I started getting the store together and planning it about a year out. I worked with a professional on my branding and that helped me get a clear sense of my brand identity and what I wanted the store to look like. A lot of my inspiration for the interior came from Tumblr, actually. My mom used to be an interior designer so I basically just gave her my inspo and she took my ideas and created a beautiful space.
How did you end up in this area of Vancouver?
My mom owns [the bakery] Butter across the street and I also grew up in this neighbourhood. It wasn’t necessarily my intention to open here but I knew people in the community so I knew this space was coming up and I thought it would be a good way to suss out the business world. It’s kind of a low-pressure neighbourhood to test the waters of business, plus growing up in this neighbourhood meant I knew the type of people who live and shop around here. Because of where we are, our customers are moms and people who live in the neighbourhood, obviously, but, we also get a lot of people who come out from all over the Vancouver area who are health-conscious and into living a cleaner lifestyle and using products that also reflect that.
You’ve got a wide range of products but it seems that there is a heavier focus on skincare than makeup.
Absolutely. Great skin makes great makeup. Skincare is the work, the foundation. Makeup is the fun stuff that comes after, the icing on the cake.
You’re an expert so we have to know. What’s on your top shelf?
WOW – do you have all day? I use a pretty decent combination of things. At the end of the day, I’m a straight-up consumer so I have products from all over the place. If I had to pick five though it would probably be Vintner’s Daughter Botanical Serum; Agent Nateur Holi(oil) – which is basically their answer to Vintner’s and I think it will build a lot of hype; Kypris’ Antioxidant Dew – it’s life changing! It’s our best seller and we all use it like water; RMS Beauty Living Luminizer – it’s a cult-fave. I put it on yesterday and was like “Ohhh damn” Someone came in the other day and smeared it ALL OVER their face and it’s so nice that it didn’t even look bad!; and a Vitamin C serum – I’m testing five right now actually. I also have a lot of masks – I love to mask. My go-to’s are classic clay, tea tree, and apple cider vinegar. There’s a lip pencil from Kajer Weis that’s kind of like Pillow Talk by Charlotte Tilbury, a ‘your-lips-but-better’ shade and I never go anywhere without that pencil. We’re the only ones on the west coast to sell that brand too.
You seem to have everything so under control! Are there still days when running your own business can be stressful? How do you deal with it?
Oh, every day. I opened when I was 22 – I still don’t know who let me do that! My biggest struggle, to this day, is that I don’t have a business background. I’m super, super lucky in the fact that both my parents are successful business owners and so are a lot of people in my family but no one has a business background there either. We’re very entrepreneurial, apparently. Even still, they’re all such great resources to have and I know I wouldn’t be here without them. A large portion of my day is staying on top of spreadsheets, buying, and calculating statistics and data – it’s not just about “What lipgloss is cutest?” I watch a lot of tutorials and read lots of blogs, I’ve also got friends that went to business school so they’re great to call when I have questions – like about Excel. Running the store is a bit easier now that I’ve come this far, but that brings new challenges, too. Those are always welcome challenges though. I’ve kind of “Good Will Hunting”-ed it all and I’m just gonna keep on going!
Do you find it difficult to ‘turn off’ and relax?
You hear those stories of people starting a business and being like ‘I was awake for 23 hours a day for a year!’ – that’s not me. I actually sleep pretty well! I mean, I love my job. At the same time, my work and life and pretty intertwined so yeah, I check my email as I’m watching Netflix sometimes but that’s OK. The only time I have to discipline myself is in terms of customer service and our online store. I love the world of e-commerce because anyone can shop any time, anywhere, from any time zone but that means that they’re shopping and asking questions and for me, maybe it’s 11:30 on a Saturday night. There’s part of me that wants to deal with it right away and give them their answer like, now. But I’m trying to get in the habit of waiting until I’m sitting at my computer and able to give them a thoughtful, coherent response. It usually works out much better than trying to reply quickly while I’m stuffed in a bathroom somewhere typing on my phone.
Going back a few years, what was your relationship with makeup like when you were younger?
I always wanted to be a Makeup Artist. I bought my first makeup kit when I was like eight at Walmart and I would give makeovers to anyone who would let me – some were better than others. I’d have photo shoots with my friends and do their makeup before dances, I just loved doing it. It was never really about me wearing makeup, though I did go through a major teal eyeliner phase, but I just loved putting it on other people. I’ve always been a product junky. My mom had a bakery on Dunbar that I worked at when I was 14 and I used to take my check to the BMO right beside it, cash it, and go across the street to Shoppers Drug Mart and spend the entire thing on lipgloss!
When you started our program, you were deep into your degree at UBC focusing on Art History. What made you decide to take another program at the same time?
I had always wanted a program where I could actually go and learn the techniques and procedures for proper makeup but there wasn’t really anything at that time. While I was at UBC Blanche Macdonald started their part-time Makeup program and I was like “It’s meant to be!”
How was your experience in the Freelance Program?
I loved it. I just LOVED hanging out at the City Square campus. It felt like a real university campus. I was the first group to have classes at the Atelier campus which was incredibly beautiful and close to the makeup store [CurliQue] so I shopped all the time. The whole program was just so practical. You’d go to class and watch the teacher explain whatever the lesson for that day was, then you’d practice with your classmates and at the end of the day, you could come away with a new skill. It was so fulfilling and extremely rewarding.
Who was your favourite teacher? What module did you enjoy the most?
I LOVED Win [Liu] – she was so great. And Oz [Zandiyeh]. She subbed for us a few times and every time she did I was like “Yeeeesssssss!” The Fashion module was such a good time. All that period makeup was amazing.
Do you find your Art History complimented the Freelance Makeup program?
It definitely wasn’t the worst combo. It’s obviously not necessary but it was nice having a broader understanding of certain decades and artistic styles. One day in makeup class our teacher referenced chiaroscuro and I had just covered that in Art History and it was like worlds colliding. Like “Hey – I know what that is!” But the biggest thing for me was the kind of analysis I was doing at UBC, which would be helpful in any creative career, has made a world of difference. Through that, I developed a strong curatorial point of view that was invaluable in envisioning the store and choosing and merchandising products in it now.
Top 5 tips for the budding entrepreneur:
- Don’t spend all your money prior to opening.
- Anticipate costs after you open and have enough to keep yourself open for a while. It’s not like you open the doors and people flood in and spend all their money on you.
- Have a clear idea of exactly what the brand you’re creating stands for and what you’re hoping to achieve. But also keep in mind, things evolve and shift so you have to be OK with that as well.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It sounds cheesy but seeing what your friends and family are good at is super cool. And it’s fun to include the people who are close to you. They probably wanted to help you out anyway!
- Hire slowly.
- This is an extra point but it’s super important – don’t get discouraged. There were days when I first opened that I was like “Oh god, was this the right thing?” But keep on truckin’. It takes around 2 years for things to really fall into place so, stay strong.