Dianne Plummer: Engineering a beauty empire

BY DENNISE WILLIAMS
Observer writer

Sunday, May 06, 2018

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A passion for chemical engineering and bioenergy carried Dianne Plummer all the way to Sweden. Then, while studying in the Scandinavian country, she encountered difficulty in finding skincare and make-up products.

With sensitive skin and a degree in science, the idea hit her to try her hand at making her own skin-friendly cosmetics. And so, Your True Shade (YTS) beauty line was born.

Boasting 23 shades of foundations, anti-aging skincare and a wide range of skin bronzers, Plummer not only solved her own skin care issues, but won the Development Bank of Jamaica's (DBJ) Innovation Grant from New Ideas to Entrepreneurship (IGNITE) programme that allowed the company — just two years old — to break even with make up sales at locations such as Fontana.

And so, courtesy of the Branson Centre of Entreprenuership, we sat down with Plummer to understand how she engineered her beauty empire.

Dennise Williams: How did you get started in make -up and skin-care? Why move from chemical engineering to make-up?

Dianne Plummer: I have always had a love for cosmetics, but it was after my inability to find products for my sensitive skin and eczema issues in Sweden that I decided to make my own mineral make-up by using my chemical engineering background. I wanted something that not only didn't irritate my skin, but also was convenient at the same time.

Dennise Williams: Are you a make-up artist?

Dianne Plummer: Yes, I am a certified make-up artist. I decided to study make-up artistry, as knowing how the products should work would be an asset in production.

Dennise Williams: In Jamaica there are so many international make-up brands…why even bother?

Dianne Plummer: There are a lot of international brands available; however in developing a mineral make-up line, I wanted to supply a product that is healthier for the skin. More and more people are getting concerned with what is in their cosmetics; as a result we are able to capitalise on being a healthy make-up brand with over 23 shade options.

What truly sets us apart from many international brands is the ingredients that have been left out of our products. For example, we do not have any of the following ingredients: parabens, talc, chemical dyes, fragrances, silicones, waxes, PEG, octinoxate, among others that are in conventional make-up.

Moreover, YTS is the first cosmetics line in the Caribbean to receive international cruelty certification from Cruelty Free International in the UK which certifies brands all over the world.

Dennise Williams: When was the official launch of Your True Shade?

Dianne Plummer: YTS became official in July 2015.

Dennise Williams: You appeal to people with sensitive skin….so do other brands….what is special about your brand?

Dianne Plummer: YTS focuses on using natural ingredients, as studies have shown that certain ingredients are not healthy for the skin and cause irritation and blocked pores. We wanted a plant-based approach to our products in addition to make-up that appealed to the typically forgotten shades.

Dennise Williams: What has been market response and where is your brand distributed? Describe the Jamaican make-up market.

Dianne Plummer: The makeup market is a tough market in Jamaica, with a large variety of brands ranging from no-name China brands to high-end international brands. So we have decided to educate and inform people on the skin benefits, as we strongly believe in flawless skin and flawless make-up.

We also stress on our availability of 23 shades that especially focus on the “forgotten” shades. People are very excited about this.

YTS make-up can be found in Fontana Kingston and Discount Beauty Supplies. Our skincare products such as our best-selling bamboo charcoal peel-off masks can be found in all Fontana locations, Discount Beauty Supplies and Earth Elements.

Dennise Williams: Discuss how your business is funded. And how did you come across the DBJ IGNITE programme?

Dianne Plummer: YTS was initially funded out of pocket in addition to close family and a few friends who helped to purchase key items needed to initially start up. In 2016, the Branson Centre of the Caribbean suggested that I apply for the DBJ Ignite Grant for Innovation. They also provided coaching and pitch practice, which aided in our grant funding to further purchase equipment, packaging, ingredients and rebranding.

Dennise Williams: Share how you manage packing supplies and ingredients, and the other logistics involved in running a beauty empire.

Dianne Plummer: Packaging, supplies and ingredients are key areas of YTS. We use an online lab management software to assist us in inventory levels etc. As a registered manufacturer, we also obtain certain benefits when importing key inputs in our manufacturing process. We are forever thankful to the JMA (Jamaica Manufacturers' Association) who advised us of these.

Dennise Williams: Let's consider make-up seasonality in Jamaica, what are the trends that are dominating?

Dianne Plummer: There are a few trends that Jamaicans seem to love. One of those is “glow” which basically highlights key facial features such as cheek bones. YTS Glow Powder gives an ethereal glow without the tiny glitter particles. Matte lipsticks are generally trending but for summer, a nice cream lipstick, light YTS Loose Powder Foundation can definitely work with, of course, glow powder.

Dennise Williams: So where will Your True Shade be in the next 5 years?

Dianne Plummer: The vision of YTS is to accentuate the existing beauty of women across the Caribbean and it's far-reaching Diaspora. Currently, we have products in the Cayman Islands and Barbados and would like to be in another five islands within the next five years.

YTS was also the official make-up of the Barbados film Barrows Freedom Fighter, which won several awards in New York and Los Angeles film festivals in 2017.

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