Inspirational Woman: Anna Priadka | Founder, Fiils

Anna Priadka

Manchester-born, Anna Priadka is a make-up artist and founder of fiils, a luxe hair and body line offering custom refillables, designed to overhaul bathrooms of single use plastic and waste.

Anna has previously held global roles at some of the biggest cosmetic players including DIOR and NARS.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role.

I’ve been in the beauty industry for over 15 years, working as a makeup artist for some of the largest direct-to-consumer brands such as MAC/Bobbi Brown, and assisting some of the industry’s biggest talents. After being on the front line, both listening to and working with consumers, I progressed brand side into a global role with NARS, where I assisted with new product development, artistry, and events direction.

It was here that I discovered I had a passion for not just the creative, but the business side – I’d always said I’d like to own my own business and took the chance in 2018, leaving my corporate role to start my first brand in the lip category. The lessons I learned from this venture as an entrepreneur were invaluable and although the business was successful in the very short term, I realised it wasn’t sustainable for a few reasons.

Firstly, I had underestimated the costs involved in creating a beauty product, as well as the resources required to take it to market. In an overly crowded category, it was impossible to create enough noise without a huge budget or highly differentiated offering. I also came to a hard conclusion that if I was going to run a company, it needed to be a company that contributed to a positive change. The beauty industry was straining under a mass of over-consumption, and I quickly realised that I was contributing to this.

My current company, fiils, was born out of my mission to contribute positively to the industry by reducing consumption, as well as a personal need to reduce waste in my own routine. I put a deck together for fiils in about two months, had some samples made, and raised a small amount of Angel investment to bring the product to market.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Rather than planning, I start with goal setting. I believe once you take the first step in pursuit of your goal, the overall plan becomes clearer.

One of my early goals was to pursue a career in makeup, I was passionate about creating and having a job that gave me freedom to do this. Once I’d nailed this, I took steps to make it happen and formed a plan. I enrolled on a makeup course, then got a job on working on a makeup counter. My first makeup job was at Bobbi Brown, and from there I set another goal; I knew I’d love to work for MAC and assist many big artists. Once my goal was clearly set in my head, I took the steps to figure out how to get there.

Starting a business has been a similar process too. After I set my goal of starting a business, I figured out what I would need to do to make it happen. That’s when the planning starts. I would say at this stage of my career that the plan has been more integral, as it’s impossible to run a business without one!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

So many! I think there is a misassumption that people who experience success in their career have it happen overnight. An early struggle in my career was standing out in a highly competitive industry. It was through consistently working to improve my skills by seeking out great mentors, working on makeup shoots for free over the weekend, and putting myself in uncomfortable situations to push me out of my comfort zone, and that challenged my artistry skills. For example, at fashion week I was able to stand out, leading me to progress further, as I had put in the time to develop myself.

Running a business has been the biggest challenge in my career to date, and has affected many areas of my life, not just professionally. With a product-based business, there are so many variables that you’re managing on a daily basis, stock and supply chain, cash flow, seasonality, ecommerce management, digital marketing. I’ve found it a huge challenge to manage these simultaneously and the only way I cope is having the right people around me to help. Whilst early on, you don’t have the luxury of hiring a full team, you must figure out what areas you can manage and what areas you absolutely can’t. Finding experienced mentors, who may be willing to give time, can be helpful here, as well as using freelance platforms such a Upwork to hire freelancers at an affordable rate.

Another huge challenge for me has been raising investment, it became very clear to me early on that the odds as a female founder aren’t in my favour. Less than 1p of every £1 invested goes to female and minority founders. Seeing countless numbers of men raising money overnight in the same sector as me and listening to many female founders in my network struggling to raise, shows there is huge disparity. It’s been hard coming from an industry where speaking to investors was never on my radar, to being confident to go out and raise money for my business. Having the odds stacked against me even before I start, just for being female has been difficult.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Raising our first big cheque of £175k last year was a huge achievement. It had taken me around 10 months to get to this stage, after raising very small amounts to keep the business going and receiving probably over a hundred no’s from angel investors and funds. This was a great opportunity for us to move full steam ahead with our marketing plans and enabled us to hit our first £10k in monthly revenue. It also gave me a huge vote of confidence, not only in the business but in my ability to pitch it confidently.

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Do you have any advice for those looking to start their own business?

Start small, don’t overcomplicate it, and do your research. Research is key to understanding if there is a need for a product like yours in the market and seeing what already exists out there. Is it a big enough market that is thriving? Will your product stand out? What would you be doing differently than everyone else? Is it speaking to a trend in the market that is upcoming, or has already passed? Once you’ve done your research and worked out if your product solves a problem, then start small.

If it is a product, then start with one or two lines, get a very simple prototype and simple website made, and get it out into the market. Have enough budget to run some ads to get the word out there and see if you can secure your first 100 customers. Once you’ve identified if you have paying customers that are willing to buy the product as it is, then you can work on improving and reiterating it, as well as potentially securing your first funds to grow.

Another key piece of advice I would give during this stage, is to stick to your full-time job if you can-until you’re sure the business is generating revenue. Having the additional pressure of trying to pay your bills whilst launching a business isn’t fun!

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

In the start-up community, there is a lot more that can be done for sure. There needs to be more support in the way of accelerators for women and gender minorities to start a business and more support from funds that only invest in these genders. The start-up community in my experience can feel quite like a ‘boys club,’ where funds and investors prioritise investment for male led start-ups. The narrative has to change to encourage more diversity in entrepreneurship.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Have more confidence in your ability and don’t worry about what other people think of you as much! Pursue your path with ultimate faith, as you’ll get there quicker!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Our next big challenge this year is to have a wildly successful launch with one of the biggest beauty retailers in the UK. After pitching to them at the end of 2021, we won a scholarship and are due to launch in Q3. As a pioneer in this category for them, we want to do the best job we can, so it’s been crazy behind the scenes whilst we get everything planned.

Longer term, we would love to onboard two more retailers by the end of 2023, as well as continue to grow our direct-to-consumer offering by 20-30% month on month. We’re also developing a unique type of refill packaging to enhance our sustainability credentials even more and hope to expand the range to include a full spectrum of refillable beauty products.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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