Inspirational Woman: Joy Howieson | Founder & CEO, Project Lip

Joy HowiesonManchester-based entrepreneur Joy Howieson founded her global beauty brand Project Lip back in 2017. 

Joy started her career as a make-up artist for MAC cosmetics at Selfridges. She was trained by industry specialists and noticed a demand from clients asking for luxury lip plumping products that didn’t burn their lips. 

Identifying a key trend and a consumer need, Joy wanted a product that could achieve the look and bridge the gap in the market. After the combination of a long-haul flight and the contraceptive pill, Joy developed a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. It wasn’t until fully recovering that she decided to bring her idea to life.

Starting with the Matte Plumping Primer, Project Lip has taken the lead in the non-invasive lip plumping market. The results-proven range has now expanded to balms, liners, scrubs, masks and glosses sold on global giants Pretty Little Thing, Look Fantastic, Beauty Bay, REVOLVE, URBAN OUTFITTERS & FashionNova. 

Today, with their tongue-in-cheek humour, Project Lip has built a community of empowered and bold people looking to become the best version of themselves. High profile celebrities and proud members of #TeamTingle include Michelle Kegan, Fearne McCann, Lottie Tomlinson, Vicky Pattison, Olivia Buckland and Kate Wright. 

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

I’ve always had a passion for makeup and being able to express myself through make-up and I started my career as an MUA for MAC cosmetics in Selfridges, Manchester – my go-to was always a bold lipstick. I then moved on to teaching media and SFX makeup for the next generation of MUAs at Salford College.

You’re the Founder and CEO of Project Lip – tell us a bit more about this

Project Lip is a brand with multi-use products, each having key benefits to provide the perfect plumped canvas for any lip look. Since our initial launch in 2017 launch we’ve expanded from a single pumping primer to a full product offering including a mask, scrub, glosses, hydrating matte balms and liners.

As CEO, no day is ever the same and I’m wearing many different hats. As with any business owner, the brand is my baby and I feel so passionately about really making people feel their best. From spending time with our marketing team to run through digital influencer campaigns and social content to ZOOM meetings with our product development team to go through formulas and packaging.

You set up the business while recovering from a life-threatening pulmonary embolism – why was this time right for you to start a business?

I developed a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, which essentially is when a blood vessel in your lungs is blocked by a blood clot, due to a combination of taking the pill and a long haul flight from Australia.

It was a scary time for not only me but for my family, when I made a full recovery the whole experience made me realise life is precious and too short not to take a risk. I knew that I didn’t want lip filler and the plumpers available on the market at the time were very tacky and almost burned your lips so I took my life savings, and a bet on myself, to launch the brand.

I worked closely with a cosmetic scientist for three years and launched our first product – fast forward another three years – we’ve expanded our product range and are now available globally on e-commerce giants: Look Fantastic, Pretty Little Thing, Beauty Bay, REVOLVE US and FashionNova Beauty.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

With the stigma of lip plumping within the industry, plumped lips are more accessible than ever, especially with these “lips on your lunch” appointments, at one point we did see negative backlash with some dubbing it “the trout pout”.

However, beauty standards have shifted to become more embracing and the key message now is that it’s not about comparison. Long-gone is gimmicky one-plump wonders, consumers are looking for scientifically-proven alternatives and we stand shoulder to shoulder with Fenty and Dior who also offer plumping products.

At Project Lip, we know the best project you’ll ever work on is YOU! It’s about you making yourself feel confident not trying to look like anyone else. With our tongue-in-cheek humour, Project Lip has built a community of empowered and bold people looking to become the best version of themselves

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

We’re so excited to have just launched the plumping liners and give our customers a multi-use product so they can really oversize, overdraw and push their lips to the limit! The liners mark continuous growth for the brand on the back of our Hydra Matte Plumping Balm launch last year and are not something really seen in the UK. With Project Lip already creating primers, glosses and matte balms our customers were crying out for liners to be added to our plumping armoury… and their make-up bags.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achieving success? 

Being resilient. In such a competitive market and industry like beauty, you can expect so many doors to close before one opens for you. You need that have that grit, determination and powerful self-belief to look at yourself, know what you want for yourself and the brand, to say “I have to keep going”.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs just starting out on their journey?

Be passionate and prepared to work hard, nothing happens overnight. I would also strongly block out the negative opinions, for every person who is supportive they’re will be someone trying to convince you not to follow the unknown. You also have to limit your distractions, whether this is your social life for the time being, and really have tunnel vision on the end goal.

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

I think we need to look more beyond your “standard definition” of gender, gender equality is not just for men and women, it’s non-binary too and their rights. I think brands have a responsibility to make sure everyone is welcomed and represented in their customer base – it’s about not just talking the talking it’s about walking the walking! From product formulations to campaign marketing such as the models they use in their imagery, the digital content creators they work with in their social media strategy to donating to charities that help the LGBTQ+ community.

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

Making decisions quicker is not a bad thing – the delay in making decisions sometimes is down to the fear of change. But, if lockdown has taught me anything it’s that change can be out of your control and come in hard and fast which meant decisions had to be made and they had to be made quickly.

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

The whole ethos of the brand “Project” is very much you are your own project and with Project Lip its product offering from scrubs to liners is focused on lip care to prep, prime and plump lips as part of your beauty routine. We’re busy behind the scenes working on new categories such as the face and body.

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