Kester Black founder Anna Ross says the brand gives customers sustainable luxury products at “half the price”.
From humble beginnings as a New Zealand-based jewellery business to the pages of Vogue and Elle, Anna Ross has led Kester Black to international acclaim. The brand’s Halal, vegan, carbon-neutral beauty products aim to give
customers high fashion at an affordable price, making a splash at home and around the world.
What do you do at Kester Black?
We make high-performance beauty products that are better than the luxury brands but for half the price. Plus we think about sustainability so you don’t have to.
You don’t need to sacrifice experience to get incredible results. You don’t need to settle for products that are “just okay” because they make you feel great and have personality and style. You deserve the absolute best of both worlds. And you certainly don’t need your beauty decisions to compromise your values.
Every single product we create is done with purpose and intent – with you, your experience and your results at the forefront of everything we do. From the ingredients we choose to put in our formulations, to the sensorial experience of using them, our products truly perform. And, of course, all of this is done with a lens to do better for this world and help you do your part.
What was the motivation for starting the business?
It was really a happy accident. Kester Black was my jewellery line and I wanted to add some colour to my sterling silver rings. I found out that you can colour silver with enamel paint, so I bought some nail polish (enamel) to test the theory. It was then that the idea stuck and I decided to make a small range to add to my online store. After doing some research into the beauty industry I was appalled that no cosmetics on the market seemed to take ethical production seriously, so I sought to fill the gap myself. I launched six colours in August 2014 and tripled my turnover within three months.
What’s your background?
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I studied for a Bachelor of Fashion at Otago Polytechnic and ended up working overseas in Melbourne for 12 years. [I spent] a few years working in the fashion industry but when I was offered my dream job, I decided to turn it down to focus solely on Kester Black as I had a feeling that Kester Black had something a little bit special.
What is the main challenge you are facing in the industry?
Finding sustainable packaging options. It’s exciting to create a lovely product only to find that when you get to sourcing packaging there aren’t many choices. We always do the best we can but it’s part of the reason why we haven’t launched many new products over the past few years. Packaging manufacturers don’t want to do the development as it’s super expensive to run tests on new materials. Including recycled plastics into packaging means more variability with performance, so you often can’t use recycled plastic in caps or closures in case the shrinking isn’t allowed for causing leaking etc. The big brands don’t want to innovate until they absolutely have to and the small brands often can’t afford to foot the testing bill. It’s slowly getting better as there is more demand from brand owners and consumers but it’s a shame that it’s so slow-moving.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
It sounds like it’s stolen from Nike, but the advice is just do it! I absolutely love working for Kester Black. There are so many experiences that I would have never gotten from a standard 9-5 job working for someone else. I get to work with leading global cosmetics manufacturers making beautiful products, travel the world attending trade shows, run creative direction for the brand and photoshoots, but the thing I love the most is connecting with our customers and supporters who share the same values and goals as I do, making a better beauty for us all.
What is your biggest achievement in business so far?
It’s nice to have to been recognised by some of the most prestigious department and specialty stores globally (Liberty London, NK Stockholm, Dover Street Market). But I think the thing I am most proud of is the amount of positive customer reviews. It is motivating for me to keep challenging myself to make more great products that exceed people’s expectations.
Where do you see the business in the future?
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2023 and beyond is a really exciting and innovative time for Kester Black. This year we’re launching our cosmeceutical skincare range that I’ve been working really hard on for the past four years. Alongside this, we’re working towards Kester Black becoming available in high-end department stores and boutiques globally, making Kester Black even more accessible to those in search of real results.
Along with transforming the skincare shopping experience for the better, our skincare range has been formulated with mood-boosting ingredients that stimulate the senses while nourishing your complexion with textural, fragrant and aesthetically invigorating blends.
The future of Kester Black will continue having a strong tie to our roots, creating high-performing products with effective ingredients whilst continuing to lead in the beauty industry by doing the best we can for the planet.
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