HOT Chat: Greg Ferrington of Westgate Community Initiatives Group Inc and LoveLuvo

Regular readers will know that I love finding out about social enterprise businesses in Melbourne (such as STREAT, Charcoal Lane and The Social Studio) and recently I was told about LoveLuvo, a retail store with environmentally friendly products for the home and body (as well as a manufacturing business) which provides employment for those with a mental disability. Today’s HOT Chat is with Greg Ferrington of Westgage Community Initatives Group Inc, which is the not-for-profit body behind LoveLuvo. Thanks Greg!

Greg, tell me a bit about your background and your involvement with Westgage Community Initatives Group Inc and LoveLuvo?

I have a background in the disability sector and have been working in this area for over 15 years.  During most of that time I managed disability employment services.  I have been with WCIG for over 5 years now and have been in various roles within the organization.  It is just recently that I have moved across to our social enterprises to work as their marketer.

My role is to build our social enterprises by marketing to private enterprise and not for profits.  With my role, “the sky is the limit” as there are many opportunities.

LoveLuvo is a social enterprise business. What is it that makes it unique?

Passion and enthusiasm.  As I said I moved from another part of WCIG and as soon as I arrived here it was noticeable. The culture is one of getting the job done but with a smile and a bit of fun along the way.  It is great to see the staff who have not been able to compete out in open employment come to a place of support and blossom.

I think there is one thing that stands out as testament to what we do.  We started in 2006 with 5 employees with a disability and today 4 of those remain with us.  That says that they have found their niche.  We have had other staff join us and move on but usually into open employment.

What kind of products will people find at LoveLuvo? Where do you source your products from?

We stock organic and environmentally friendly cleaning products for the bathroom and kitchen.  We also source organic and enviro- friendly beauty products for women and men.  All of our products are from Australia with nearly 90% of them coming from Victoria.  We like to keep a low carbon footprint as much as we can.

We are lucky to have some great suppliers who work closely with us to develop new products all the time.

Westgage Community Initatives Group Inc also has other social enterprise businesses including Cleanable and Onsite Catering – can you tell us a bit about them?

Cleanable is our commercial and domestic cleaning arm.  We have contracts with large organizations such as Western Region Health centre, Melbourne Health and Yarra Community Housing.  This has grown from a few contracts in 2006 to the size that it is now.  This has occurred because of the management’s determination to grow the business and allow opportunities for people with a mental illness to participate in the workforce.

Onsite Catering has only just opened this year and provides private and corporate catering services while providing training and employment opportunities for people with a disability.

What are some of the challenges you face opening a social enterprise business?

Changing people’s perceptions is the largest challenge that we face.  The image of social enterprises that most people have is of people working on very low rates of pay and doing monotonous work in a warehouse environment.  This needed to be changed and I believe it is.  There are very few types of social enterprises like that anymore and they are on their way out.

Building the brand was another challenge.  Many people in the inner west now know what we stand for and who we are but that was one of the struggles faced early on in the building of our social enterprises.  This was done by building strong relationships with both small and large organizations.  They were soon aware of the work that we did and word soon spread.

Finally, what are your tips for HOT places and things in Melbourne?

Go West!  There are some real secrets in the western suburbs.  Try the places below:

  • LoveLuvo – of course! (174 Victoria St, Seddon)
  • Los Latinos (128 Mitchell St, Maidstone +61 3 9318 5289) – the best south American food you will find
  • Sourdough Kitchen (172 Victoria St, Seddon +61 3 9687 5662) – unbelievable organic bread
  • Luca Haus (86a Charles Street, Seddon +61 3 9687 0039) – try the French vanilla slice

HOT Chat: Joana Calado of The Beauty Club

If you walk into my bathroom, you can immediately tell that I have an obsession with Aesop. I love the functionality and aesthetics of their products and I think I own the majority of their skincare range! This obsession can be a rather expensive habit so I was interested to discover The Beauty Club, a members-only club that offers a wide selection of skincare and cosmetics brands (including Aesop) at lower-than-normal prices plus free delivery and giftwrapping.

On discovering my Aesop cleanser was running out, I jumped onto The Beauty Club for an emergency purchase and discovered that the business is actually based in Melbourne. I was interested to hear about how The Beauty Club got to where it is, so today’s HOT Chat is with Joana Calado, the Managing Director of The Beauty Club and mum to three kids. Thanks Joana!

Joana, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start The Beauty Club?

After spending six years at university earning my degree in Criminology I then worked at the Children’s Hospital for a little while before falling pregnant. I was working with children who were severely abused and it was a great job up until I had my first child, then I saw it from a completely different angle. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to work with the same objectivity.

I was really happy as a stay-at-home mum, such a rewarding task in itself, but opportunity came knocking in 2006.

Discovering a network of 16,000 leading-brand cosmetics, skincare and fragrances at unbelievable prices was too good to pass up. With limited time and funds the web seemed like the most logical and affordable place to start the business and The Beauty Club was born.

What is unique about The Beauty Club compared to other cosmetic, skincare and fragrance online retailers?

Our aim with The Beauty Club was to make online shopping more personal, supported and involved. When you join a club you join a community and our community is all about health and beauty advice and support. Of course one of the main drivers of the club membership sign up is access to a huge number of brand name products, such as Clinique, Dior, Lanvin and Laura Mercier, often at cost price – this makes us very unique.

How have you selected which products to stock in The Beauty Club?

The first selection criteria is that they are a leading beauty brand, the second is that prices should be excellent and third is that they are products that are wanted by our members.

Where do you turn for makeup and skincare advice and inspiration?

My mother introduced me to Paula Begoun’s Don’t Go To The Cosmetic Counter Without Me several years ago and it has been a beauty staple ever since. Whenever I am in doubt about a product, I will turn to her book.

I also love to read reviews by real people, so I tend to read blogs. Wanting to know about a product before purchasing it has also led me to add a product review function on The Beauty Club, so that our members can learn off each others purchases, and give advice about whether the product really works, or not!

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

Combining family and work – finding a happy and healthy medium.

Web technology and jargon it can be confusing and frustrating.

Advice: Be prepared for long hours as your business only relies on you at the beginning, be committed and passionate, find good companies/people  (eg. Web designers, accountants etc.)

What are your next plans for The Beauty Club?

Growing membership levels is really important for us, the more members we have the better prices and product range we can offer.

One of the most exciting strategies we have underway at The Beauty Club is supporting some amazing women’s initiatives. We will be donating product or providing financial support to these intiatives over the long term (some of them include The Tiara Project, Bizness Babes and Look Good Feel Better) and building strong relationships with them.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

MoVida, Bar Lourinha, Collins Street (I could walk up and down visiting the boutiques all day! If only I had the time)  and the Melbourne Museum (keeps both parents and kids educationed and entertained!).

HOT: kit cosmetics, Myer Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne

Thanks for my frankie subscription this month, I popped down to kit cosmetics for a 45 minute complementary makeover (normally $45).

kit is from the same stable of cosmetics companies as Mecca Cosmetica and while it has a similar strategy of sourcing niche international skincare and cosmetics brands, it’s aimed towards a younger market and lower price point. You can tell from its irreverant and brightly coloured branding, the latest music from the ipod and the edgy looking staff members.

The founder of both companies, Jo Horgan, hails from the UK, and many of the brands are familiar to me from my time there, including Greek company Korres, natural skincare company Origins (who used to have standalone concessions in Australia but is now exclusively stocked at kit), high street favourite Soap & Glory and the multi-purpose Steamcream which comes in covetable limited edition tins (great stocking fillers, I think).

The day I was booked in for my makeover was also a day where the fire alarms went off, so everyone had to evacuate. Luckily I hadn’t started my makeover before the alarm and didn’t have to troop out with half-done makeup, but as a result of everyone rushing back into the store afterwards, I had to wait quite a while before someone was free from the till and able to do my makeup.

That unavoidable quibble aside, the experience was quite good. Not every staff member is a makeup artist at kit – Wade was actually a skincare consultant but told me that every staff member picks up makeup skills. He asked me what I wanted from the look (heightened natural for photography), considered suitable options and went to work for 45 minutes, starting with a range of photo studio cosmetics from Smashbox (foundation, colour primer, concealer plus shadows and blush). I was a bit scared by the amount of eye makeup I had on but Wade assured me that it’d look good in pictures. You can judge for yourself here :–).

The makeup was finished off with a really lovely sheer lipstick called Saint Rouge from Poppy King’s new range Lipstick Queen. If I hadn’t received the makeover for free the rather pricey $33.95 lipstick would have been my redeemable purchase against the $45 makeover fee.

Given my makeovers at both Mecca Cosmetica and kit recently, I think I’d pick Mecca Cosmetica. The atmosphere in the latter was more sedate as it was in a standalone store and the ambience was more towards ‘luxury’ than ‘fun and frivolous’.  Also at Mecca I didn’t feel like the person’s attention was being drawn away to the till or other sales enquiries, although that may have been the difference between a Saturday afternoon and weekday lunch hour appointment. All in all I think both places give a good quality makeover if you’re going to buy some product anyway.

HOT: Mecca Cosmetica, 150 Little Collins Street, Melbourne

I’m pretty low-key with my makeup – every day I brush on some mineral foundation, swish some neutral eyeshadow and blush and if I’m not eating straight away, a slick of lipstick. Takes about 2 minutes from whoa to go.

My super-speedy routine is ok for most days. Actually, even for black-tie events and weddings  I can get dressed and made-up in about 15 minutes (I have bobbed hair for which there’s a hairstyle option of one).

However, I recently had to front up to do a photoshoot for my business. I hate having my photo taken at the best of times, but in a situation where I would be front and centre of every image, some of which might end up in print media? I decided that it was worth the money to let a professional take charge.

After a bit of research amongst my girlfriends, I decided to get my makeup done at Mecca Cosmetica. The trained makeup artists at the stores offer two services – a 45 minute makeup application for $90 or a 90 minute makeup lesson for $150. Both of the charges are redeemable with a purchase so I think it’s excellent value for money if you’re intending to buy some product anyway.

I booked an appointment on a Saturday afternoon and turned up about 30 minutes early, but Siobhan sat me down in a chair anyway and we started discussing the kind of effect that I wanted to achieve – a neutral look that would work with a variety of different coloured outfits, was conservative enough for work makeup and would photograph well without pastiness or shine in mid-afternoon sun. She talked me through every process, from building the layers of eyeshadow to achieve contour and definition to how best to deal with my tumultuous pregnancy skin.

At the risk of a bit of ego-bruising, here are the untouched before and after photos (eek!).

If you are planning on getting make-up done for photographs, I highly recommend you take a camera along! Siobhan found it helpful to see how the makeup was sitting via the camera lens and was able to adjust colours and shades accordingly eg the foundation was a little bit darker than my natural shade so I wouldn’t look washed out the afternoon light. I was most impressed by her care and attention to detail and she actually ended up spending 1.5 hours with me.

To cover the cost of my makeover I decided to buy the NARS Sheer Glow foundation (my new favourite product!). It was more than I’d normally pay for a foundation ($99) but combined with Siobhan’s expertise and effort it actually felt like a bit of a bargain.

PS If you’d like to see the makeover in action, here are the results of the photoshoot taken by Cheryl of Business Chic.

HOT: Tokuya, Basement 236 Bourke St, Melbourne

Whenever I visit Tokyo I have a couple of places on my shopping must-go list (1) La Foret for six floors of cute designer fashion (2) graniph tshirt store for RM; and (3) Tokyu Hands department store for all manner of useful and cute Japanese household goods.

I don’t think that I’m going to have to opportunity to head to Japan any time soon and sadly Melbourne doesn’t offer the same kind of shopping experiences. The closest we get is Tokuya, our version of a Japanese 100 Yen shop hidden in the basement on Bourke Street.

To the dulcet tones of J-pop you can browse through aisles of stationery, storage solutions, giftwrap, suction hooks, makeup, hair accessories, kitchenware and the largest selection of plastic microwave containers outside of IKEA. Better still, everything is priced at $3.50, although some more luxe items (like the bike rear view mirror) are $4.50.

Things that caught my eye:

Colourful paper! Glitter pens! Pastel sticky tape! This is the kind of stuff that I used to play with as a kid. They also have postcards and letter-writing sets emblazoned with Japlish phrases like ‘We are happy times!’. And yes, origami is fun!

Pregnancy sign so that people will offer their seat to me on the tram.

Gingham gift wrapping paper. Adorable. They also have a good run of nice looking gift bag sets, perfect for gifting those odd-shaped items.

The cutest cupcake wrappers I’ve ever seen.

A range of nursing products. I thought they were funny but also quite sweet. The young cartoon woman looks so happy caring for her elderly relative.

A fabulous range of bike products, from reflective bits, lace handlebar covers (can’t work out whether they’re for warmth, aesthetics or to protect against rain), spoke reflectors, net basket covers and my favourite, the umbrella holder which screws onto your front fork.

I think Tokuya is worth an hour of dedicated browsing – everything is seriously kawaii!!!!

For more Tokuya stationery love, check out love you big.

HOT: Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, Designer Series Show 4, Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston St, Melbourne

Show Four of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week explored the street style of the urban Melbourne palette. So naturally, black. The cliche is true, even for Spring and Summer collections Melbourne designers above., ALPHA60, Carly Hunter, Claude by Claude Maus, FAT, Jack London, Limedrop, Tesla and Trimapee brought us lots of midnight,  jet, raven and ebony. The hip and noticeably younger crowd reflected back with their own confident take on funereal hues.

Before entering this show I had the opportunity to try out the Napolean Perdis Beauty Lounge. Amazingly there was hardly any line for the expert makeup and hair touch-up, and it was nice sitting on the comfy couches watching the action while I waited. The makeup artist applied some blended neutral eyeshadow, rather severe looking bronze blush and crimson laquered lips. I was too embarrassed to take have my photo taken while in the chair but I was quite chuffed to receive a few compliments on my makeup afterwards – red lipstick is definitely my look.

Anyway, back to the clothes. For me the standabout show was Trimapee . I’ve never seen their clothes before and while I can’t say I would necessarily wear everything, I found myself excited by what was on offer. It was intelligent, conceptual and highly textural – it made me want to grab it, turn it over, look a little longer and see the interesting details starting to emerge. In second-place was above. I liked the burnt orange, cream and steel grey palette, I liked the cutouts in the back of garments and I liked the twisted draping.

And I was right about quiffs, yo. It was on the catwalk, it was in the crowd, male and female Elvis fringes abounding. Oh that and men with shoes and no socks is my prediction for the big trend for summer :–). Works well in St Germain Paris, not so sure about the Australian heat. Remember the talcum powder boys and no cankles please.

Once again, some of my favourite shots and a slide show at the end. Enjoy!

PS If you want a more detailed description of the looks on offer, check out the writeup from my date for the night, Poppy from Poppy Gets a Life.