Founded in her spare time with the help of her husband, The Beauty Kitchen is more than just a business to Jo Chidley; it’s proof that natural, sustainable and ethical beauty is achievable for everyone in the industry
While vegan-friendly and cruelty-free might be on the tip of everyone’s tongue right now, it was only nine years ago that Jo Chidley was working late into the night to build a business that was seen as quite a radical concept. Natural beauty wasn’t given much thought by the beauty industry before 2010, but since then it’s really taken off. With an expanding portfolio of products and a new baby on the way, adding campaigner as another string to her bow may seem a little mad to some, but, as Jo explains, if you have the opportunity to make things better for the environment, why wouldn’t you?
I’ve always been a beauty junkie and that, combined with the fact that myself and my husband Stuart had always wanted to start a business, all contributed towards us taking the plunge. But it wasn’t untill I went to a conference in 2010, where the term cradle-to-cradle was discussed. It was a lightbulb moment, and I wondered, how can we can make products that are not just sustainable, but considerate of life and future generations? As soon as I got back, I said to Stuart this is what we need to be doing. I always say that if social media had been around in the nineties, I would have been a beauty blogger.
When we first started out, I was doing everything, but now we’ve split the company into different components and I now spend my time working on new product development, the ethics of the business and campaigning. When The Beauty Kitchen got stocked at Holland & Barrett, I realised that the business acutally had legs. For us to get national distribution, as a small independent company – that was huge. We’re self-funded and we have a lot of support, but we don’t have any equity investment like the bigger beauty brands do. Before The Beauty Kitchen, I worked as a chemist and I used to manage HR for Avon, across the UK and parts of Europe.
There’s a myth that synthetic ingredients are better – they’re not, and one of the main reasons that you don’t see natural beauty ingredients in more products is because lots of beauty brands want to trademark or patent the ingredient. I think that increasing consumer awareness about where their products come from, right down from the ingredients, the packaging of the product to the way it’s transported to their front door, it’s all helping to move things forward. If we’re being honest, the beauty industry has been slow to catch up.
At the moment, I’m experimenting with SPFS and body and hair oils from other product lines; a natural ingredient that I’m obsessed with at the moment is micro-algae. For me, it’s a save-the-world type of ingredient. It absorbs 50 percent of the air and when that energy is released, it’s converted back to energy that we can sell to the grid. Natural ingredients like that, ones that have a positive impact because they’re giving energy back, they’re the ones that I love the most. My own skincare routine has to be efficient, but I love to try as many different things as I can – natural or synthetic.
A lot of the time they can sit on the fence. If Boots said that anyone who wants to stock with us has to have the leaping bunny (the cruelty-free certification) logo, then how many people would change their policies on animal testing? Probably most of them, if not all. The way to make a bigger difference to sustainability is for everyone to be doing the same thing. I would like to get one or more retailers to make a stand on sustainability.