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Bloom, Natalie - Founder of Bloom Cosmetics, Career, Sidelights

products company business bloom’s

Born in 1971 in Melbourne, Australia; daughter of a clothing-store owner; married Brian Hamersfeld (a marketing executive), 1999; children: Chloe, Amber. Education: Earned degree in visual communication from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 1992.

Addresses: Home—Melbourne, Australia.

Career

Worked as a graphic designer in Melbourne, Australia, 1992–93, and then as a freelance graphic designer, 1993; founded Bloom Cosmetics, 1993.

Sidelights

Natalie Bloom founded the Australian company that bears her name, Bloom Cosmetics, when she was just 22 years old. Her all-natural, aromatherapy-based products have garnered a cult following around the world, becoming part of a new wave of skin, makeup, and haircare lines from Down Under that have won loyal customers with their unique plant-based formulations. A decade after she founded the company in her parents’ garage in 1993, Bloom was president of a company that posted an impressive $20 million in sales, and is regularly cited in the Australian business press as one of the country’s richest entrepreneurs under 40. She has said that it was her utter lack of business experience that was a key factor in Bloom Cosmetics’ success. “In retrospect, the fact that I was so naive to the complexities of business meant that I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes,” she admitted to Lisa Kintish in Soap & Cosmetics . “If I knew then what I know now, perhaps I wouldn’t have taken the plunge.”

Born into a Jewish family in the early 1970s, Bloom grew up in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city. Her father and uncle owned a women’s clothing store called Portmans that had been founded by their parents in Melbourne in 1946. The company grew during Bloom’s youth into a successful chain of stores throughout Australia and New Zealand, and was eventually acquired by Just Jeans, Australia’s largest women’s apparel retail group.

Bloom earned a degree in visual communication from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1992, and began her career as a graphic designer. “I never thought I’d own my own business,” she recalled in an interview that appeared on the website iVillage. “I was working at a small design studio as a jack-of-all-trades. After a year, I knew I needed something more creative so I started freelancing from home doing all kinds of design work.” She launched a greeting-card line, and then came up with a candle-making kit as a way to show off her packaging-design skills. She took the kits around to a few stores, and wound up with an order for 5,000 of them from one of Australia’s largest department store chains, Myer Grace Brothers. Not at all sure if she could fill the order, she agreed anyway, and enlisted her family to help make and assemble the kits out of the garage of her parents’ home. Her mother even came up with a way to fill the small bottles with the scented oils for the candles using household straws. “We’d come home, and the whole house would just be stinking,” Bloom recalled in an interview with Samantha Gross for the Forward , a Jewish newspaper.

Bloom’s experience with the candle kits inspired her next project. “I started thinking about essential oils and aromatherapy, which wasn’t a big trend in 1993,” she told the iVillage interviewer. “I was fascinated by how to blend oils.” She began experimenting with lip balm, and her Aromatherapy Lip Gloss became her cosmetic firm’s first product, and would remain its bestseller for years to come. Her first products were branded with her seemingly perfect name for a beauty business, repeated in a flower logo that dated back to one she created for her greeting-card line. Later she created Miss Bloom, a girlish icon that Bloom designed with elements of herself as well as screen icon Audrey Hepburn.

Bloom Cosmetics expanded into other products, such as lip liner, eye shadow, and the popular “Pamper Packs,” which are collections of hair, skin, or nail items designed to be stashed in a purse or in carry-on luggage. The company grew slowly, with Bloom developing her products one at a time, not a whole line, as other companies do. She was a firm believer in the appeal of packaging, a legacy of her graphic-design training, and created her new products from the outside in, or starting with the idea for an item’s bottle, label, or box. This is the reverse of most companies, Bloom told Gross in the Forward . “They develop new products,” she said of the competition. “But [those products] just go back in the same old box.”

Bloom’s products sold well in Australia, and began to gain a following elsewhere, too, when she began shipping to the United States, Europe, parts of Asia, and even the Middle East. In the United States, Sephora and Bloomingdale’s began to carry her company’s products. The Aromatherapy Lip Gloss was still a top seller, and was a favorite of celebrities ranging from model Helena Christensen to singers Natalie Imbruglia and Kylie Minogue and jewelry designer Jade Jagger. Bloom’s beauty business joined a number of other Australian firms that had lured a devoted following outside the country, such as Jurlique, Aesop, and Becca.

Bloom’s family remains involved in her privately held firm. Her sister is the company accountant, and Bloom’s marketing-executive husband, Brian, also provides valuable input. Besides her father, Bloom says that one of her role models is Helena Rubenstein who, like Bloom, was Jewish, Australian, and from a family whose roots were originally in Poland. Rubenstein founded a company that dominated the cosmetics industry for decades in the mid-twentieth century. “It was such an inspiring story,” Bloom remarked in the Forward interview with Gross, “to find that such a large business could start in Australia.”

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