Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland Protocol ‘more beneficial than not', says entrepreneur

BPerfect Cosmetics owner Brendan McDowell at his Belfast megastore. Picture by Collette O'Neill/BPerfect/PA Wire 

The unique position of Northern Ireland following Brexit has been more beneficial than not for a Co Down make-up entrepreneur.

Brendan McDowell, creator of BPerfect Cosmetics, said special loopholes have been positive for his brand.

The region has left the EU along with the rest of the UK, but effectively remains within single market rules to avoid the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr McDowell said additional checks on goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain have slowed down their transportation.

But he said the positives have outweighed the negatives, with some large US brands choosing to be sold on his brand’s website for access to the EU market.

“Being in Northern Ireland in this special loophole has actually been really positive for us – we have got brands that want to now be on BPerfect for the simple reason that they are struggling to sell to the rest of Ireland, and the EU,” he told the PA news agency.

“PLouise, Jeffree Star were all very interested in coming on to our online platform because we can post to anywhere in Europe with no customs.

“So there are a lot of benefits that way; however, the negatives include that it is something a little bit more difficult to get goods over, it has slowed down our transport, but I would say the positives of being in the loophole that we’re in is slightly better.

“Just hoping we can get the transport side of things fixed; it’s delayed some shipments but overall it hasn’t been too damaging for us.”

Mr McDowell, who is from Annalong, Co Down, started BPerfect in 2013 with just £500 and has made the most of social media platforms such as Instagram to promote it.

However, while it is a sales platform, it can also turn negative.

The opening of the BPerfect store in Belfast in October 2020 attracted criticism when crowds attended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We got loads of abuse online but we just need to just be strong and let a lot of it go over our head. For me, I try not to put anything too personal up or too much information,” he said.

“To me, it’s a selling platform and a route to market … you have to be prepared to take some negativity online, a lot of people go through it, it’s wrong, but unfortunately there is not much we can do about it.”

Mr McDowell started the brand with eyebrow products, and now has major influencers such as Nikki Tutorials and singer Adele among his fans.

BPerfect have bricks-and-mortar megastores in Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as online platforms, and its products are stocked in more than 2.000 stores in the UK and Ireland.

North America, India, Hungary, Romania and Poland are the latest growth markets.

Mr McDowell recalled starting his business by capitalising on the trend for bigger eyebrows.

“People went from skinny eyebrows to the fuller, thicker brow,” he said.

“I created the eyebrow stencil make-up kit and it was one of the first semi-permanent eyebrow make-up so that it was waterproof, smudge-proof and sweat-proof.

“That product was the only that we led with initially and it did really well.”

Mr McDowell grew the brand by travelling around agricultural, beauty and wedding shows, selling from a van.

Next was an appearance on RTE’s Dragons’ Den in 2017, and, although he turned down the offered investment, he said it opened up the southern Irish market for him.

An eyeshadow collaboration palette with make-up artist Stacey Marie then took the brand into the Great Britain market.

Mr McDowell said more people are increasingly turning to make-up for escapism, creating looks purely to photograph for Instagram.

“Even before (the coronavirus) lockdown, the creative stuff was taking off,” he said.

“Make-up has changed, it’s a form of art now – a lot of the creative looks that you see wouldn’t necessarily be worn out on a Saturday night, they put it on, they take an image for Instagram and take it back off again.

“So, for me, it’s a form of expression and a form of art. We were very much a trendsetter with our colourful palettes at the time that helped to bring the right colours and right quality of powder because for creative artists they need a really strong pigmentation.”

In the new year BPerfect will launch a line of foundations and concealers.

Stressing that the products are for all ages, Mr McDowell said his mother is set to be one of the models for the line which, he said, has taken 10-15 make-up artists working with the brand for two years to create.

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