Let me begin by saying thank you for allowing me to indulge in a very personal post.
This past month the culmination of over 20 years of work manifested in a career long goal coming to fruition. Of course, as with all things like this there is a story.
In June of 1993 I was an 18 year-old kid freshly graduated from high school. The world was really my oyster - everything was possible and I was fearless in my pursuit of being "alive." For the first time in my life I was on my own (I moved out of home and was living in a friend's garage while I tried to figure out how one rented an apartment. I had no idea you needed a security deposit and first month's rent.) I had traveled from Nanaimo, which is where my family lived, and gone off to the big city of Calgary to go to university. In hindsight I suppose I should have been more afraid, but in truth I was so excited to start my adult life I really didn't think of any of the things that could go wrong. I just ran at it with all systems go.
I had to pay my own way through university - my parents had a total of eight children between the two of them (blended family), were both working class (my mother was a hair stylist and my father worked in a smelting plant). I think in their best year they made about $60,000 combined. Too much for me to qualify for a student loan, too little for them to pay for my education. So I knew I needed a job. I also knew I didn't want to wait tables or work in a coffee shop or a minimum wage retail position. All I knew is I wanted to go to university, become a lawyer and work on Bay Street in Toronto. That was my whole plan.
Now I have to back up here; I come from a very artistic family. I have sister who studied at Emily Carr in Vancouver, another who was a graphic designer, my father was a jewel setter and designer in his youth, my mother trained as a couturier (although children sidelined that career). I never had any artistic talent. I wanted it, just never showed any ability. To this day I can't sketch or draw, I am tone deaf and I cannot sing. I was always the book smart kid in my family. And that is why everyone found it so surprising as to the job I found to pay for university. I took a make up artistry course for theater. It was a short course (6 weeks), and I thought: "Why not, it's night time work, union money. It will be a great way to pay for school." I had no idea what would happen.
Within the first week of the course something changed for me. It was when we moved from theory to application: even to this day I find it difficult to describe. It was like a light went off in my artistic brain. The first time I used a make up brush, and worked on an actual human face, it was like I had held that brush forever. What I saw when I was painting was angles and shadow and light and contour and colour density. It was like I could see where the colour belonged and I simply put everything in the correct place. By week 4 I knew I had found my calling in life. I didn't know how, I didn't know where, and and I didn't know who, but I did know someone was going to pay me to do this for the rest of my life.
By August of 1993 I was 19 years-old and decided to not go to university that autumn (I went back many years later). And I knew I had to find job being a make up artist. I had no idea how. I tried to work in theater and print and discovered I simply did not fit into those worlds, I tried working for a modeling agency and really didn't fit in there. At the end of August I was unemployed, paying a whopping $250 a month for my apartment and had no prospects. One day, just to get out of my apartment I went to The Bay and wandered around the cosmetic department. I had never really been in one before. I was mesmerized by it, the bottles, the salespeople, the fragrances, the display units. All of it was just so luxurious and beautiful. I started talking to a few of the salespeople and by the end of about two hours I realized I wanted to do that job. I narrowed down the companies to five that made me very excited: Dior, Lancome, Elizabeth Arden, YSL, and Erno Laszlo. I learned that hiring was a joint effort between the department store and the actual brand so I figured I would have better luck if I talked to the people representing the brand versus the people managing the department store. I didn't know you weren't supposed to approach the cosmetics company executives directly (major faux pas). I managed to coerce the contact info from the sales people and I spent two weeks calling these executives every morning at 9 and every day before 5. Leaving the same message: "Hi my name is Dan Thompson and you really need to meet me. I would like to send you my resume and I would like for you to interview me." I was bold. No one called me back. Then at the end of the second week a woman named Marianne called me back - she was the area executive for Lancome. Her first question to me was: "Why do you keep calling me when I don't return your calls?" to which I said "Because you need me on your team."
Suffice it to say she hired me. For the crappiest job in the cosmetics industry: fragrance demo. You know the people who spray you with fragrance as you walk through a department store. Yeah; that was me.
I hated it, but I needed rent money and I knew if I did a good job I could earn a spot on the make up artistry team. Well within 6 months I was on the artistry team, within a year I was a manager at YSL, and within 4 years I was a GM at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas. When I worked at YSL I remember telling my co-workers that one day I would have a line of cosmetics with my name on them sold in a major national retailer. The ramblings of a wide eyed 20 year-old. But I was serious. Over the years I had some great mentors, teachers, and bosses who helped shape my skill, talent, and professionalism. By 1999 I was the Director of the largest spa and wellness group in Western Canada.
And still I held to my dream of one day owning a cosmetics company. I still didn't know how to do make it happen. I idolized make up artists who had started their own brands, Kevyn Aucoin, Francois Nars, Bobby Brown. They inspired me. If they could do it why couldn't I?
In 2001 my boss walked into my office, and while I didn't know it at the time, he literally changed my life. He was a boss you didn't ever say no to. If he requested something my job was to make it happen. He looked at me and said: "I hate all the suppliers in this industry. Hate working with them. There are a million cosmetic lines out there it can't be that hard to make one. Find out how and make me one." And he walked out of my office. I was stunned. And all I kept hearing in my head is: "Step up, Thompson."
It took me a year but I learned. I hired a great team and they taught me. From ingredients, to labelling, to packaging, to manufacturing to trend, to colour reports, to fashion cycles - all of it. I launched our in house line of skincare in 2002 and our make up in 2003 and our body care in 2006. And then I quit my job. My boss had basically handed me all the skills and expertise to finally pursue my real dream of building my own brand. So I quit my job and pursued the dream with every resource I had.
In 2008, with my business partner Brad Hampton, I launched Daniel Thompson Beauty and for the last 8 years I have been quietly building our retail presence through luxury spas, dermatologist centres, and private department stores. We have been a small company, staying underneath the radar while we refine and further refine our systems and product offering. And we have a very good reputation with retailers and end users alike. All the while the brand has been rejected by Shoppers Drug Mart, The Bay, Nordstroms, The Shopping Channel, and Sears. I started to think that my dream of being in a major retailer was never going to happen. I had built a great brand but maybe I was supposed to be in the small retailers and that would be a great business.
Then in 2015 I received a phone call from the cosmetics buyer at Costco. She has discovered the brand when she was shopping in one our retail partners stores in Ottawa and was so in love with the products and this was exactly what Costco wanted for their members. Well a year of negotiating, reviewing contracts, building an offering and hiring and training a team of people here we are today.
I stood in our retail area, inside one of the Costco stores and literally felt like the last 23 years of my life had culminated in this moment.
So what is the point of my ramblings?:
As cliche as it sounds; don't ever give up on your dreams. Yes, a lot of hard work is needed to achieve them but they really can come true. Always keep the vision in your mind and while there may be a lot of "Nos" it only takes one yes to change everything.
Also, no one succeeds without the help of many many many people. Which is where you come into the story. Daniel Thompson Beauty owes much of its success to the support of readers, customers and the general buying public. This week I want to say a very special thank you to your unwavering support of this blog and of the DTB brand.
On July 21st I will be making a personal appearance at Costco in North York (Downsview), 100 Billy Bishop Way, North York. And we will be doing a Facebook Live event, with Erica Ehm and the entire DTB crew, at 10 am. During the event we will also be giving away DTB prizes (6 in total) with a retail value of over $1600.
Join us on Facebook and also come into the store. I will be there all day to answer questions and, of course, help you find the best solutions for your skincare needs.