Leadership Network member building ethical cosmetics brand

Kiwi makeup brand and social enterprise Indigo and Iris is looking to Asia to source its next cosmetic offering for conscious consumers. It’s a business move that’s surprised CEO and Leadership Network member Hannah Duder.
A portrait photo of Hannah

Hannah: “The whole purpose for me is trying to do good business while doing good,”

The 27-year-old’s the first to admit she’d largely ruled out doing business in Asia.

However, a Foundation ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI) trip to Malaysia and Singapore with other beauty and health entrepreneurs opened up a world of opportunity for the beauty brand that gives a damn.

Indigo & Iris make ethical, vegan-friendly, cruelty-free makeup products, and donate 50 percent of profits to impact projects.

“The whole purpose for me is trying to do good business while doing good,” Hannah says.

Half the profits from its first product on the market – Levitate mascara, made in Italy – have been donated to The Fred Hollows Foundation, to help end avoidable blindness in the Pacific.

A lipstick, also made in Italy, is set to hit shelves shortly and will support a different do-good group.

However, pipeline products may well come from Korea, Hannah says. And, that’s largely thanks to business-101 lessons learnt on the ground.

“Anyone in business sees Asia as a market to either sell into or sees production over there. I was definitely very curious, but I was also quite intimidated about Asia as a whole. I didn’t really know where to start.”

The Foundation trip to Malaysia and Singapore for health and beauty entrepreneurs challenged Hannah's preconceptions of the region

Grasping the opportunity provided by the Asia New Zealand Foundation to gain a better understanding of the market was a “no-brainer”, she says.

Hannah’s not embarrassed to admit that before the trip she hadn't thought about the diversity of the countries of Asia when it came to doing business.

For example, she knew China had requirements meaning the testing of cosmetics on animals was hard to avoid, so she had assumed this was the case across the region.

“I was pretty ignorant about how it worked over there, and I had definitely ruled out Asia.

“But now I realise how each Asian country has very different rules and restrictions. It definitely opened up my eyes.”

While Hannah is busy forging relationships with suppliers in Korea, she says Indigo & Iris isn’t ready to sell their guilt-free cosmetics to consumers in Asia just yet.

Her stint in Southeast Asia offered unexpected opportunities, but it also highlighted challenges, she says.

“The biggest barrier that we all figured out pretty early on in the trip is capital, and actually having the money to go through all the different hurdles there is – standards and restrictions and the things we’d have to make sure were on our packaging were definitely a lot scarier than I’d expected.”

However, thanks to connections facilitated by the Foundation, Hannah’s confident she’ll be able to launch Indigo & Iris products in Asia when the time is right.

“It’s (the ASEAN YBLI trip) given me a lot more confidence that when our business is ready to do it, I will know who to talk to, which is quite exciting.

“I now have contacts that already distribute to Asian countries, and who are willing to help me do what they’ve done.”

Hannah says the diversity of members is one of the qualities that attracted her to the Leadership Network

Back home in Christchurch, Hannah has joined the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Leadership Network, which allows her to continue to connect with a diverse group of young Kiwis, all with a view to Asia.

“I like it because we’re not all entrepreneurs. When I did my induction, I loved that I was with journalists, teachers, people getting inside the world of politics – a whole range of people.

“The benefit to myself, to my own personal development has been incredible.”