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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Niamh Ryan & Charlene Flanagan

Created by Makeup Artist, Charlene Flanagan, and Skin Therapist, Niamh Ryan, the skincare brand Ella & Jo Cosmetics came to life in Ireland 2017 with the co-founders noticing a gap in the market for functional and fun products that made the everyday lives of women easier, whilst delivering amazing results. Ella & Jo promote self-care and empowerment to women by creating impactful and innovative products that save time and effort and help women to feel better about themselves. All Ella & Jo products are Vegan, Cruelty Free and safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Ella & Jo co-founders, Skin Therapist Niamh Ryan and MUA Charlene Flanagan share their entrepreneurship journey with us…

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

“Founded in 2017, the brand started with one product launch, the Squeaky Clean Brush Cleanser, a product developed to help bridge the gap between dirty makeup brushes and blemished skin. Co-founders Charlene & Niamh came together with a combined love for helping to empower and educate women on the benefits of a skincare routine that not only delivered incredible results for her skin but also gave her moments of joy in her busy day.”

How did the idea come to you for the company?

“We are both busy women who have six children between us and are both entrepreneurs, so we understand the never-ending task list that women face every day. Skincare is one of those daily tasks, and we could hear and feel the frustrations and confusion around which products and ingredients women should be using. From there, we created a range of multi-functional skincare products that collectively address the most common concerns women have, such as aging, dehydration, dullness, and pigmentation. However, we went a step further and infused them with an experiential twist, making you want to do your skincare routine rather than feeling like you have to”.

How did you achieve awareness?

“We have both been very active in every stage of growing the business. Charlene has over 10 years of experience as one of Ireland’s most sought-after beauty experts and has a combined social media following of over 100k, with immense loyalty and support. Both founders have developed a network of relationships throughout their careers, and these networks were more than happy to see us grow and launch into the market with new and innovative products and energy. We started with primarily digital marketing efforts as we were initially a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business. We built our email database, set up social media platforms, collaborated with influential skin and beauty experts, and made a lot of noise”.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

“We are a self funded company with no external investment to date. Our turnover growth has doubled year on year in the last 3 years. We are proudly an Enterprise Ireland client, which has been a huge support to us in our efforts to launch into new markets. We work very closely with advisors and mentors to keep us aligned with our goals.”

What are the key successes?

“Firstly, having each other as co-founders has been incredible. Bringing energy to a company growing at an exponential rate can be challenging, especially when juggling home life with young children. Luckily, we have an absolutely brilliant team who are loyal, driven & focused. In 2023, the brand won multiple awards in the UK market shortly after its launch that same year. We won awards in categories alongside well known beauty brands including MAC, Yonka and ByTerry. Additionally, we won Irish Brand of the Year 2023 & very excitingly we signed with Cat Deeley as our beauty ambassador.”

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

“The industry has changed massively over the years. Price is a big factor, as is capacity. Many ingredients and packaging have shifted to short lead times, meaning a formulation or component could be approved and pass testing, only to suddenly become unavailable, resulting in delayed launches and pressure on the forecast.  However, the quality of the Irish cosmetics industry is incredible. We have sampled multiple times across the world Italy, Korea, the US, France – all of the International power houses in terms of cosmetics. Yet, nothing has compared to the quality of the Irish products.”

What are your plans now/for the future?

“Global domination! We are working with some incredible people across the world. We know we have amazing products with incredible repeat rates, and our customer feedback blows us away constantly. We want the world to know that Irish skincare offers quality, experience, and is the next best step for them in their skincare routine.”

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

“Everyone will embark on an entrepreneurship journey for their own personal reasons. The most important aspect is having belief in yourself, knowing that it will bring numerous personal gains. However, it also requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Seek out entrepreneurship networks or female founder groups and surround yourself with like-minded people who want to see you grow & succeed. Additionally, there are also amazing business coaches for professional guidance. There are so many great people out there willing to help.”

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

  1. “The rest is just as important as the work. Be sure to make time for other areas in your life outside of work.”
  2. “Find government supports and grants that can assist your business growth in multiple ways including financial, mentorship, research & innovation.”
  3. “If you’re a solo founder, find a mentor.”
  4. “Take time to work on the business, not just in the business.”
  5. “Set goals, daily, weekly, monthly, future. Take the time to reflect on them too.”

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?  

“Anyone who wakes up every morning with a desire to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others. They exude a beautiful, positive energy, live authentically, aren’t afraid to show vulnerability, and above all, are always kind.

Mel Robbins – I admire her vulnerability, honesty, and resilience

Oprah Winfrey – she has blazed a trail at every stage of her life

My Grandfathers (Niamh) – they both did the unthinkable in their communities and had vision for a future that no one else could see and brought that to life”

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t you are right – Henry Ford

No one is coming on a white knight to save you you must save yourself

Sit down, fall down but get back up and begin again

When you focus on the good, the good gets better – Abraham Hicks

There is no failure, you either win or learn – Nelson Mandela

Doubting yourself is normal, letting it stop you is a choice – Mel Robbins”