Earlier this year we recieved a package of delightful Vegan nail polish from the Australian cosmetics company - Kester Black. We immediately fell in love with their polish and the morals behind the label. All Vegan, Cruelty-free, Not Tested On Animals, free from harsh chemicals and following the Five Free Formula. This polish is equipped with the best nail brush we have used as yet - a nice  thick plump brush for a smooth application. Our favourite colour in the pack was 'lilac' the light shade of purple featured in the photos.

We were so impressed with this polish that we decided to interview the creator - ANNA ROSS. We ask Anna about her inspiration and drive behind the high-quality ethical nail-polish line, and her advice for passionate creatives.

Tell us a little bit about your background - what lead you to create your own nail polish label?

I've always had a love for all things art and design. I grew up in a small town in New Zealand and knew that I wanted to work in a creative industry from a young age. When I finished school I went and got a fashion degree and moved to Melbourne shortly after.

When I arrived in Melbourne I worked for a few different local fashion labels. I started designing and selling sterling silver jewellery in my spare time. Having creative control was a great feeling and it wasn't long before I had given up on the day job to focus on building my own business.     

Supporting local and ethical businesses is really important to me and several years ago when I was rediscovering nail polish, I realised that it was really hard to find professional quality nail polish that was Australian made and sustainable. There were brands on the market but the colour choice was really limited, and in the midst of this fruitless search I realised that there was an opportunity. That realisation grew very quickly and soon I’d stopped making jewellery and started focusing exclusively on polish.

Do you spend a lot of your time on Kester Black, or do you also have other projects?

Operating a business is a pretty time consuming exercise. I run most aspects of the business myself and coordinate the people that do the parts I can’t. It ends up consuming most of my time, but it incorporates so many of my passions and interests that often it feels like I’ve just turned my hobbies into something profitable, that’s why I love it so much.

Designing new products, researching formulas, and travelling the world looking for inspiration are all part of my job description. I am currently setting up a new office space. I get to choose furniture, pick colour schemes, and utilise my greatest skill of all; building ikea furniture. Working for myself means I get to do all the things I love the most and call it ‘work’.

What led you to choose an eco-friendly/cruelty-free/carcinogenic-free product?

 I am a passionate believer in sustainable business practices. It seems to me that one of biggest factors facilitating environmental degradation is a lack of accountability.

I think one of the greatest challenges in changing people's behaviour across a broad social spectrum is the “why me?” attitude. People resent being asked to make sacrifices if they see that people around them aren’t doing the same, even if those sacrifices are relevant to a greater good.

I believe that this attitude is what drives unethical business practices and also what enables consumers to justify supporting those businesses. It’s not as if people set out with the intention of buying toxic cosmetics that have been tested on animals, it’s just that they don’t necessarily recognise the implications of their choice.

I try to be a conscious consumer and I am really aware of the fact that my purchasing decisions are one way that I exercise social influence. When I started Kester Black I had to address this social responsibility from the manufacturing side.

I didn’t want to participate in the exploitation of animals and natural resources for the sake of my profit margin and it was really important to me that my business reflected my values. At the end of the day it’s the manufacturers responsibility to provide ethically produced options, otherwise consumers won’t have an alternative.

Who are the creatives that you admire?

Living in Melbourne and working in a collaborative industry means that I am working with incredibly talented creatives every single day. A few people that I work with regularly and who inspire me on a daily basis are; Jess Lillico (my graphic designer) Eve Wilson (my photographer) Chris Kastner (my web designer) Chelsea Bagan of Trophy Wife, Fiona Lynch, Kate Tucker, and Daniel and Emma (Daniel-Emma). There are so many amazing people I work with that I couldn’t possibly name them all here, I could go on all day.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

I get inspiration from all sorts of places. The great thing about working with colour is that it’s everywhere you look; cooking, gardening, and even just stepping out of my front door!

I am always trying to be aware of my surroundings- I cycle everywhere and live in an area with a lot of street life and art. I try to take different routes when I can because it always seems that I’m discovering something new tucked away in some backstreet that I’ve never noticed before.

I am also a bit of a media junkie and I love all types of visual art so I tend to spend a lot of time pouring over design blogs and following artists. I’m a really visual person so I love things like Pinterest that allow you to create a pictorial representation of yourself.

What is a typical day like for Anna Ross? 

I’m an early riser, partly by preference and partly due to my cat George who likes to stand on my face and purr at me from sunrise each morning.

My accounting is usually first on the agenda, followed closely by breakfast. I am a bit of a nutrition fanatic so this will usually consist of some sort of fruit or kale smoothie. After breakfast most mornings I’ll get on my bike and head to yoga, and I know it sounds a bit pretentious but it really does clear my mind and keep me focused all day.

When I’ve finished my morning rituals I head to my office, put on some ambient music, light my bonfire candle and get stuck into work. I try to get through all my emails, orders, invoices, and phone calls in the first half of the day so that I can get on to the more exciting stuff. After it’s all done I can focus on my colour inspirations, range concepts, and any special events that are coming up.

My friends will tell you I’m a workaholic, so at the end of each day I have to force myself to disengage. I am the type of person who finds it hard to be idle, so downtime for me usually involves some hands on activity like DIY projects and crafts. I also love to cook so dinner is usually part of my process of unwinding each day. After a satisfying meal I am always much more relaxed and if it’s been a busy day there usually wont be much time between that and bed!

Do you have anything exciting coming up?

There are a few exciting things going on in the next few months. August is going to be an exciting time; Kester Black is teaming up with Trophy Wife once again. We’re throwing a big party on the 8th of August for the opening of the Trophy Wife hair and nail salon, as well as the release of the new Trophy Wife collection colours, and Kester Black’s 2014 summer range.

Kester Black is also preparing for the launch of a new product line later this year. I won’t give too many details here, but I’ve been engrossed in non-stop product development and I’m really excited for a new venture.

If you could only ever have one, coffee or tea?

Tea. Without a doubt, hands down and with no regrets. I’ll probably get evicted from Melbourne for saying this- but I can’t stand coffee!

Do you have any advice for passionate creatives who haven't quite made it yet?

In the early days of my business when I was making jewellery, I was over enthusiastic, under experienced and impatient. I made the mistake of approaching a lot of high-end stores with low quality products and a badly prepared pitch. I looked unprofessional and that’s how the buyers remembered me. Even when I had gained the knowledge and experience to develop an effective branding strategy, an online presence and a better product, those buyers weren’t interested.

Always be the tortoise; take things slowly when you are starting out. It pays to be cautious in the early stages, until you are 100% sure that you what to do. It is also critical that you spend a lot of time developing a great website. Aim for perfection because it is the most important marketing tool you will ever have.

Amy SinclairComment