After a chance meeting on set, makeup artists Katharina Brennan and Melanie Meyer quickly realised their individual strengths and weaknesses complimented each other perfectly. Work colleagues became friends and friends became business partners. They decided to design a range of makeup kit bags for professionals and Kitmate was born.
What are your backgrounds?
Katharina: We are both originally from Germany and between us have nearly 15 years of experience in Dubai as hair and makeup artists. Melanie studied makeup in Paris and LA and went to art school in Germany and I studied both hair and makeup in Germany.
How did you become makeup artists? Was it always the plan?
Melanie: I initially wanted to become a ballet dancer but unfortunately an injury forced me to abandon that dream and pursue another career. I’ve always been fascinated by faces and transformations and was the first one to do everyone’s makeup before going on stage so becoming a makeup artist came very naturally.
Katharina: I’ve also always been fascinated by makeup since I was young. While studying hair I also had a lot of exposure to makeup, so I decided to do an additional makeup course. I love that makeup is a form of expression. Even the slightest bit of makeup can transform a woman’s confidence! For both Melanie and I, being a makeup artist has been one of the best career choices we’ve made.
Where did the idea for kitmate come from?
Katharina: When comparing Dubai from Europe we noticed that it was hard to get professional make up organisers in the region and that they were always overpriced and took forever to arrive in Dubai. We also thought, while struggling with the unbearable summer heat on outdoor location shoots, why there wasn’t a brand out there doing cooler bags for hair and makeup artists?
Melanie: We both had individually thought of starting a business at some stage and I had already been working on some initial design ideas and foundation plans for Kitmate, but it was our shared ideas and experience that brought us together to start the business. When deciding on the brand name I thought the name should be describing the product, but be unspecific enough to be able to add different products to the range in the future. It also needed to sound catchy. “kit” stands for equipment or tools, and “mate” of course, is a friend. That’s how “KitMate” was born and the rest is history.
What are the main challenges of starting a business in this region?
Melanie: It is probably a little bit harder to introduce niche products in the region as it’s more a market for established brands. But our strength is that we are close to our customers as we still work as makeup artists, so it is easier for us to market the product as we know and understand our target group.
Katharina: Any start up business is challenging and it’s a bit of a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs but because there are two of us, we always have each other’s back which makes things much easier. It also enables us to bounce ideas off each other and help decide what works and what doesn’t. Not just in this region, but anywhere, the support of family and friends is also crucial to getting a new business off the ground. With Kitmate, we are very lucky to have people around us who believe in us and our ideas. The whole process has been exiting and thrilling at the same time and probably one of the best things we have done.
Are you hands on when it comes to the production and quality control of your kits?
Katharina: Yes, we absolutely believe in doing business in an ethical and honest way and we visit our factories regularly to work together with our suppliers and manufacturers. Being a start-up brand, quality control is very important to us, so having a good relationship with our factory is vital. Another important factor is making sure that the factory workers are provided a good work environment.
What are your pricing and marketing strategies?
Melanie: In terms of pricing we always try to be competitive which at times is not easy as we do not produce large quantities. Our products are handmade and we focus on quality rather than mass. We are always striving to produce the best quality and constantly carry out quality tests to improve the material and finishing of our products. Kitmate bags are built to last, even under extreme conditions.
Katharina: The rise of social media has opened up many new options and is an important marketing tool for us. We are also proud to be a vegan and animal cruelty free brand which has also created consistent positive feedback.
How do your products benefit industry professionals?
Melanie: We primarily focus on the functionality of our designs and our bags benefit beauty industry professionals as we are industry professionals ourselves and we are able to constantly test new ideas. We also welcome feedback from our friends and customers which again enables us to constantly improve. It is a long process to get a product to production and we pride ourselves on the fact our products are built to last. Kitmate is the first brand in the region to release insulated bags for artists as well as mainstream consumers. In fact our cooling set bag is a must-have when it comes to keeping your expensive makeup products safe in the Dubai heat. It is possible to add freezable Kitmate gel packs to increase the cooling time considerably.
Katharina: Kitmate Mesh Set bags have also proven very effective when working in the desert as the sand can be shaken out and does not get stuck like in the conventional PVC Set Bags. It’s even machine washable.
What are your best-sellers?
Katharina: Because we are a local brand we have seen great interest in the local market as people appreciate not needing to order from overseas as well as the personalised customer service. Our iridescent bags have been a huge success. Customers love the holographic material as it is truly an eye-catcher and really stands out.
Is Kitmate moving towards becoming more environmentally sustainable brand?
Melanie: Kitmate is very interested in the global movement towards environmentally sustainable products and materials. Especially being a vegan brand, we feel it is a necessity to find new ways to make our products more sustainable.
Do you have any new launches coming up?
Katharina: Yes, we are starting the New Year with an exciting new mesh bag! We also have many more products in the pipeline, so stay tuned and follow us on Instagram @kitmate and sign up to our newsletter at www.kitmate.com