Taking 10 with...Millie Kendall MBE

Taking 10 with...Millie Kendall MBE

Sunday 10th February 2019

By Michelle Hammond

Q1 - How did your childhood influence your work ethic and attitude towards business?

My Dad is a hairdresser and a workaholic. So I learnt that hard work pays off, but I also learnt that it doesn’t matter where you come from success is always possible.

The big downside of my fathers work habits is that as a single mother for many many years I have had to adjust some of these learnings as I do feel a work/life balance is important. I had to be here for my kids. I also had a great mentor in my Grandfather who was an insurance broker and he was the most honest man you could ever meet. Just a straight forward man with a wicked sense of humour and a love for life and family.

Q2 - What do you believe the principles of a successful business are today?

Be nimble, creative and passionate. We work hours that 30 years ago you wouldn’t work, so we have to love what we do. Transparency and efficacy is important and as the internet reveals every discrepancy you have to be fully aware that you can be exposed at any minute. Integrity is a winner in this market.

Q3 - Looking back, what was your best business decision?

That’s a hard question. I think I can more honestly tell you my worst decisions, and there are lots. I think a lot of business is based on bad decisions made good.

Q4 - Who has influenced you the most through your career?

I reference a lot of people, My grandfather for his honesty, My grandmother for her love of beauty, My father for his work ethic, My mother for being innovative and disruptive, Mr Uemura, founder of Shu Uemura for his creativity and class, Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda for his spirit and leadership, Dal LaMagna, founder of Tweezerman for his determination, Ruby Hammer for her love and support in good and hard times, Anna-Marie Solowij for her legendary style, wit and intelligence.

Q5 - What was your most difficult / worst business decision?

So many, I left a secure job at Shu Uemura to open my own business, and there are days I regret it even though it was 30 years ago. I turned down a collaboration with Posh Spice because I thought she was naff, before she married Beckham.

Q6 - What would you say was the single most advantageous character trait for success?

Broad shoulders, be prepared to take a lot of knocks.

Q7 - What happens when you’re stressed or overwhelmed?

I sing

Q8 - How do you invest in your own wellbeing. How do you look after yourself?

I love a spa, a facial, or a day on the sofa.

Q9 - If you could change one thing about the spa and wellness industry what would it be and why?

We need a reasonably priced Korean Spa in central London and in every major city across the country. They have such an extraordinarily straight-forward approach to beauty.

Q10 - Finally, What’s your favourite quote or the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Put off till tomorrow what you should have done today. It stops me making impulsive decisions and forces “time to think”.


1. What’s your favourite book?

Autobiography of a Yogi ( Paramahansa Yogananda)

2. What’s your favourite film of all time?

Casino Royale – the cheesy Woody Allen/David Niven version.

3. If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

Helena Rubenstein, Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden.

4. You get taken to your favourite place to be, where are you taken?

The Magical Kingdom ( not really ) The Miro Foundation in Barcelona.

5. Your perfect dinner is?

Sushi, always raw fish.

6. Your go to drink is?

Love Yogi Teas, always loved them, I struggle with drinking plain water so drink a lot of herbal tea at night and these keep their taste much longer than other bags.

7. Your favourite sweet treat is?

Lemon sherbets. My best friend Ayo used to send them to me from Margate. Or Banoffi Pie, my favourite birthday cake.

8. What’s your favourite essential oil / scent?

Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax, reminds me of Anna.

9. You go for a treatment - what do you have and why?

I like unusual facials, Nichola Joss, David Peters, Su Man Hsu.

10. What’s your favourite flower?


11. You want to sleep deeply, what do you do?

I sleep like a log, and can easily sleep 8 to 10 hours a night.

12. You want to energise fast, what do you do?


13. The theme tune to your life is?

Olivers Army – Elvis Costello

14. What makes you laugh to your belly?

I ran into a bus in Amsterdam, Literally ran into it and although it hurt a lot I laughed so much I had clown tears. I think some of the things I do make me laugh, I can be quite ridiculous at times.

15. What’s your favourite season?


16. What’s your favourite colour?


17. Your favourite time of day is?


18. If you could have been anyone or anything else, what / who would you be?


19. What’s your current TV guilty secret?

First dates, my boyfriend was about to go on it when we met, I like to view the competition.

20. Magic dust - you can learn one new skill instantly, what is it?

Threading. I need to know how to do this. It seems like such a magical skill.

During her career as a retail maven and brand creator Millie Kendall has been instrumental in the success of cult brands including Shu Uemura, Aveda, Tweezerman, L’Occitane and Ruby & Millie. In 2007 Millie was awarded an MBE for services to the cosmetics industry.

After leaving school at 15, Millie began work as a shampoo girl at Toni & Guy. Forging an initial career in the hair industry, she continued her time at Toni & Guy in London before moving to New York to work for Bumble & Bumble.

At Bumble & Bumble, Millie found her true calling in beauty through professional make-up brands including M.A.C., William Tuttle and Il Makkiage. Her enthusiasm for make-up marked her out as a potential talent for the then unheard of Japanese make-up brand, Shu Uemura. Millie’s proactive and entrepreneurial approach was recognised by Mr Shu Uemura himself and he offered her the opportunity to take the brand to Europe, which Millie spearheaded, launching in Harvey Nichols, London in 1990 and afterwards across the continent. Instrumental in the successful launch of Space NK as a beauty boutique, with Shu Uemura, Millie was the first beauty brand in Space NK, what was originally a fashion and accessories store, proving the non department store model for premium beauty brands. Not long after, Millie’s capabilities were spotted by Aveda who were keen to enter the UK market, so she set up her own PR and consultancy firm to launch Aveda as well as manage PR and marketing for a host of other brands. At 23, Millie recognised the potential in working alongside make-up artists to promote their work backstage and in magazines. She was an early advocate of working with hairdressers and make-up artists to promote their chosen brands.

In 1990, Millie met Ruby Hammer and after a friendship and strong working relationship in the industry, the two went on to launch Ruby & Millie in 1998. It was the first mid priced make-up brand to cut across existing price and brand perception barriers, launching first in Harvey Nichols then Selfridges and simultaneously going on to retail successfully in Boots. Today, this remains a modern retail growth strategy but back then it was a completely unique concept. In 2007, both women were awarded an MBE for their services to the cosmetic industry. 

When Millie moved back to London in 2009, having lived in LA for several years, she reconnected with Anna-Marie Solowij. The two had remained in touch over the years, having originally met at the Shu Uemura counter in Harvey Nichols, and had always had a like minded approach to the industry. Frustrated that the method of retailing beauty products hadn’t changed in decades, despite consumers shopping very differently with increasing globalisation and the advent of online, the pair launched their own concept – BeautyMART. A disruptive and ground-breaking approach to beauty retail, BeautyMART was the first beauty boutique in store and online, curated by an editor, featuring a mix of globally- sourced products from across multi price points to offer a more democratic choice for the customer. BeautyMART paved the way for this new retail approach now emulated across the globe.

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