It may come as a surprise, but the founder of the world's reputedly first performance make-up and professional skincare brand for children aged four to 12 is Singaporean Jessica Tang, 46, and she has taken it global.
Called C'est Moi (pronounced "say-mwa"), the brand launched in Singapore in November 2014 and is available in stores here and online.
Barely two years later, the label has established a global presence in places such as Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Australia. Sales inquiries have also come in from countries such as the United States, China and India.
Last month, Ms Tang successfully sold the brand to US multinational children's consumer products company, Jakks Pacific. She declines to reveal how much she sold the brand for.
The brand offers close to 70 products across nail, make-up and skincare categories. Prices range from $12.90 for an eyeshadow to $59.90 for a gel mask. These prices are comparable to those of adult cosmetic and skincare products.
Unlike play make-up, performance make-up is meant for the stage, so the colours are bold and long-lasting.
Also, C'est Moi products are naturally made and hypoallergenic, whereas play make-up is non-toxic, but cannot make other similar claims.
C'est Moi products use fresh fruit cells and minerals and are free of synthetic ingredients.
Ms Tang, who is married with three children aged 10 to 18 , never thought she would become the founder of a kids' make-up and skincare brand.
The idea came to her in 2008. One of her daughters, Annabele, then five years old, suffered from a severe rash after she applied adult make-up on her face for a ballet recital.
Horrified, Ms Tang rushed her to the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics. She searched for a skin product to soothe the rashes and found dermatologically tested products that were meant for those with sensitive skin, but none that was specially formulated for children.
That got her thinking about the gap in the market.
"This is not about vanity. It's about providing for a need. There are so many children who perform for their school or dance concerts and they are using harsh adult cosmetics on their faces," she says.
She shared her idea to create products to plug that gap "multiple times" with her husband, but he kept advising her to shelve those thoughts.
"He told me, 'Can you not think about it? It's going to cost a lot of money'," she recounts.
She and her husband, Mr Paul Chua, 53, run Camtec Marketing Services, a toy distributor.
Later, a friend suggested that she share her idea with Spring Singapore and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.
Things took off from there. In 2011, the two organisations each gave her a six-figure sum to do research, development and branding for her proposed products.
She came up with the name C'est Moi (French for "It's Me"), as she wanted the products to be made in France, which she believes has the best selection of raw materials and stellar technology. The C'est Moi skincare line is manufactured in France, while the performance make-up is made in several countries in the European Union.
"'It's Me' is also about possessing a confident attitude," she says.
She decided on having bold splashes of colour for all the packaging materials because the brand's tagline is "Colour For Kids".
Ms Tang was introduced to a local bio-chemist, who sourced for factories to produce the various products.
Three years of tests, trials, fine-tuning and $1.6 million worth of her savings later, C'est Moi was launched in November 2014 with 52 products.
C'est Moi products are sold at Metro in The Centrepoint, Hamleys at Plaza Singapura and Marina Bay Sands, Motherswork at Great World City and via the brand's website.
Ms Tang says it is the world's first professional skincare and performance make-up brand for kids.
"I did this to help kids, especially performing kids," says Ms Tang.
Over the past two years, the products have taken off, especially with parents of children who are active in the performing arts.
She says there are now 15 dance and performing arts schools where the students use her products, up from one or two schools when she first started. Online sales have also grown three-fold since the beginning.
Mr Jacky Lim, 35, founder and director of Dance Factory, a street dance school here, says he has "hundreds of students" who use C'est Moi products.
"Parents are willing to pay for the products because the ingredients are organic and safe for their children," he explains.
His five-year-old daughter uses the products when she has ballet and hip-hop dance performances. "It's safe, the make-up quality is good and the packaging is pretty," he says.
Because the products are safe enough to be used on children's skin, C'est Moi has also found a following with allergy-prone adults.
General manager at the Singapore Philatelic Museum, Ms Tres Prihadi, 53, came to know about the brand in April this year, when the museum was looking for a partner to help do face-painting for its June holiday children's programmes. The children loved having their faces done up with the make-up, she says.
She was attracted to the colourful hues of the eyeshadows and tried the products. "I have to be careful with what I use on my face as I do get breakouts with certain products. But I had no problems with these," she says.
She uses the brand's face powder and lipstick as well. "Many of my colleagues have also fallen in love with the products," she says with a laugh.
For the past 15 years, Ms Tang and her husband have had a working relationship with Jakks Pacific, one of the suppliers for their company.
In June this year, Ms Tang shared with Jakks Pacific that she had started the C'est Moi label. The company made an offer to buy C'est Moi in July.
Following the sale of the brand to Jakks Pacific, the licensee of brands such as Disney Princess, Star Wars and Marvel in the US, Ms Tang and other members in the C'est Moi management team will assist Jakks Pacific in growing the business. The contractual details are still being worked out.
Selling C'est Moi was not an easy decision.
But Ms Tang says Jakks Pacific's acquisition offers the brand an opportunity to penetrate the US market in a "direct and immediate" way. "If we did it on our own, this growth may take years. This partnership will take C'est Moi to a new level," she says.
She is developing new products for the brand. Items in the works include a pimple cream and a lip balm.
"I can't stop thinking about C'est Moi," she says. "The ideas just keep coming."
This article was first published on Nov 10, 2016.
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