"I was given support and access to a wealth of knowledge from someone who wanted my business to succeed. It sped everything up and I was able to grow the business quickly in a competitive market."
From a studio in Cardiff to photoshoots in London and trips to Paris to meet with L’Oreal, Jessica Blackler has come a long way with her gender-free makeup brand.
In just three years, Jessica has built Jecca Blac – a vegan, animal cruelty-free and genderless beauty brand that celebrates individuality – to be a business that has sold more than a million products.
With a £230,000 equity funding package provided by business angel investor Rhys Owen, through the Development Bank of Wales’ angel network Angel Invest Wales in 2018, followed by a further £80,000 investment later that year, Jessica has also been able to access expertise, day-to-day support and advice in order to expand her business worldwide.
Jessica, who is based in London, explained: “After graduating college where I studied makeup and hair for film and television, I began receiving requests for makeup lessons from people who were transitioning from male to female. People would travel to see me at my studio in Cardiff from as far as Scotland because I offered such a niche service. I supported prisoners who were transitioning, London bankers and sportspeople – who all felt overlooked by the beauty industry. This was 2015 and the beauty world wasn’t as inclusive as it is now.
“I realised there was a lack of brands that targeted the transgender community. I wanted to create a brand that was authentic, gender-free, focused on individuality and celebrated all makeup wearers.
“Up until that point I’d relied on word-of-mouth to market my business – but I knew I wanted to take it to the next step. I was young and didn’t have the experience or the network at first, but I was passionate and had no fear. I started researching business angel investors and got in touch with Angel Invest Wales in 2018 after hearing about them from other entrepreneurs.
“As a sole founder who didn’t have the experience of running a business, Angel Invest Wales helped me with the legal process, paperwork and matched me with an angel investor who supported me and added value. I didn’t know many people in the industry at the time and it would have taken me so long to find the right person to invest in Jecca Blac, without Angel Invest Wales making this connection for me. I was matched with an investor from North Wales who worked in the distribution and manufacturing sector.
“During the first year of Jecca Blac launching, we worked together daily, and his team were like an extension of my own. I was given support and access to a wealth of knowledge from someone who wanted my business to succeed. It sped everything up and I was able to grow the business quickly in a competitive market.
“Now, I’m about to raise further investment so we can launch new products and expand into the US market. I don’t need as much day-to-day support as I’ve grown and my team has, too. But finding the right angel investor is so important. It’s a relationship – and you need to be able to work closely with them for years. And I’d say to anyone thinking about raising investment through an angel investor and the Development Bank of Wales to make sure you connect with the right person so you can build your business together."