My lightbulb moment: Make-up queen Poppy King reveals how she turned from consumer to entrepreneur

  • Poppy went to a department store looking for matte lipstick aged 17
  • There she realised there was a massive demand for the product
  • A year later, in 1992, she started her own brand of matte lipstick 

Poppy King, 44, launched her first lipstick company, Poppy, at the age of 18. 

Later, she worked as a consultant for brands including Estee Lauder and, in 2006, she set up her new brand, Lipstick Queen.  She divides her time between London and New York.

When I was 17, everyone was wearing lip gloss. But you could buy only very shiny corals and pinks.

Poppy King, 44, who launched her first lipstick company, Poppy, at the age of 18, revealed the moment she switched from a consumer to an entrepreneur 

Poppy King, 44, who launched her first lipstick company, Poppy, at the age of 18, revealed the moment she switched from a consumer to an entrepreneur 

I wanted a matte, Forties-style lipstick in oxblood or brown. Where were the shades immortalised by Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman in the Golden Age of Hollywood?

I went to all the department stores and asked for a matte lipstick.

One woman said to me: ‘If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, I’d be rich.’

That was my light bulb moment. Not the idea of getting rich, but the knowledge that I was not alone. In that moment, I switched from a consumer to an entrepreneur.

More than 20 years on and she is still pushing the boundaries with unusual products - like her green-tinged Frog Prince lipstick which changes, according to the pH of your lips, to your custom shade of pink

More than 20 years on and she is still pushing the boundaries with unusual products - like her green-tinged Frog Prince lipstick which changes, according to the pH of your lips, to your custom shade of pink

I realised that old Hollywood glamour was a far more realisable goal than trying to be a supermodel. I imagined buying a Poppy lipstick in store, and then worked backwards to achieve it. 

I found the financing, planned the counter look and the testers.

A year later, in 1992, I started my own brand of matte lipstick.

Three years later, I employed the beauty counter assistant who gave me the original idea.

She strongly believes that there are different ¿primes¿ in a woman¿s life. At 44, she says she feel more comfortable with how she looked than she did in her 20s

She strongly believes that there are different ‘primes’ in a woman’s life. At 44, she says she feel more comfortable with how she looked than she did in her 20s

I wanted to make lipstick modern, but glamorous. My first line, which was named after the seven deadly sins, sold out.

More than 20 years on and I’m still pushing the boundaries with unusual products. My green-tinged Frog Prince lipstick changes, according to the pH of your lips, to your custom shade of pink (£22, spacenk.com).

I strongly believe that there are different ‘primes’ in a woman’s life. At 44, I feel more comfortable with how I look than I did in my 20s.

For me, glamour is a much more inclusive and embracing thing than beauty — it’s something every woman can take part in. 

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