In this year’s Love Cosmetics Awards, we allowed the industry to make the final call and choose the one – the best of the best among themselves. In Anglo-Saxon countries, peer2peer awards are on another level – not only are they exceptionally meaningful, they are also highly appreciated by everyone. We would like to believe they hold the same status here in Poland, too, and we can prove it – the number of collected votes says so! The competition was fierce and nothing was certain until the very last day! It is our utmost pleasure to announce that in the online vote taken by the fellow colleagues from the cosmetics industry, the title of The Rising Star has been awarded to… Ministerstwo Dobrego Mydła (translated as the Ministry of Good Soap)!
Ministerstwo Dobrego Mydła (MDM in short) is one of the start-ups that dynamically developed in the last few years in the cosmetics industry based on the avalanche of natural beauty products. It was funded by two sisters – Anna (born in ’86) and Urszula Bieluń-Ośmiałowska (’94). Briefly speaking, it all started with soaps and the rest is history. But it would not be history if it was not for family values – solidarity, constant support, great passion, even greater amount of hard work, and limitless imagination. Cosmetics industry turned out to be the perfect choice as MDM came up with a distinctive concept, what quickly resulted in a ton of loyal fans who loved the released products. The company is not another copycat as the owners create their brand on their own terms. When you have perfect products and a close relation with your engaged consumers, it is no longer just about being another company on the market – but about releasing cosmetics that clients happily identify with because they truly love and trust your brand.
For the owners, their company is a dream come true – it is a place of independence, with no limitations. But that has to be paired up with responsibility. “We don’t really mind working every single day, as long as we grow and master our profession, and if we get to keep working with all of these amazing people – but only if we can do this according to our rules. We believe it’s possible to make a living without having to rush everything and fight everyone. And that safety is achievable for ourselves and our loved ones – without having to compromise being fair to your coworkers and clients” - they introduce themselves on their website. Extremely inspiring!
It is one of those success stories that can be easily put into an endearing framing device – what started as a dream became an achieved goal. But how come that dream was no longer just wishful thinking? It was a matter of determination and taking chances! The girls took that dream of theirs and transformed it into a plan – a plan that they closely implemented step by step, and stage by stage. They were not afraid of big and difficult decisions, especially when they applied for an EU grant to operate with more capital than just their savings. Knowing how important it was to show their professional side, they decided to outsource one of the best agencies to create the concept for the brand visualization – Ania’s university friend worked there so they were quite happy they had ‘an insider.’ Online sales accelerated because of DHL's Start-Up Lab program, which selected MDM as a promising partner and offered excellent prices for domestic shipments for a starting period. Support of parents and loved ones helped a lot, and so did meeting the right people at the right time… They say that luck favours the better, but the law of serendipity is “Lady Luck favours the one who tries” – especially, when they really care about what they do.
The girls are both – similar and different, like all sisters. MDM is their very own centre of the Universe, but as they both have their own families, they try to find the perfect work-life balance. “Every day, we handle matters that would never be an issue in a corporation, we make decisions that would make even the most patient sales managers go crazy. But at the same time, we try not to work overtime at the office – it’s a way to respect our families. That is why we clock out of work on time, to make sure that no youngest family members will ever feel the absence of a mom or an auntie when they need us the most. And we can afford to do that because somehow we managed not to follow a bad pattern” said Ula in her interview for Fashionbiznes. There is so much that they have in common – both are optimistic, eager to work, and spontaneous. While Anna is responsible for day-to-day operations, contact with customers and suppliers, and formulating the products, Ula has taken over the workshop as she coordinates all production processes. She finds peace within invoices and bills so that the chaos of documents does not take over the Ministerstwo. They are extremely inventive and creative, but at the same time they take meticulous steps within each new implementation so that their ambitious expectations are met. They take no shortcuts, and nothing can ever rush them. In order to create their unique products, Ministerstwo supplies high-quality semi-finished products and raw materials. The creation process tends to stretch out and last months, but this is a price you pay for the final quality. There is consistency in the brand itself; similarly to the cosmetics compositions, the artwork and labels are distinguished by simplicity and minimalism. It is all fairly close to the values and aesthetics of the owners of MDM. What should be noticed is that social media is their very own playground – there is the energy of creative ferment, sincere and direct contact that somehow breaks the ice in the relation between Ministerstwo and their consumers, especially if there is a whole lot of backstage content involved, with some leaked details – so, in short, everything the Internet loves!
The owners are extremely – and rightfully, we may add – proud of their journey that started as a sole proprietorship established by Ula and was reformed into an actual company. The growth continued through computerizing both: the production and the distribution; implementing Lean Manufacturing and the 5S system; and adjusting the GMP standards. At the moment, almost half of the overall revenue is generated by B2B clients – drugstores and shops where you can find MDM products. It has not been long since they entered foreign beauty markets, like the ones in Germany, among others.
Ania: To dream! Well, in works in our case. When we all sit by the table and start discussing our projects and ideas, there is no end to it. Sure, we don’t always agree on everything, but it’s always very emotional. Sometimes, the lights may be off, and we would still stand in the hallway, we may be wearing pyjama sets, or holding a toothbrush, but it is still hard to leave and just end the discussion (laugh). These little sessions get us going, they always make us more inspired and somehow let us believe we can make it.
Ula: To have a WhatsApp group chat! Sometimes we are all in different places, but still, once or twice a day, there is someone sharing a quick snap of what they’re currently doing, what is going on. It’s always great to hear what grows in a garden of our parents’ garden located by the sea or what new plan Anna brought to her Warsaw office space this time. We like to stay in touch – it makes us closer.
Ania: That everything can go wrong – but only in the company! But we always make sure the client doesn’t have to worry.
Ula: Quality. We tend to spurge on materials and our products are well-packed; we try to be extremely responsive in communication with our clients and partners. Sure, we stumble and make mistakes, but we never take a step backwards when it comes to quality. Because quality tops all matters in our company.
Ania: We work in the original turquoise mode. Sure, there are managers in our team, but every one of them operates within their own responsibilities. We don’t really like the hierarchization and our company is not exactly the right place for people who need it to function well. In terms of staff management, we believe in the inner locus of control. It is the only way to continue successfully motivating your constantly growing team.
Ula: Everybody who can set boundaries firmly and friendly, communicate their needs, and work with others in respect of both – themselves and other people. We observe these whose presence makes us feel good about ourselves; we look closely at what they say and do. We are impressed by people with healthy relations, who form great relationships and meaningful friendships. It is never easy as it requires constant work, but it is extremely lit when it actually works out!:-)
Ania: Prestige, perhaps. We both hope we don’t care much about prestige and status, at least not regarding the tags, brands, and current trends. Go ahead and snap us back to reality if that ever changes! (laugh)
Ula: Keep the promises they made. You probably thought we would say that they are this or that – ours or natural in particular; but we will not fall for that. Nothing is as easy as it seems and it’s rather impossible to put proper tags on certain matters, but if we were to tackle this question briefly – I’d say it is perfect if a beauty product is legal, safe, and does what it promises, even if it is just (sic!) making you sparkle with glitter or smell like bubblegum. And if that is exactly what you expect and dream of, we are here for you so welcome home.
Ula: Not having any more siblings. We would love to have somebody in the HR and maybe two more sisters in the financial department!
Ania: Every single time when we mess up – either by bad investments or when we take too long to release a brand new item and end up missing a great profit that a trendy product could bring. So we spend two years on discussing how to make it even better and in the meantime market prices fall down heavily and they end up stabilizing on a very basic level. But we don’t dwell on it for long. Missed opportunities are all in the past but they make us stay motivated – the bigger the regret, the more determined we are to alter the current plan and to keep working in the new direction.
Ania: Working together. Sure, the beginning was far from easy. We took turns crying out eyes out, vowing to stop and go back to our own lives – and to never speak to each other, of course. Looking at it now, it was worth the wait; the pain and all the hard work actually paid off. Because now, after a heated argument, we have no problem texting: “I’m really sorry for being pissed off about the clean room. Yesterday was *&^%(), nothing was going my way. It all stresses me out.” – (this is an actually message I sent to Ula last Wednesday; -)).
Ula: Dropping out of the university and becoming self-employed. I was a bit sceptical at first, but I would not trade it for any other job now. We also don’t mind developing slower than we actually could because MDM is not our whole world. The company would currently be in a totally different place if it wasn’t for our weekends off and time spent with our parents or with each other in the summer. However, there is no amount of development and money that could even come close to being more important than that time, no way.
Ania: … still be Ula and Ania. Our kids will be siblings, and our parents will continue to be grandparents. Our husbands will stay husbands, and our friends will still be our friends. We will meet new, amazing people and we will continue to work together – just like we do now. We just hope everybody around us stays healthy and safe – and that’s our wish for us and all of you, too.: -)
Ula: We’re answering these questions and beginning to realize how grateful we really are for everything that ever happened in our lives. We’re sure that we’re ready to work even harder to achieve what there is to achieve, while keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for some extra luck. Thank you for having us!