Anna Ross is the founder of Kester Black nail polish. Photo / Josie Hayden, news.com.au

A Kiwi woman who only had $ 50 in her wallet after graduating from college explained how she turned that latest note into a million dollar fashion empire.

Anna Ross was only 20 years old when she used her last 50 dollars to start her side business of jewelry making.

She had no idea that her 2009 business would grow into an ethical beauty empire named Kester Black.

Over the past 12 months, the company has achieved sales of over $ 1.16 million and was the first in the world to achieve a B Corp certification – the highest achievement in ethical performance and environmental.

Ross, raised in Dunedin, told 9 News that her business start-up proves that you don’t need to have a lot of money behind you to be successful early on.

“The $ 50 game started when I started making jewelry. I made a few necklaces and took $ 50 from my paycheck, made a few necklaces, then sold them and went back and I made jewelry for $ 200, ”she said.

“I never had any investment or money from my parents to start it.”

She said that she was not very good in school, that she had difficulty reading and spelling, and that she was not very familiar with her multiplication tables.

After living on a farm, she went to college to study fashion before improving her life and moving to Melbourne to pursue her dreams.

When she moved, she couldn’t even afford a sewing kit.

She worked full time as a design assistant for a fashion brand and eventually her passion for jewelry making took off.

By 2012, she had launched six shades of nail polish and tripled her earnings in three months, while still working full time.

What’s Ross’s secret? She told 9 News that her zero expectations and modest upbringing helped spark a strong desire to succeed without being overwhelmed by the pressure to do so.

“We were really poor and there was no pressure from (my parents) on me because we were poor,” she said.

“There was no motivation for me to be successful from them. I probably flourished because I had none of that and I had no expectations of myself because I never thought that I would succeed. “

After shipping nail polish across Australia to customers, she registered Kester Black in 2014, now dubbed the world’s most ethnic beauty brand.

Its products use only clean ingredients, are certified cruelty-free and vegan, B Corp, carbon neutral and halal.

“I started this business not to make money, but to change the world and Kester Black is doing just that by raising the industry standards for beauty brands,” she said.

“(We) are setting the trends that big brands follow. Consumers want to buy high quality products that cost nothing – both financially and environmentally.”

Her brand has famous clients including Elle Macpherson, Vogue, Marie Clare, Liberty London, Nylon, and The New York Times, among others.

However, with the sudden growth and support, Ross explained that the pressure started to come to her, to the point where it “really crippled her”.

She said advisers claim her business will generate more than $ 30 million in profit in two years.

Ross quickly became chronically tired. It started to get too much.

“About three years ago, for probably about 10 months, every night I would go to bed and cry, have a panic attack and stay awake all night,” Ross said.

“There were times when I wanted to give up and thought, why did I do this?”

But after her tough times, Ross continued on and was named Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year in 2016.

Anna Ross is the founder of Kester Black nail polish.  Photo / Josie Hayden, news.com.au
Anna Ross is the founder of Kester Black nail polish. Photo / Josie Hayden, news.com.au

Kester Black has grown steadily and is one of the world’s leading beauty companies.

The company also donates 2% of all its income to social causes.

Ross said his advice for those considering starting their own business is not to be afraid to ask questions and stick to your plan.

“It’s about asking questions and getting as much information as possible before you decide which product you want – but I think you should just go for it.”


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