Gemma Garrett got her start in modelling when she won her first beauty competition, Miss Ulster, aged 17. Since then she’s made a move to London and back, held the title as Miss Great Britain, starred in Belfast based tv series, Beauty Queen and Single and most recently launched her own business venture, Buella Life, selling cruelty-free products online.
She puts the busy in businesswoman as these achievements only just scratch the surface of her successful career. Gemma spoke with The Style Edit to discuss the lessons she’s learned, the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people and the inspiration behind Buella Life.
What inspired you to launch Buella?
My love for good luxury products that are guilt free – cruelty free, ethically sourced and organic.
Upon having the idea for the business, what was the very first step you took in taking it from idea to reality?
First step was to plan, to see if there was a market. I’m not a very organised person. I have all these ideas in my head so trying to focus them was the biggest challenge. I literally had to sit myself down and make a list.
What do you think differentiates Buella from other businesses in the industry?
My vision, it’s personal. It’s all the products I love and I think others would love. They are hidden gems that I have found all over the world. They are guilt free also.
What surprised you most about setting up your own business?
How hard it is! The idea of being your own boss is very different to how it actually is. It’s a money pot for the first year.
What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
You get more with honey than you do with vinegar. I’m quite fiery but over the years I’ve learned to become more tolerant and calm. My mum always said that to me. I’m a sensor personality so everything has feeling. I have to remember that in business it’s not personal.
How has social media shaped the landscape of your career?
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It’s great for business if used properly. It’s very bad for mental health if used poorly. It’s just part of life now. I’m so glad it was only starting when I was starting my modelling career because I don’t think I would had coped well. It’s been great for Buella and I use it personally also. I try to only post upbeat and happy occasions.
What were some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome in the early stages of your career?
(In terms of modelling) being away from my family. I’m very close to my family and I moved to London in 2007. That was the biggest hurdle to overcome. Coming from Northern Ireland, I feel we are all a little too trusting of people. I found out quite early and also the hard way that people will screw you over for the smallest gain. Although I hate being negative, so I tend to see the positive. Those encounters have shaped me.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I still do makeup. I have to, it pays the bills. On the days I’m not doing makeup I’m up on calls first thing to Singapore, sorting emails, contacting possible stockists and brainstorming new products. I write a few columns too. Also the dogs need walked in between and I’m also filming a new show for BBC so at the minute it’s quite busy. It is a luxury to work from home and I’m learning not to be so easily distracted.
How do you find balance between your personal life and work life?
I have not had a personal life for a while, what’s that’s like? It’s hard working from home because I have to be disciplined. Just because I’m home doesn’t mean I can go for lunch with my mum for 3 hours. I try to have structure as much as possible. I have a very small group of friends who I see at the weekends if I can. They are all creative people (I must attract them) so we end up talking about new ideas and opportunities. I love it. It’s great to bounce off others.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I think working for yourself is rewarding. I hope financial rewards will come in the next few years but anyone who has started a business will know that takes a while. I suppose the biggest reward is knowing I’m sourcing good products that have not put any animal or person in an inhumane situation. I love animals (sometimes more than people) and I like to do as much as I can for animal charities. Cosmetic Testing on animals is a ‘no no’ for me.
Tell us something people often get wrong about you.
People think I’m stuck up. I’m really not. I grew up in a council estate with two very hard working, working-class parents. People also think I love glitz and glamour and although that’s nice sometimes, I’m a real outdoors kind of girl. I love getting the dogs down to the beach and walking. I love getting down to Fermanagh for a weekend with the dogs and some friends and family. Give me that over a glitzy nightclub any day!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t dye your hair! Do business studies at school and know your worth! Oh and maybe avoid a few relationships…