Passion Project - Christchurch beauty brand driven by desire to give back

  • 23/07/2021
  • Sponsored by - Dell

For boutique cosmetics company Indigo & Iris, it's important that beauty is more than skin deep.

The Christchurch-based business is determined not only to create high-quality vegan and cruelty-free products, but also to "give a damn" by donating half of its profits to charity.

Chief executive and "captain of the ship" Hannah Duder says the idea to make beauty products with a strong ethical focus came after her business partner and the company's founder Bonnie Howland visited Vanuatu in 2014. While there, Howland noticed how many residents lacked access to basic healthcare. Shortly after returning from the island nation she attended New Zealand Fashion Week, where she was struck by the contrast between the glitzy world of glamour and the social issues she had just seen. It was then Howland decided to create positive change through the beauty industry 

A few years later, Howland approached Duder, who she had met at a Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya, to be the company's CEO and to help launch their first product.That product was Levitate mascara, and because of Howland's affinity with Vanuatu and the Pacific Islands they decided 50 percent of all profits from the product would go to the Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, which helps restore sight to people with treatable blindness.

"From there we've been able to sell throughout New Zealand and help restore sight to over 450 people in the Pacific Islands," Duder says.

Bonnie Howland and Hannah Duder.
Bonnie Howland and Hannah Duder. Photo credit: Supplied

Although Howland is no longer involved in day-to-day operations, she remains Duder's business partner and is on hand to offer support when needed.

"I still have Bonnie as a partner and she helps me out with creative things when I run into some problems - I'm more of the business mind and Bonnie's more of the creative mind," Duder says.

And though she also gets a little help from her sister and occasionally a small number of other contractors, Duder says the company is "basically just me".

For most people running a business like Indigo & Iris would constitute a full-time job, but Duder has not just one, but two other day jobs.

"I'm also a wedding celebrant which actually takes up quite a lot of my summer," Duder says. 

"And I also work part time for the Christchurch Foundation, which is our local community foundation doing good work around Canterbury. So I do quite a few different things and they all feel kind of like full-time jobs rather than part-time jobs."

Duder is this month's Dell Passion Project recipient. Dell and The Project are recognising passionate people who turn their side-hustles into full time gigs, while maintaining a day job. She will receive a Dell XPS laptop. 

Duder says the key to juggling multiple jobs comes down to scheduling. 

"I've always been someone that keeps quite a strict diary so I lock in everything, including social time, including time with my partner and my puppy, and family time," she says.

"So to me it's all about having a really good schedule and calendar."

Passion Project - Christchurch beauty brand driven by desire to give back
Photo credit: Supplied

Since launching the mascara line in 2018, Duder has gone on to add four more products to the company's lineup - three lipsticks and a lip tint.

All proceeds from these products go to the charity Dress for Success, which helps empower women to achieve economic independence by providing them with support, professional attire, and other tools to help them thrive in the workplace.

Duder says the charity was chosen on the recommendation of its customers.

"We actually asked our customers what they would like to see our next charity be and there was a real push for a social charity that helped women and young people in poverty - and Dress for Success is just such an amazing organisation that has a really ongoing effect with the work that they do."

As well as making sure 50 percent of the business' profits go to a good cause, Duder says it's also important the products - which are made in Italy - are vegan and cruelty-free.

"There's just no reason why a makeup product needs to be tested on animals any more and there's no reason why you need to use animal products in the product itself," she says.

"I don't think any company that's starting out in this day and age really has an excuse to not be innovating and leading in that aspect."

Duder says ethical considerations and a desire to give to charity have always been key drivers for the company, rather than "just a nice to have at the end".

"At the heart of our business, Bonnie and I wanted to make sure to do everything as well as we could, so we've always thought about the people and planet and as well as profit, rather than just focusing on the money we could make."

This article is brought to you by Dell.