They’ve been overplucked, waxed off and drawn back on, feathered, filled in and brought back to au naturel. Despite their versatility, eyebrows have long been a trend-driven fixture in the beauty world, but they’ve only recently grown into their own sector, creating a global movement of men and women searching for flawless brows.
Worth around £20 million (US$27.7 million) in 2016 in the UK alone, the brow business is truly booming. One of the earliest pioneers of the popular industry is Amy Jean Linnehan, who you’ll often find tending the arches of world VIPs.
“I was able to identify from quite an early age how transformative the right brow could be on someone’s face, and how powerful each person’s brows were in shaping their unique, overall aesthetic,” Amy Jean tells The CEO Magazine.
The expert launched her debut business Amy Jean Brows from the back of a busy hair salon in 2004 – a time when brows were merely an afterthought, rather than a primary focus.
“A brow wax wasn’t a commercially accepted concept,” she shares. “Rather it was relegated to ‘add-on’ status – women still considered a brow wax as an optional addition to a leg or facial.
“I wanted to change that.”
Challenging an industry
Taking on a vibrant multi-billion-dollar industry and creating a whole new sector is a loaded ambition.
“I definitely had my work cut out for me trying to reposition the public perception of brow care and maintenance back when I first started out,” Amy Jean says. “The notion of a dedicated brow service was totally unheard of at the time of launching my first space, so I really had to go above and beyond to prove my talents and their worth.”
Blending her two passions of art and business, Amy Jean worked tirelessly to create the steady foundation for her empire of flawless brows.
“I chose my first space strategically – the back of a busy hair salon – banking on having a captive audience of women waiting for their hair colour to process,” she explains. “I spoke to everyone who came through for hair treatments about the benefits of brow shaping and upkeep until I started booking actual appointments.
“And it worked – within a matter of months my books were full!”
For more than a decade, clients have walked through the boutique doors in Australia’s most affluent locations (including Palazzo Versace hotel) greeted only with exceptional attention to detail. Easily mistaken for an opulent spa, the salons’ luxurious touches are boundless. White orchids, crystal lights, a Louis Vuitton chest coffee table, Hermès cashmere blanket and Louis Vuitton leather hand mirror make for a dreamy experience – topped off with clients leaving with flawless brows tailored to suit each face.
“You can have all the market data in the world, but it won’t make any difference if you’re not actively connecting with your community.” – Amy Jean
Sixteen years later with five salons across Australia (including the most recent Double Bay boutique), a product line, 30 employees and regular pop-ups internationally in Paris, London, Milan, Singapore and New York, the “one-woman-operation” has truly flourished since its inception.
Not to mention the brow guru has attracted a loyal following from the likes of Naomi Campbell, Rebecca Vallance, Kate Waterhouse, Mel B, Delta Goodrem, Jesinta Franklin and Nicky Zimmermann.
“When I look back at how we started, I feel immense pride at where we are today,” Amy Jean shares. “It’s one thing to work out of a space and quite another to put your name on the sign out front – it was a huge risk for me.
“My first day in business was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating – I had no clients booked in and there was no commercial awareness about tailored brow-shaping services.
“However, I don’t think I’m alone in saying I thrive off an element of risk taking. The brand has evolved so much from when I started out on my own back in 2004.”
The UK brow market is just a snippet of the movement worldwide. Net-a-Porter has 197 products listed in the UK specifically for brows, up 985 per cent since the ecommerce site first launched its beauty section in 2013.
With fierce competition globally, Amy Jean ensures her business offers solutions for creating flawless brows.
“It sounds too simple to be true, but it all comes down to identifying a need that’s not yet catered for and taking it upon yourself to find the solution,” she shares. “There are so many things we continue to do, or do without, because it’s the way it’s always been done. That attitude has never appealed to me.”
Becoming an expert on flawless brows
In such a crowded market it can be difficult to stand out, but with more than 15 years of expertly maintaining brows, Amy Jean says it’s her unique approach that allows her eponymous brand to soar.
“Amy Jean Brows was first conceived to celebrate the beauty of the individual, and all of our subsequent success and industry longevity can be attributed to one thing: listening to our clients,” she shares. “Our customers are our number one priority.
“You can have all the market data in the world, but it won’t make any difference if you’re not actively connecting with your community.”
Through listening to her clients – many of which are A-list celebrities – the entrepreneur added to her business by launching Amy Jean Privée Collection, creating an opportunity for people to leave the boutique with continually flawless brows.
The carefully curated make-up collection tailored to our arches boasts a plethora of products specifically created for an effortless look.
“The product range began quite organically,” Amy Jean reflects. “The products stemmed from the conversations we were having every day with our clients.
“I loved that I could work on the products as a separate project or escape from my daily salon routine. I worked on researching and developing products at night as my evening shift.
“I keep my eyes and ears open for new areas of value or neglect and then I don’t stop until I’ve come up with a solution.”
From the innovative nourishing Daily Brow Mask – the first of its kind – and the Micro Stroke Pencil to the Brow Velvet Duo powder, the entire Italian-made collection is now stocked at Harrods and Net-a-Porter – ensuring everyone can have flawless brows all year round.
“Harrods is such an esteemed name in retail with a rich history and devoted customer,” Amy Jean says. “To hold a place among their stable of luxury brands has been a huge career highlight for me.”
Lessons on building an empire
Teamwork makes the dream work
“You’re truly only as great as the people you surround yourself with,” the expert says. “You hear a lot about the benefits of teamwork, but it is actually so vital to employ staff who share your values, ethics and humour. You can train skills but not character, so it’s better to take the time to search for the right fit.”
Changing public opinion
“Reframing the importance of good brow care in the public’s mind – this one took time and sheer perseverance. As soon as I started to see the fruits of my labour, I knew I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Have an open mind
“A capacity to keep my mind and options open, allowing me to seize opportunities whenever they’re presented to me.”
“A commitment to pushing myself and building the kind of company I would want to work for. Also building a good team and embracing the support of those who believe in my vision.”
Growing up performing classical ballet, the entrepreneur was ingrained with dedication and discipline from an early age – as well as perfecting the art of false lashes and winged eyeliner – setting her up for business success in the beauty realm.
Armed with a genuine interest in her clients, Amy Jean says listening is what puts her eponymous label at the forefront of the noisy industry.
“Each of our products stemmed from numerous conversations with our clients regarding their desires and pet peeves, and it’s a strategy we continue to implement daily,” she explains. “That’s what’s kept us at the forefront of the industry; our capacity to listen and remain engaged with the people who matter most.”
Although her journey to mastering flawless brows wasn’t without some lessons learned in hindsight.
“I formerly held onto my failures and would be really harsh on myself,” she tells The CEO Magazine . “I now dust things off and move on.
“I wish I’d known that you will never switch off entirely – that a day off is only a day away from clients but not a day away from the running of your business.”
From overcoming the universal challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic to riding the highs, the brow trailblazer says every opportunity has given her the chance to learn and grow.
One of her biggest learnings came when she became a mother to her son – and her second child is due in August. Amy Jean says that having her son taught her the true meaning of what it really takes to be an effective business owner.
“For the first 15 years of business, I worked around the clock, seven days a week. I lived and breathed business,” she says. “It took me a good five years to take an overseas holiday and leave the business in the very capable hands of staff.
“Since becoming a mother, my one-year-old son has changed my attitude and I adore being in mum mode when I’m home.”
Despite soon being a mother of two under two, Amy Jean won’t be slowing down in the business world.
“The last 12 months have been a period of enormous growth and learning, and we plan on taking those lessons with us in the next year and beyond,” she says. “Since adopting the [work–life] juggle, I’ve realised how truly phenomenal businesswomen are.
“Being able to enjoy my career makes me a better mother, and motherhood enhances me a businesswoman.”