After speaking with so many clients about the importance of cleaning their brushes everyday when they have problem skin, Charlene Flanagan and Niamh Ryan soon realised that it generally isn’t easy or convenient to do. The amount of bacteria that sits on and multiplies on makeup brushes that are then reapplied on to the skin again and again made the team search for a solution. When they couldn’t find a high quality brush cleanser, that was convenient, antibacterial and that would prolong the life of their expensive brushes they decided to make one; and so begins the story of their growing skincare empire, Ella & Jo!

Ella & Jo Squeaky Clean Brush Cleanser €20

Ella & Jo Squeaky Clean Brush Cleanser

Squeaky Clean Brush Cleanser was designed with both the professional and non-professional in mind.

It has been produced and manufactured in Ireland and designed to change the mindset around brush cleaning and to take the chore element away.

With modern day busy schedules, most of us, unless in the professional trade, don’t find the time to clean our makeup brushes and tools as often as we should.

This one product will clean, disinfect and condition the brush fibres on both natural hair and synthetic brushes, so that brushes will last longer.

It is convenient to use and is specifically designed to extend the life of your brushes.

Squeaky Clean Brush Cleanser removes pigments, oil and product residue, leaving your brushes smelling fresh and ready for reuse within minutes.

Ella & Jo 3 in 1 Hyaluronic Skin Mist €20

Ella & Jo 3 in 1 Hyaluronic Skin Mist

A facial skin mist with the key hero ingredient hyaluronic acid, designed to add hydration to the skin and to be used pre- and post-make up and throughout the day – this skin saviour is already flying off the shelves.

This is a product designed specifically for Irish skin types.

Created and made in Ireland, the mist plumps, hydrates and sets and is a one of a kind skin solution.

The 3 in 1 Hyaluronic Skin Mist is infused with extracts of chamomile, cucumber, witch hazel, aloe vera and green tea.

It is specially formulated with mild ingredients to help hydrate, condition and protect the skin.

Tell us about your career to date? 

Charlene: I am a professional makeup artist specialising in bridal makeup and makeup masterclasses nationwide. I have always had a passion for makeup but never believed I could make a career out of it but boy was I wrong! I have tried so many different areas of makeup from TV, photography, bridal, education and more recently, I co-created Ella & Jo Cosmetics, an Irish cosmetics brand and we have two products launched to date. It has been an amazing journey.

Niamh: My background is in beauty. Skin specifically was such a strong area of interest for me and I really specialised in skincare. I also trained as a reflexologist, working on people from the inside out. I also have a Masters in marketing from DCU, so Ella & Jo has really brought my two loves together: marketing and skin.

How do you begin and end your day? 

Charlene: I start my day and end my day as a mummy. I have an almost one-year-old and mornings and evenings are made up with spending time with her before I start my working day.

Niamh: With my skincare routine! I have three small children, so the morning is pretty manic for me. If I am up earlier than the kids I might get some emails or meditation done. If not, its into the total madness of the school run. Always with meditation or hypnosis and doing my gratitude journal. A life coach we know, Tara Rafter The Navigation Coach, has just brought out a 2019 diary/inspirational journal that includes daily check-ins, so my 2019 mornings will be starting out with that and ending with it.

How did you come up with the name for your company? What was your mission at the outset?

Charlene: Charlene Flanagan Makeup is pretty self explanatory, I always wanted to be my own brand and it has worked very well for me. I often get asked: “Are you Charlene Flanagan Makeup?” Like its a triple barrel name! Ella & Jo came about from a brainstorming session with myself and Niamh. Ella is representative of Niamh’s beauty business, Bella Beauty. I also have a little doggy called Ella, and Jo is an abbreviation of my married name, Jones. A lot of people would know my doggy through Instagram and would often ask is Niamh’s dog called Jo!

Niamh: There are two of us and I have a salon called Bella Beauty in Ballina and Charlene is Mrs Jones. So we brought the Ella from Bella and Jo from Jones together to create Ella & Jo. For Ella & Jo to create products that make women’s everyday life easier. Products that have real quality behind them, that deliver results and that bring a smile to people’s faces when they use them. Both of our products on the market smell amazing and people always comment that the scent really gives them a pick me up.

How do you advertise your business?

Charlene: Social media has been my main avenue of advertisement. Because I am essentially my own brand, it’s my face that has become familiar to people.

Niamh: For Ella & Jo it has really been word of mouth, people who have loved the products talking about it to their friends or followers.


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To what do you attribute your success?

Charlene: Without a doubt, the people that believed in me and followed me all throughout the years and always had nice things to say online or offline. Without their constant support and encouragement I wouldn’t have ever been approached by brands etc due to the level of engagement I get from people. I also owe a massive amount of thanks to Una Tynan from Blank Canvas Cosmetics, who gave me my very first huge opportunity six years ago at the RDS beauty show, when I was a very small fish in a big pond. We still remain very good friends and work together quite often. Most recently I launched my own makeup brush bundle with them!

Niamh: Hard work and having some fun – there has to be fun along the way, otherwise, what’s the point?

What are the most important services a business needs to utilise as a start up?

Charlene: A positive attitude always helps. Be genuinely interested in what you do and give it your everything. In my line of business, good photography means a lot. So, a smart phone and some form of enhancement lighting helps.

Niamh: The local enterprise offices are amazing and run courses at a really reasonable rate, it’s a brilliant way to tap into what’s happening in your area. We also have a local networking group, Women in Business Ballina that has over 100 members and we regularly have events on different topics, such as Facebook marketing, creating your marketing plan and really it’s a safe place for female managers or entrepreneurs to get together and chat.

How do you best network?

Charlene: I love networking. I find it had a huge part to play in my success also. Back when I started, there was a group set up called ITWBN – Into the West Blogger Network where bloggers, makeup artists, would meet up every few months. Then networking online played a massive role too.

How do you manage stress?

Charlene: This is something that took me a long time to figure out. For me, it’s having a reflexology treatment and journaling. Since becoming a mum, I find I have to be more organised, so I have set days for different roles and tasks. I have limited time set aside for work, while Anna is with a childminder, so I try to be as productive as I can during this time, so stress levels don’t get too high.

Niamh: I get regular reflexology treatments. You can’t pour from an empty cup. I also use the Calm app to do 10-minute meditations when I can to keep myself centred.

What ignited your spark?

Charlene: I have always had a passion for makeup and applying makeup but its educating people that I really thrive off. When people first started asking for my advice, then I started blogging, then I started videos, and then masterclasses.

Niamh: I think I was born with it! But I have to say the IBYE young entrepreneur competition gives you a great drive and head space to think about what’s next. You’re also off together in a room with lots of other young entrepreneurs and it pushes you to grow. I won the Best Established Business in Mayo in the IBYE awards in 2014 and that was amazing. I had my nine-month-old daughter along for the weekend, so that was the ultimate balancing home and work life.

Tell me about your best and worst days at work?

Charlene: My best days are the days when I am out on the field actually doing makeup or masterclasses. I love meeting people and especially working in bridal you are working with someone and giving them a service that is a true honour to be part of. Worst days are when you constantly put pressure on yourself to be 10 steps ahead of where you are. You compare yourself to others in the industry, which is so negative on your mindset. I take myself off social media on those days and refocus myself and my priorities.

Niamh: I get stressed when I over-book myself. I am a serial “yes” woman and recently read the book How to Say No and Not Feel Guilty and that has been life changing.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

Charlene: Some days I put on a nice outfit, do my makeup, book myself in for a blowdry or a reflexology treatment and head off somewhere with my family then other days I am in my comfy clothes or peejays, no makeup and just relax at home or bring Anna to the playpark or swimming.

Niamh: Spend time with my kids. I love the outdoors and we have a gorgeous woods nearby, Bellek Woods, with a fab fairy trail and Enniscrone beach is just down the road, so you’ll find me there or drinking a soy latte in Tracey’s Café in Enniscrone.

Try to describe yourself in three words only?

Charlene: Easy-going, chatterbox, happy.

Niamh: Strong, smart and sassy!

What are your hidden inspiration sources?

Charlene: Those young teenage girls, who like myself, was always a little bit of a sheep and followed the crowd too much just to feel accepted and wanting to fit in but it was only when I truly started to believe and follow my passions and dreams and to care and think less about what others thought or wanted me to do that I truly found my inner happiness and my inspiration to keep going.

Niamh: I am very spiritual. Some days I joke I’m downloading directly from the other side with all of the ideas that randomly pop into my head!

How do you generate innovative ideas?

Charlene: I listen to what my clients and followers ask from me. I hear their most common complaints and I try to fill that void. Whether its a video on how to master eyeliner or developing a product from scratch, it all comes from listening.

Niamh: They arrive while I’m sleeping, drinking tea, chilling with the kids, taking the space away from work, as well and the daily routine gives space for your mind to come up with something different.

If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?

Charlene: This woman is still living but she is the definitely one woman I would love to have the opportunity to meet and learn from. Pat McGrath is probably one of the most influential makeup artists of all time. She made a name for herself in the industry at a time when there were very few black people in those roles. She persisted and believed in herself and more importantly in her role. She pours her heart and soul into everything and anything she touches turns to gold. I love how she has explored so many various aspects of makeup and always continues to challenge herself, whether it’s through developing new products or creating new looks on the fashion runways. She is a constant inspiration to all women to follow your dreams no matter what stands in your way.

Niamh: Henry Ford. He was so innovative and driven. He was so ahead of his time. I think it would be amazing to have him over for tea.