Founder / Tribe Skincare
Here are two truths, Kayla Houlihan is one incredibly smart skin wizard, and, she also has the most energising career story that I have had the privilege to curate.
A former beauty therapist from Geelong, Kayla founded cruelty-free brand Tribe Skincare two years ago, and has seen her business enjoy a dazzling trajectory and notoriety since it’s inception. With over 58,000 followers on Instagram and a business podcast, Kayla is not only producing a gorgeous product that women all over the world want, but she is also helping other entrepreneurs with her knowledge.
This interview will light a spark, that will rejuvenate every cell in your body. It will help you realise that everything is possible, and so much more. Kayla is generous, pragmatic, and has wisdom beyond her years. This interview is a beauty nerd’s dream, and a lesson to everyone on the importance of being aware of one’s own passions and, if you’re very lucky, allowing them to inform your career.
Where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I grew up in country Victoria by the beach in Portland. When it came to choosing career paths for University, I honestly didn’t know there were options outside of teaching and nursing as they were the only real jobs in Portland that required a University degree. So I spent 4 years studying to be a teacher and taught for 2 years. Pretty different to running a skincare brand which is what I do now. When I realised teaching wasn’t the career for me, I returned to study Beauty Therapy and learned absolutely everything I could about skin health. In 2013, my sister and I opened a skin clinic together and I saw a gigantic gap in the market for skincare for sensitive skin. Many of our clients at the clinic had sensitive skin and couldn’t find a range that worked for them, so I set out to create it. Fast forward 2 and a half years, I am running a multi-million dollar skincare brand, Tribe Skincare, which is a super surreal experience, but an incredible and fulfilling career.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn’t really think about this until Year 10 when I had to choose somewhere to do ‘work experience’. I decided to spend the week at a local beauty salon and absolutely loved it. It was fast paced, exciting, and all the treatments and products really interested me. But I guess in Year 12, I decided I wanted to go to University. While I was always interested in Beauty Therapy, it went on the back-burner for a few years.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
I studied at Deakin University for 4 years to become a Secondary Teacher (specialising in Visual Art and English). I genuinely though this was what I wanted to do when I was 17 and deciding what to study, but soon realised it wasn’t the perfect career for me. Then I studied at The Gordon (TAFE) to complete a Diploma of Beauty Therapy. I absolutely love learning everything about skin and this course was very practical and hands-on.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for?
My beauty career started at Endota Spa. It was an amazing experience working for one of the biggest companies in Australian beauty and I learnt so much about all the natural Australian skincare ingredients and how they benefit your skin. At the time, I was just genuinely interested in learning and had no idea this knowledge would help me so much in the future when I created my own skincare range.
Just over 2 years ago, I launched ‘Tribe Skincare’ with just 4 essential products for sensitive skin – a cleanser, exfoliant, day moisturiser and night moisturiser. Over the past few years, the range has expanded into serums, masks, body products and mineral makeup, all with the same core mission of creating all natural, effective skincare for sensitive skin.
How did you get into the job that you are in now?
I guess my current ‘job’ is one I have created for myself and essentially taught myself how to do. The thing is, I wanted to start a skincare brand for sensitive skin, but had absolutely no idea how to do that and nobody I could really ask for assistance. So with a wonderful tool called ‘Google’ (you may have heard of it, hehe) I began researching exactly how to do what I wanted to do. Steps by step, with many triumphs and mistakes, I essentially taught myself how to run a business.
Love this, GOOGLE is life. So, what is the hardest part of running your own business?
The hardest part of running your own business is trying to have a ‘normal’ life with work/life balance. It’s difficult not to think about my business every minute of the day and if I don’t do the work, nobody else will do it for me. I try to give my days a ‘normal’ structure, where I go into my office Monday-Friday at 9am and leave by 3pm or 4pm and don’t do any work outside of those hours. But at the beginning of having the business, I used to work constantly and couldn’t focus on other parts of my life.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you?
Running a skincare brand sounds a little bit glamorous, but most of my days are spent at the computer responding to emails and having online meetings. I actually love this structure to my day and find it really enjoyable, but it’s different to how I thought ‘running a business’ would look.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
Definitely my Nan. I have always looked up to my Nan since I was little. She ran a hair salon from her home and I found that so amazing that she was her own boss when I was a kid. I guess she was the only business owner I knew at the time and I wanted to be just like her.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Soak up every piece of information you possibly can in your chosen industry. You will be amazed her helpful and transferable every like thing you learn is. When I was 20 and studying, I worked at a jewellers and learnt so many retail sales techniques. While I was studying to be a teacher, I thought these sales techniques wouldn’t really be relevant once I left the jewellers. But now I apply them to my business every single day.
Knowledge is power and your career is more fulfilling when you feel totally kick-arse at your job!
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Websites: Google! I know it’s not technically a website, but it’s an incredible resource for learning about absolutely anything!
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: Well I spend most of my day on the @tribeskincare Instagram account of course! But I also love @the_happy_broadcast for amazingly positive news from around the globe.
- Favourite Podcast: I host a podcast all about business called ‘The Bite-Size BizRoom’ so I think I have to say that’s my favourite! I also love all the podcasts by ‘Mamamia’ and ‘Shameless’.
- Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: I watched the Taylor Swift documentary ‘Miss Americana’ last night and absolutely loved it! My all time favourite series would have to be ‘Gossip Girl’.
- Who is your mentor? (This can be a person you follow for advice, or an IRL person). I feel like all the podcast hosts I listen to are like my mentors. It’s like we chat a few times a week, but it’s just them chatting to me and they don’t even know me! Hehe.
- Favourite all time book/s: Definitely the ‘Harry Potter’ series.
- Favourite App that you use every day: Definitely the Apple Podcast App. I listen to podcasts all day everyday while I am working.