Lanolips Founder and CEO Kirsten Carriol’s sell-out success took off in the early 2000s after a long-haul flight left her lips cracked and dry.
With a bag full of balms – and not a single one that could keep her lips hydrated – she remembered using lanolin as a small child on her grandparent’s sheep farm. Her dad called it “nature’s wonder moisturizer”. On that flight, Carriol decided to bring lanolin back.
Now Lanolips is a global, multi-million-dollar sensation with an impressive cult following. Even celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Drew Barrymore, Sienna Miller and Miranda Kerr can’t get enough.
The brand’s flagship, the Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm, has the powerful ability to hold 400 times its weight in water, and is sold globally at a staggering rate of one tube per minute.
Despite this success – and the fact that she’s transformed the brand from a single gloss to a comprehensive product range, featuring facial cleansers, hydrating creams and balms – Carriol says she’s not finished just yet.
“Point King Capital recently secured a meaningful minority stake in the business, allowing us to grow much less conservatively now,” she tells The CEO Magazine.
“Previously, we were self-funded, which meant we could only grow as fast as the cash we had available. Now that the purse strings have been loosened, we expect our growth rate to increase exponentially.”
Lanolips had previously been growing between 10 and 15 percent each year. Since the capital infusion, however, growth has jumped to 37 percent. And this year, Carriol says they’re aiming for 50 percent.
“A lot of investors want to hear the magic plan, where if they put this money in then the company will do this magic new thing. But with Lanolips, we’re already a proven business,” she says. “So for us, it’s about doing the same thing we’ve been doing just faster, less conservatively and with more experimentation.”
She’s also planning to launch Lanolips into new markets. “We’ll be doing a really big push into China within the next two years. It’s going to be challenging because no-one’s really working in China. Mecca launched and pulled out. Adore Beauty also tried China, but it didn’t work out,” Carriol says.
“China is a hard market. Even the best get it wrong, but we’re going to go in and give it everything we’ve got.”
Over the next year, Carriol says that the United States will continue to be a huge point of focus as well. “The United States is a big market for us. It’s an enormous opportunity,” she points out.
“We’ve been there for five years now, and it’s already 40 percent of our business. And we know that we’ve only just touched the surface.”
It may seem surprising, but Carriol never set off with the intention of becoming an entrepreneur. Growing up, she was always creating her own fragrances and skincare potions, and considered herself a beauty fiend. This eventually led to her working in beauty marketing, where she got a front-row seat to all the big brands.
“I was working on the biggest luxury brands in the world for quite some time,” she remembers. “And I was increasingly jaded by the lack of products that actually worked. So looking back, I guess it was inevitable that I’d be here today. But I never had that ‘girl boss’ vibe.”
Instead, this boss of gloss said she just likes doing her own thing and being able to support herself. On the business side of things, though, she admits she had a lot to learn. And with that, she’s made a lot of mistakes along the way.
If she could do it all over again, Carriol insists she’d listen more. “I always felt like I already knew everything. But, of course, I didn’t. So while it might sound counterintuitive, I would’ve listened to myself and others more,” she says.
“It’s about being better at learning when to trust yourself while knowing when it’s best to listen to others when you don’t know something. As a leader, you have to be able to identify your gaps. Success is a collaborative effort, and I genuinely believe that I’m only as good as the people that are on my team.”
Carriol, a working mother of two boys, takes immense pride in fostering an environment that champions inclusivity and supports working parents. She not only understands the unique challenges that come with balancing career and family but actively embraces the strength and resilience that working mothers bring to the table.
“We have a lot of working mothers at Lanolips. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, not many companies made it easy for them to get back to work. There were all of these untapped brains just sitting at home,” she says.
“So I used the pandemic as an opportunity to get these amazing women in my business in a flexible way that worked for their lives.”
She’s also taken a stance, advocating for the inclusion of people of color in the Lanolips brand. While the industry as a whole has gotten better at this over the past few years, Carriol affirms that with Lanolips, a rich palette of skin tones has been celebrated from the outset.
“In this industry, people look to us to tell them what beauty is. It’s 100 percent on us to take on that responsibility and use it properly. For us, it’s always been about showing beautiful woman, and the color of her skin is irrelevant.”
While she’s proud of all of these achievements, it’s the little things that keep her going. “I get really excited about seeing my lip balms in someone’s handbag,” she smiles. “It’s such a privilege. But what I love most is building a brand that lasts a lifetime.”