December 3, 2023
  • Natalie Chapple started mixing pots of cosmetic glitter and selling them in 2017.
  • During the pandemic, she had more time for her business, generating $2.2 million in 2021 sales.
  • This is how she grew her successful glitter side hustle, as told to the writer Salina Jivani. 

This story is based on a transcribed conversation with 30-year-old Natalie Chapple, from Basingstoke, England, about how she founded her business, Glisten Cosmetics. It has been edited for length and clarity. Insider has verified the business’s finances with documentation.

I was 22 years old in my final year of college when I learned I was pregnant. Several months later, in 2014, I had a degree in fashion design and a son.

I decided the responsible career choice would be to retrain as a teacher.

I started training for a substitute-teacher role in 2015. The teacher’s training salary hovered at about 22,000 pounds, then about $30,000, a year, which barely made a dent in the household expenses I shared with my husband, Aaron, who worked at a sports store.

At the time, our monthly expenses were 900 pounds for rent and 1,000 pounds for childcare. After food, bills, and gas (on a good month) we had 200 pounds of disposable income.

Desperate to make ends meet, I wanted to find a way to earn money on the side

For years, I’d bought glitter from eBay and worn it to festivals and special events. I loved its sparkle and would play around with my collection whenever I could.

On New Year’s Eve in 2016, I was getting ready for the night, and it struck me that there was a gap in the market for a UK-based glitter cosmetics brand.

On New Year’s Day, I started my glitter business: Glisten Cosmetics. I invested 200 pounds of my savings — 200 more than we could afford — to buy glitter and glass pots from a supplier and filled each one by hand. Then I put up my first Instagram post advertising my product.

I posted pictures on Instagram every day along with videos, which at the time were a new concept on the platform. This unique way of advertising helped the brand gain greater visibility. 

After three months, influencers started to contact me, asking to sample products, which I sent not knowing what to expect. After they started posting about our product, the influencers helped increase sales by 30%.

My mom’s and husband’s support meant I was able to focus most of my free time on growing my business. Aaron took care of our son, feeding and playing with him while I worked, and my mom tackled taxes and paperwork for the business.

Before the end of 2017, I’d sold more than 1,000 items totaling 6,000 pounds in revenue. These were simple products, like glitter mixes and glitter gels I’d handmade.

But as the sales began to climb, something didn’t feel quite right

Glitter is made of plastic and is harmful to our environment. In 2018, I reinvested any money I’d made from product sales until I could afford the more expensive, biodegradable glitter.

I was still working more than 40 hours a week as a teacher, hoping to quit and take the business full time. By mid-2018, sales of the biodegradable products had dwindled. Expensive, less sparkly glitter — although eco-friendly — didn’t have the same appeal.

I was pregnant with my second child and unwilling to give up the dream of being self-employed. 

In a leap of faith, I took out a loan in 2018 and bought and designed my first eye-shadow palette. 

I found a manufacturer and started testing shadow formulas. Glisten Cosmetics pivoted from being a glitter cosmetics company to something more. With more variety of products, demand started rising again. The number of orders increased until I couldn’t fill orders out of my home in glass pots, so I started partnering with manufacturers. 

In September 2018, my daughter was born. I went on maternity leave with the expectation that I wouldn’t have to return to teaching.

Unfortunately, sales weren’t enough to cover the expenses of a two-child household, so I returned to work in September 2019.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, my school allowed any teachers who had children to stay home and teach them themselves

Teachers who didn’t have kids carried on the lessons for the class. 

My son was only in his first year of school, and my husband had been furloughed, so he was able to help out with our son’s lessons and take care of the kids. This freed up about five hours a day I could work on Glisten.

With the extra time, I was able to expand to liners, brushes, and lip glosses and stopped selling glitter entirely. I also released special-edition products in collaboration with influencers. 

The business blew up. I could no longer handle the work alone, so I hired my mom. Glisten Cosmetics made 47,000 pounds in September 2020 alone. That’s when I handed in my resignation notice. I was finally full time at Glisten Cosmetics. By the end of 2020, we’d tallied 250,000 pounds for the year.

In 2021, we continued growing. I released a new palette at the end of the year with a small earring brand. It sold out immediately. In 2021, my first full year working only for Glisten, we made 1,750,000 pounds, or about $2.2 million.

In January 2022, we made 204,000 pounds. In February, we made 215,000 pounds. Our weekly sales for 2022 are about 45,000 pounds, or $58,800).

I attribute our growth to marketing and our collaborations with influencers. If I were to give a single piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, it would be to interact with your customers on social media — interact with your comment section and respond to messages. It pays off to put the legwork in with potential customers to show them you care. 

Have you launched a successful side hustle and want to share your story? Email Kiera Fields at [email protected]


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