Inventor Tom's latest launch could make life much easier for make-up artists

When Tom Pellereau AKA Inventor Tom won BBC’s The Apprentice, it was his creativity that impressed Lord Sugar. His latest innovation sees him turn his hand to make-up brushes and is set to launch at this year's Professional Beauty London. He tells Georgia Seago how he’s going to crack the pro market

You’re best known for bendy nail file Stylfile, but what new beauty innovations do you have up your sleeve?

So far we’ve been all about nails but very soon we’ll be looking at make-up brushes; our brush cleaner, called StylPro, is launching at Professional Beauty. I’m amazed by the problems in hygiene when it comes to make-up brushes. We tested 35 different brushes, including some from retail make-up counters, and found that some had over 40,000 bacteria on them. Make-up artists have a big problem with so many brushes to clean, and there are better things they could be doing with their time than cleaning them. What I’m trying to do is create things that are really quick and efficient to make people’s lives easier.

Can you talk us through the technology behind the brush cleaner?

It works like a washing machine – it fills up with water, spins slowly, soap comes in and then the water drains away and at the end of the cycle it spins really fast and the water is squeezed out. It spins the make-up brush on its axis so the bristles slightly open up, and the centrifugal force created spins the water out. It means that you can go from a dirty brush to a clean and totally dry brush in about 30 seconds.

We’ll be selling to professional make-up artists initially. The StylPro machine will retail for £40 and there will be a discounted trade price depending on volume. People have said they were expecting it to cost more but at £40 we can help more people. I believe in good products at good prices and I know how many things women always feel they should do; so here’s something that can possibly help you out.

You also recently launched Stylfile Gel Polish Remover Clips. What was the inspiration for these?

I’m an inventor and I love talking to people about things that annoy them. We did a survey of 1,000 women and 52% said they thought gel polish damages nails, but only 38% or so had actually had the treatment. It’s clearly a perception thing. Nail technicians were saying that gel polish doesn’t damage the nails, it’s how you go about the removal process that can. The key part is keeping the acetone on the nail. Foils are there at the moment but isn’t there a better way of doing it? That’s where the clips come in. It started with identifying this problem for consumers but then I found this was a big problem for the trade as well.

How are you going to approach the professional market?

I’d like to work more closely with trade and I’d like to be able to supply salons in smaller volumes, so to allow that to happen we’re going to set up a special area on stylfile. com for trade. We’re selling the reusable clips at wholesale for professionals as well as a kit with everything that you need: the clips, Stylfile, cuticle oil, remover solution and orange sticks, to sell to clients to give an option to remove their manicure at home. I’m also looking for techs to review and feedback on the first generation of the clips. I’ve got some great ideas for the next generations – with pedicures for example, your toes are different sizes so I want to look at some other ideas relating to that.

What have you learned by moving from consumer-only to trade? Have you identified any other opportunities?

I think convenience and speed are hugely important for therapists and nail technicians, so any way you can save time and add pleasure to the situation proves popular. I have a dream of a machine so convenient that you can just put all your make-up brushes in, press a button and they’ll be clean and dry for you. I’m also really interested in hygiene. I’m amazed that hygiene levels aren’t routinely tested in salons, whereas in a medical environment you would test once a week by doing a swab in certain areas just to know that if something goes wrong it wasn’t down to you. I think it’s something that will come because people will start saying they caught [medical conditions] because of salons. It’s also something I think salons are going to want to be able to say: “We routinely swab, it can’t be anything to do with us.” It could become a competitive advantage in the future.

Do you have plans to develop products in this area?

We’ve had to develop our own protocols for testing bacteria in make-up brushes for the StylPro and I can see a day where my job is to provide hygienic brushes – not just a brush cleaner but a whole system including testing. We’ve developed a low-cost, non-invasive way of doing this, so I could send in a technician to sample brushes in a randomised way and then [declare the] systems efficient, so to speak. In general I’ll keep working on things as long as people want me to and there are problems to be solved. I’m very happy with this industry; it’s fascinating. 

Meet Tom and try out the StylPro on stand H27 at PB London, or find out more here. The full version of this Q&A will appear in the March issue of Professional Beauty. Subscribe here