As a small-town farm girl, Melanie Cruickshank always felt a little out of place, “It’s so funny because growing up on a farm, I hated it. I’ve always been a city girl at heart.” Her love affair was with make-up and beauty, always striving to learn about the highest quality products on the market. But after a journey that began in her kitchen, tinkering with the products she loved from Sephora and the Bay, she learned to love her farm roots. “The natural, organic way of life, is in my DNA.” That spurred her journey to create da lish cosmetics, an internationally acclaimed, Toronto based makeup company that is this week’s #BOQ.
Like many young people, Melanie struggled with severe acne growing up. She experimented with diets and skin care, examining everything that was going on in her body to find a cure. But also like many of us, she didn’t understand many of the ingredients that she was faced with in her daily routine. Instead of giving up or suffering in silence, Melanie decided to do something about it.
She started in her small Toronto kitchen, experimenting with her favourite brands to get the consistency she loved using ingredients she knew, but that wasn’t enough for her. She went back to school to learn about plant based chemistry, being determined to understand what the ingredients were in her favourite brands and what they could do to help her skin. She was trying to answer questions such as “What ingredients can I use to get an amazing product that will not clog my pores or make me break out.” That was and still is the inspiration behind da lish.
Fast forward 10 years, this small, kitchen based business is sold throughout Canada, the USA, Asia and most recently Australia. Selling her products in small boutiques everywhere from huge cities like her base in Toronto to small, rural towns, Melanie focuses her energy on creating relationships. “To be 100% honest, we have the best clients. They are all so loyal, sticking with us through thick or thin.” Her secret to growth is to slowly and steadily build her organic brand, organically. Through Instagram, she manages to connect with clients across the globe, finding new fans and collaborators in an authentic way. She also knows that it’s important for her to be on social media, making it “easy to connect with customers.” These social platforms allow da lish to have two-way conversations, starting with, “we are listening to you, we see you.”
By working with small boutiques, she manages to maintain the story of da lish. “The boutique owners are so enthusiastic about the products they sell, that they’re taking on our line because they believe in it.” The passion and enthusiasm she so clearly has for her products is transferred to those who sell and use it. She uses word-of-mouth to help grow the brand: “I really don’t think you can get a bigger compliment than a referral”.
Through the years, Melanie has learned a lot about patience and hopes to pass along that knowledge to other people looking to start their own business. “I always say that we’re the little engine that could. I believe that every single day the sun will rise, everyday is a new opportunity and you never know what’s going to come thr
ough the door.” So she encourages you to not only find a niche, but find it in something you love. Her advice is perfect for anyone: “Do something that you’re proud of” in whatever path you choose.
They have a lot of exciting collaborations in the works, but Melanie has no plans for trying to compete with the big
brands. Her goal, as she says, is to help people live a healthier, more natural life through education on her products. That doesn’t mean she plans to slow down, though: “da lish is still on a journey, we’re still doing things and we’re still figuring it out.”