- Jess Hunt became famous on Instagram in 2018 while at university and started her modeling career.
- In 2020, Hunt and a cofounder launched a beauty business selling eyebrow products as a side hustle.
- Here’s how Hunt, 25, scaled it to make eight figures in revenue last year, as told to Jess Bacon.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Jess Hunt, 25, about how she used her influencing and modeling career to create a beauty business. Documentation of Refy’s annual turnover has been verified by Insider. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I began documenting my outfits and makeup looks on Instagram while studying fashion at art college in Plymouth.
I started styling fashion and beauty for my social media — what I used to buy or what I wore on nights out with friends. I began working with brands who sent me products or asked me to model on shoots for them.
My career as an influencer evolved from there — it was very organic
While I was modeling at a shoot for a hair brand, Shrine, in 2019, I met the brand owner, Jenna Meek, who’s now my business partner. We had an immediate connection.
Over the day, Jenna noticed my lengthy brow routine — two brow gels and four different brushes — to keep my unruly brows in place. I mentioned I struggled to find one product to create my ideal brow look.
On that shoot, Jenna and I drew up what is now our award-winning brow-sculpting product. Jenna asked the factories she used for Shrine to manufacture a sample.
We went back and forth for about a year testing hundreds of samples for our first product, Refy Brow Sculpt
Jenna and I invested £60,000 each into the brand from our savings, so we had an initial investment of £120,000.
Jenna was already a successful business owner, and I was making enough money from influencing to take on this risk.
When we were starting, we ran Refy as a side hustle. We worked on building the product out of hours and virtually for nearly a year.
People from Jenna’s team at Shrine helped us execute our first campaign shoot and product launch, so we had that previous experience behind us alongside a few core staff for Refy in place.
When we launched in November 2020 I was nervous — but we sold out of six months’ worth of stock in six weeks.
Once we had launched, we rolled out our first influencer campaign. My contacts in the modeling world meant we could put the brand in front of millions of people through Instagram, which is huge for a young brand.
Social media has a big part to play in the success and growth of Refy
I had friends in the industry like Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Marilyn Melo, and Jayde Pierce who wanted to try and share our Brow Sculpt.
In a way, the pandemic helped our launch because people were spending so much time on their phones. They also had more disposable income.
I was slightly worried we peaked with brows — that it was the right time for the right product.
I don’t expect everyone to have a whole makeup bag of Refy – although I will, of course. The dream is one Refy product in every person’s makeup bag that is their go-to.
Any product we make needs to fulfill a purpose
I’ll never bring out tons of products and colorways. Because we are creating purpose-built products, we spend one to two years sampling, testing, and tweaking them before they launch.
I never want to create a product that dries out, or you’re throwing it away before you’ve used it up. We want to guarantee our products last, which is why we test them for so long before bringing them to the consumer.
In June 2021 we were stocked in Sephora for the first time and sold out 16 weeks’ worth of stock in 72 hours.
We launched our Summer Skin line in July 2021. This year we released our lip collection in March. Our lip products sold out of 16 weeks’ worth of stock in three weeks. We launched the Skin Finish line in May 2022 and Glow in June 2022.
The real challenge now is sustaining that level of success after a launch. It’s about meeting the customers’ expectations, keeping up with growth, and launching innovative products.
I’m now head of creative at Refy
Everything our Refy customers see I have seen, approved, or worked on.
We started with a handful of us doing four jobs each, and now we have nearly 40 Refy employees in our Manchester HQ.
The speed that Refy has grown at is exciting but also slightly overwhelming. I know that bringing more people on board will improve the brand.
Day to day I’m approving and planning our social-media campaigns. There are also lots of product-development meetings.
I organize my time with 2 lists: a Refy list and a Jess list
Every day I will work on projects across my brand and Refy, doing personal shoots around business meetings.
Refy is my main focus and passion. It’s where I spend most of my time now, as it has hit an eight-figure turnover for its second financial year. I love the entire journey, from innovating each product to customers’ reactions.
I love Instagram, but it’s become a hobby rather than my main business. I don’t currently take a salary for Refy. We invest everything we make back into scaling the business. I am lucky that my work as an influencer provides enough income that I can do this.
Jenna and I feel as though we’ve only just got started with Refy and now it’s working to create a massive global brand.