A entrepreneurial mum has grown her makeup business into a multimillion-dollar beauty empire in just three years.
Hilary Holmes established two brands, Hilary Holmes Makeup and Holme Beauty, after her love for makeup started in high school to mask teenage insecurities and provide an escape from her tumultuous home life.
After working for 15 years as a makeup artist in Australia and the UK, the 39-year-old learned how important it is to see and celebrate each client’s unique beauty, an ideology she brings to the forefront of her brands’ ethos.
Hilary Holmes Makeup provides makeup services and well as masterclasses in her two Melbourne salons. With Holme Beauty, Hilary and her team have developed a small-but-specialised range of products that have been flying off the shelves since launching in 2021.
Throughout her life, Hilary, from Melbourne, has grown from strength to strength in the face of adversity, having battled with her weight and body image as well as post traumatic stress disorder from growing up in an abusive household.
In spite of her struggles, Hilary has worked hard to build a beauty business that goes against the grain, all the while raising her two children, Adelaide, five and Odie, two, with her husband-of-nine-years, Ben.
Hilary Holmes (pictured) established two beauty brands after her love for makeup started in school to mask teenage insecurities and provide an escape from her tumultuous home life
Through Holme Beauty, Hilary and her team have developed a small-but-specialised range of products that have been flying off the shelves since launching in 2021
‘I found makeup very similar to how most people find makeup and that was in the thick of teenage years not feeling very good about yourself and feeling you need to fit in with everyone else,’ Hilary told FEMAIL.
‘I found it initially because I was so insecure. I was quite overweight and I had no friends. It was a tough period but then I swung quite quickly into how creative makeup allowed me to be.’
Hilary Holmes’ ‘real girl’ beauty and makeup morning routine
First, I apply cleanser, serum, moisturise, sunscreen. I really just shove it on, you can be intentional all you like and massage and do all the things but if I’m being real just shove that on.
Then I use Holme Beauty base primer in two tones. I use my skin tone all over my face then a darker shade on my contour areas.
I apply a bit of concealer under my eyes, a swipe of blush on my cheeks, a slap of mascara and finish with a bit of lipstick.
I use the setting spray religiously. I don’t touch up ever. It’s designed to lock in the makeup and help with the longevity
At the time, Hilary was in her final year of school, being bullied for her weight and would rather explore the makeup counters at department stores and beauty shops instead of going home where she lived with three siblings and her mum.
‘My parents divorced when I was very young,’ she said.
‘I had quite a tumultuous living environment so I was out a lot and I found myself hanging out in the CBD before and after classes,’ she said.
Hilary found solace immersing herself in the glamorous cosmetic displays and would occasionally be able to afford a small eye shadow pigment for herself.
She even still has a pearly-pink pigment from Napoleon Perdis, where she spent many hours, in her makeup bag today 20 years later.
‘The fashion industry didn’t have me because I was so much bigger, I couldn’t walk around and try on clothes, so I felt like makeup was that one thing that didn’t discriminate based on my size and allowed me to play with it,’ she said.
Once Hilary left school, she moved out of home and enrolled at university where she studied agricultural science and would use makeup to express herself at the numerous social events that often go hand-in-hand with student life.
After graduating, she tried to find a job as a makeup artist, but being self-taught no one would take her on, so she made the move to London where she quickly found work.
‘It was a bit of a culture shock going over there because I went from really white Australia, not knowing about different communities and religions, to smack-bang in the middle on London,’ Hilary recalled.
‘I was really craving uniqueness. In Australia there was, and still is, an obsession around being blonde, tanned, and that never spoke to me.’
After graduating uni, Hilary tried to find a job as a makeup artist, but being self-taught no one would take her on, so she made the move to London where she quickly found work
‘When I went over there, it was great to see a kaleidoscope of people and viewpoints and skin tones and makeup looks.’
Hilary found another job with a well-known cosmetic brand where she underwent a training program and learned the tricks of the trade from a ‘plethora of creative artists’.
‘Because I’m self-taught I really extended myself to see what different artists did. I watched and evaluated how they did things and I adapted myself to take on different bits from everyone,’ she said.
‘The way I learned was by watching, seeing, listening and doing, as opposed to being shown in an educational format.’
Hilary worked for the same company for seven years between the UK and Australia, where she spoke to countless clients about their beauty needs.
Knowing she didn’t want to work in retail her whole life, Hilary broke away and started freelancing, bringing all the lessons she had learned over the years with her
‘It started my obsession with seeing past the retail, service-based situation to actually really listening and understanding and seeing individuals in terms of what they were looking for, how they wanted to feel and what they needed from me to know how phenomenal they were,’ she said.
Knowing she didn’t want to work in retail her whole life, Hilary broke away and started freelancing, bringing all the lessons she had learned over the years with her.
Hilary’s people-focused mentality spoke to her clients and business boomed.
She founded Hilary Holme Beauty in 2016, opening her very first salon in Geelong, then another in South Melbourne.
Throughout the years, while freelancing and running her salon, Hilary gave birth to her daughter, which brought up unresolved trauma from her childhood.
‘From the outside people saw me as this very vivacious, very smiley, loud, outspoken person, but internally I had a world going on that was deep and dark,’ she said.
She founded Hilary Holme Beauty in 2016, opening her very first salon in Geelong, then another in South Melbourne
‘I got married and felt safety in that so it allowed me to explore areas that I hadn’t been able to, but then I got pregnant and gave birth to my beautiful little girl, unfortunately that flushed up all of my PTSD.
‘When you are a young girl who’s been mistreated, then you give birth to another little girl, all the things that happened I saw what could potentially happen to Adelaide, so it was a lot to manage.’
Hilary’s weight issues were also holding her confidence back and she opted to have bariatric surgery in the same year she opened the salon, which saw her shed 50kg but also raised several new issues.
‘I saw myself go from undesired and unappreciated in society to very swiftly I was able to fit into a standard size range and people treated me very, very differently,’ she said.
The pandemic ‘shut her entire business down’ but Hilary spent her time focusing on being mum, welcoming her second child Odie, as well as launching Holme Beauty in July 2021
‘It’s been transformative but it’s come with a lot of backlash and health problems. I’m tired from working on my body; it’s been a tough eight years.’
Nevertheless, she persisted, having ‘fallen in love’ with her new solo venture before Covid hit.
The pandemic ‘shut her entire business down’ but Hilary spent her time focusing on being mum, welcoming her second child Odie, as well as launching Holme Beauty in July 2021.
‘I’m a makeup artist, I’m a perfectionist and I have a science background. I want to create a product that’s absolutely phenomenal, performs incredibly, looks amazing on the skin and is great for skin health,’ she said.
Through Holme Beauty, Hilary and her team developed a small range of quality and affordable items including base primers, a setting spray, highlighters, lip glosses, blushes and brushes and accessories.
Hilary wanted to set Holme Beauty apart from other brands and flip the dynamic by creating the high quality, easy-to-use and luxurious products she knew customers her were looking for.
Through Holme Beauty, Hilary and her team developed a small range of quality and affordable items including base primers, a setting spray, highlighters, lip glosses and blushes
‘A lot of brands come from the angle of, ‘We are the leaders, we are the aspirational ones, we are the dictators of what we do, we’re going to put something out and we’ll tell you you want it’,’ she said.
‘I want it to be based upon talking, seeing and hearing the everyday person. We can still be aspirational, luxe, beautiful and gorgeous but what do you want? What are you looking for? What are you trying to achieve?’
The $64 base primer come in five shades and has been a huge hit with Holme customers.
Customers have even been wearing the primer, which is meant to create a solid base for makeup, by itself to give themselves a glowing complexion.
‘Once you start using it, you can’t not have it in your routine,’ Hilary said.
The $64 base primer come in five shades and has been a huge hit with Holme customers. Many have even been wearing the primer by itself to give themselves a glowing complexion
Shoppers have been using her products in a range of different ways. Many swipe the highlighter over their eyelids for extra shimmer and apply the Holme blushes on their lips
She said the primer is one of many ‘happy mistakes’ she has discovered since developing her own makeup line as shoppers have been using her products in a range of different ways.
Many swipe the highlighter over their eyelids for extra shimmer and apply the Holme blushes on their lips.
Hilary loves hearing feedback and even tear-jerking messages from her customers which make her vision for a successful beauty brand that empowers people closer to reality.
‘It’s about enabling people to understand how stunning and how incredible they are and focus on the face they have, to want to show that off as opposed to trying to emulate another beauty standard they can’t achieve,’ she said.
Hilary loves hearing feedback and even tear-jerking messages from her customers which make her vision for a successful beauty brand that empowers people closer to reality
Holme Beauty is showing no signs of slowing with revenue going fro $600,000 to $3.6million in just three years
‘You’re born with this face and you die with this face. If you spend your whole life hating it, you’ve done something you cannot change, you’ll spend your entire life hating something that’s actually magnificent.’
Holme Beauty is showing no signs of slowing with revenue going from $600,000 to $3.6million in just three years.
Hilary’s team has tripled in the last few months and they have a staggering 66 per cent return customer rate so she knows she onto a good thing.
‘It sounds funny but so many people are driven by money and fame and fortune, I don’t care for any of that, I just care about making this a difference,’ she said.
‘If I’ve been able to change someone’s perspective on themselves in such a dramatic and monumental way, then I couldn’t be any more proud of the work that I do.’
Top five ways Hilary Holmes looks after her skin
I’m really invested in my skin. I have that weak inflamed English Irish skin, so I have to strengthen it.
1. Get regular treatments: I get lots of needling, laser and a lot on enzyme treatments to get my skin strong.
2. Double cleanse: Being realistic, I did fall asleep in my makeup last night, It’s not something that I normally do but it happens. I got up this morning like ‘Hilary!’ but then I was like, ‘Oh whatever’.
I like to double cleanse because no makeup all comes off in the first go.
3. Ditch the makeup wipes: I have been actively trying not to use makeup wipes anymore because they’re not good for the skin.
4. Switch up your serums: I have five serums I use strategically. Sometimes I’ll just use a retinol, I always use a hyaluronic and then I’ll use a vitamin C if I want to.
I have couple of serums that I swap and change then I use an oil for nighttime and a really beautiful moisturiser during the day.
5. Always use an eye cream: For some reason in Australia, we always got told to cleanse and moisturise from day dot but no one ever told us to use an eye cream.
As a makeup artist I know people feel sensitive about that area looking too heavy and too wrinkled but it’s the area that no one looks after.
I use a morning eye cream which is more of a serum based one then a really rich one for nighttime.