How a Sunderland student helped a Durham brand become a favourite of Beyoncé and Little Mix

Chronicle Live 1 month ago

From the kitchen table to a global success this Sunderland student has managed to turn a hobby into a business supplying some of the world's biggest stars.

West Barn Co, based in Durham, which took shape in 2016, started when Kim Catlin wanted to try something a little different to the groomed brow look that was trending on Instagram, to create a 'natural, brushed up, fluffy brow'.

Kim asked her mother Donna McCann-Turner, if it was possible to create a product similar to soap but that was suitable to wear on the face, particularly around the eyes.

They approached the University of Sunderland for support and took on Cosmetic Science student Rifah Tasnim in June 2018.

Rifah went on to carry out her placement year at West Barn Co. and she was the best choice Donna and Kim ever made.

After 12 months, Rifah and the mother and daughter duo quadrupled staff numbers, moved into bigger headquarters in Durham and sold their products to more than 100 countries.

The Soapbrows product lead to great success as it exploded on social media last year and Little Mix and Beyoncé are among its fans.

Cosmetics Science student Rifah Tasnim from Sunderland University with Kim Cattin (left) and Donna McCann-Turner at West Barn Company
Cosmetics Science student Rifah Tasnim from Sunderland University with Kim Cattin (left) and Donna McCann-Turner at West Barn Company

This opportunity has led Rifah into a full-time role once she graduates next summer.

Rifah, who chose to study the Cosmetic Science degree as it combined her passions for chemistry and make-up, is thrilled to be doing a job she enjoys.

“From day one at West Barn Co. I have been given the opportunity to do a little bit of everything, not just making cosmetics in the lab but researching and developing new products and even helping to hire new staff. It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve enjoyed every minute."

Dr Kalliopi Dodou, who created the BSc Cosmetic Science at the University of Sunderland, said:  “Rifah is one of our top performing students and it’s no surprise she has achieved so much while on this placement that has led to a full-time position before she’s even graduated."

"Our Cosmetic Science programme is designed to equip students for a successful and innovative career in the cosmetic, fragrance and personal care industry, and Rifah is evidence to that!"


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