Trishna Daswaney: Owner of Kohl

Whilst most students could admit to wasting their days watching Netflix and skiving lectures, final-year Trishna Daswaney’s ability to manage a business alongside her degree puts many to shame. The Management Studies student balances library study sessions with running Kohl, a makeup business with a charitable twist. Kohl aims to help men and women cosmetically recreate features that are lost as a consequence of life threatening diseases, and all profits Daswaney makes from commercial jobs fund this charitable aspect of the business.

We caught up with her to discuss what it’s like to run a business alongside her degree, Kohl’s new brush line and, of course, get some makeup tips from an expert!

Why did you start doing hair and makeup?

I’ve always been really interested in it. My mum trained in aesthetics and she’s always been really good with art and makeup. When I watched her as a kid, I used to delve into the makeup and smash her stuff around. I remember every time she used to go out of the house, I would go to her vanity and pick out all her stuff. My favourite used to be her Body Shop compact … and I smashed that into a lot of pieces. That was fun. I remember trying to hide the crumbs in the corner. I got into so much trouble for that. [My mum] was always really interested in it so that made me automatically want to investigate a little bit.

When I was 16 I was told that I could do hair and makeup for a fashion show. I got sponsorship from MAC Cosmetics in Hong Kong and I discovered that I was good at it and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t really think anything else of it – I was studying Physics, Geography and German at the time and I wasn’t thinking that this could be my career.

Then, I watched My Sister’s Keeper, which is a movie about a girl who goes through cancer. There’s a scene where she goes to the hospital prom, and I just remember her walking down those stairs and she looks so beautiful. You forget that she’s ill. The way makeup makes you look changes the way you feel. I really do believe that – I think appearance has a big impact on how you feel on the inside. Who doesn’t want to look and feel good? I wanted to be able to do that for someone.

So Kohl was inspired by My Sister’s Keeper. How did you go about starting your own business?

I started off doing a one-day workshop in makeup and hair. Then I started my Diploma, for which I studied event and fashion makeup and prosthetics, which is particularly important when you’re helping people with burns injuries. With prosthetics, you learn how to do the blood, guts and gore but you also learn how to invert it because you’re playing with latex. You learn how to graft skin and make it look natural. I was also aware that the people I aimed to work with could be sensitive and I needed to understand their skin, so I did training in aesthetics at LCF.

After I got these qualifications I approached my flatmate and we launched the business together. We did a couple of shoots in the summer of 2012 and Kohl was born.

After my flatmate graduated, I wanted to refocus on the charity side of things. I got support from the University and I’ve started working in the labs. I managed to get my first client through putting in a message at QMC and my client-list has grown through word-of-mouth. I aim to teach clients how to do half the face and they replicate what I’ve done. I analyse their skin type and make sure products will not cause a reaction.

It’s quite an intricate process, but it is expensive – that’s where the whole commercial side of Kohl comes in. This is why I’ve started doing workshops at university. Attendees get something in return for their money and I get donations to keep the business going. I also do magazines, photoshoots and weddings. It’s a broad spectrum of activities but I always aim to bring it back to the charity aspect.

Last year we interviewed you about Kohl – how has the business grown in the past year?

I now have my own brush line! I’m have an e-shop on my new website to sell the brushes and sales will help the charity side of Kohl. I’m selling 5 face brushes and 5 eyes brushes. Each set is £20 and if you buy the face and eye sets together it will be £40 with a free case.

You’ve got a lot of stuff going on! How do you manage Kohl alongside your degree?

It’s not easy but I love it; and if I love something, I’m not going to give it up. It’s a lot of time management, a lot of late nights. It’s not a lot of fun, unfortunately. I am never not busy, there’s no such thing as a weekend in my world.

You’re graduating this year. What’s next for you?

I love this – I never want to stop doing this. But at the same time, I need something to sustain myself. Unfortunately, I’m an international student and getting a VISA is very difficult. But I’m making my way through job applications and hopefully I’ll get something that will let me live my life my way.

I bet you’ve met so many inspiring people in your line of work. Who has been the most inspiring person you’ve met?

There’s been so many! Being able to help someone in a way that enables them to help themselves is just incredible. Everyone I’ve worked with has been inspiring. The hardest thing for me is making sure I don’t cry. I often find myself coming home and having a mini meltdown because it’s so emotional. Can you imagine not looking like you or feeling like you? If my work can just bring a fragment of that [identity] back, it’s worthwhile.

Kohl's new brush line

Now for some fun questions to finish the interview! What is your 2015 makeup recommendation?

The whole Kylie Jenner overdrawn lip liner is incredible! I love it. Finding that right shade of lip liner is difficult – Whirl by MAC is good, and Pinktreat by MAC suits different skin tones. NARS Al egua is a really nice colour. Rimmel does some really nice ones too. I just enjoy a really good matte lip.

I’ve started to not dramatise my winged eyeliner – I think the wing is dying this year. Everyone should remember to do their top AND bottom lashes. But please, stop squaring your eyebrows. I hate it!

What makeup product do you always have in your handbag?

*Proceeds to look through bag* I’m such a hoarder, but if it’s in here it’s definitely a staple. *Find lipstick* Lipstick! Definitely lipstick. *Continues looking* And a lip liner, and a lip balm for underneath. There will always be a lip balm in my bag.

Any universal makeup advice?

Always try and make sure that everything blends in!


Images courtesy of Trishna Daswaney