Beauty, according to West Kelowna entrepreneur Jannine LeMere, comes from a love of life, passion for what you do and a little bit of shimmer around your face.
These key ingredients have helped launch Jannine’s burgeoning business, Vintage Beauty Skincare Inc., into a going concern with a client list that just keeps getting longer.
Jannine started Vintage Beauty with her husband, Samuel Doyle, in 2006 after retiring to the Okanagan from Winnipeg. Jannine was leaving a successful, 27-year career as a lawyer and Samuel was a land surveyor. Both felt it was time for a change – in lifestyle and scenery.
“We knew that if we didn’t get out in time we would be stuck there forever,” Jannine said, only half joking. “When we had enough money, we decided to move to the most beautiful place in Canada.”
The two quickly became enamoured of the idea of living in a place where grapes are commonly grown, coming from a city with a reputation for reaching frigid lows of –50 C.
Visiting the Napa Valley in California, and wineries in New Mexico, Jannine and Samuel first hit upon their business idea. Gift shop after gift shop sold specialty items related to wine and grapes such as corks and napkins and books and ornaments. But no one seemed to carry wine-themed skin care. They could fill that niche, they decided.
In addition to the catchy hook the product line would have for a winery boutique, Jannine was excited about the natural benefits of the largely grape-based skin products she began to develop and make by hand.
“Grapes are a really good antioxidant,” she explained. “Antioxidants clean up free radicals, clean up the detritus of cells. Grape seed oil is good for the skin. It absorbs really well and goes deeper within the skin cells. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
Her products are also paraben-free, and use natural ingredients and preservatives.
When Jannine was 27 years old she was diagnosed with breast cancer, with only a 20 per cent chance of survival. That scare tweaked an interest in health in her that has endured through the years, but it also made her focus on what’s important and what’s not.
“Everything I do, now, I do because I like it. If I’m not happy, I don’t do it. You can’t live your life with regrets. Every day, you have to live it like it could be your last.”
Her enthusiasm for what she does is contagious and that, combined with the aesthetic effects of Vintage Beauty’s products on her customers mean her original plan of selling her line of creams, lotions and lip balms in area wineries has yet to be fulfilled. While Vintage Beauty can be found at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Discover Wine and Nature’s Fare in Kelowna, the majority of their business is done at the Vernon, Kelowna and Peachland farmers markets.
Their first summer in business, Jannine and Samuel set up a booth at the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market to test the customer response. The response was so positive it’s kept them busier than they had imagined.
In 2006, the business launched with two products – the Love Spell hand cream (“Cherry almond with a splash of gardenia that reminds me of Jergens from the 1950s,” Jannine describes) and Full Bodied Tinted Lip Balm (a red wine flavoured stick with a mulled wine scent and a cherry tint). Four years later, the product line has expanded to include 30 different products, with 10 hand lotions alone and five lip plumpers, plus a gamut of creams and cleansers, shampoo and conditioner, bar soap, bath salts and deodorant.
Jannine takes care of research and development of the products while Samuel, an equal partner in the business, works in production.
“It’s all fun,” Samuel admits. “ I love getting up early and going to the market, seeing the venders and repeat customers.”
Jannine’s favourite beauty tip is “shimmer.” She tries to infuse a little shimmer into many of her pampering products.
“I’m big on shimmer. When you wear shimmer you reflect the light, let it bounce off of you and look radiant.”
It’s a long way off from her previous life of investigations and courtrooms. And Jannine is enjoying every day of it.
“It is a different life – that’s what retirement is supposed to be about. That’s not what my lifestyle is now.”
– Story and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier