Cancer beauty specialist Jennifer Young

Jennifer Young turned her back on a successful corporate career to develop a bespoke beauty range – and ended up developing a popular beauty range for cancer patients. Now she’s launched a new site, Beauty Despite Cancer. We find out why.

How did your career change once you had children?

When I first fell pregnant I was a management consultant. I was very driven and a third of my work was overseas, so I spent a lot of time away from home. But after having children, I stopped being interested in my organisation. It was very male dominated, and they really begrudged accommodating my maternity leave. I wanted to work part time, and while my drive didn’t change, my passion for my role in that particular company did. I didn’t respect them any more and felt it wasn’t the place for me.

So what did you do?

I handed in my notice and started thinking about what I wanted to do. I interviewed for a position as a lecturer in occupational health and was offered the job on the day of my interview. So once I’d worked my three months’ notice period I started that.

But as my family grew, I wanted to reduce my hours to the point where it wasn’t worth working for someone else. I really only wanted to work half a day a week in term time, and I appreciated that was difficult for any company to manage – it just wasn’t fair on them.

So I decided to set up my own business running training courses in occupational health for half a day a week. Right at the start I was given a really big contract from a large organisation, so I hired an au pair. Life generally jogged along quite happily after that, and I worked as much or as little as I wanted to for the next five years.

How did you get into skincare for cancer patients?

At this point I felt I needed to make another change, and started looking into the possibility of creating a business making bespoke skincare that was specially designed around the physical needs of individual clients.

It took two and a half years to develop, and during this time I was approached by my local hospital to create skincare products for their cancer patients, to stock in their salon. I was set very specific criteria for ingredients by the NHS team, and the nurses wouldn’t allow any products to be sold in the hospital salon unless they complied with their very strict restrictions.

So I researched carefully the ingredients and made sure I had their agreement on them. I also ran focus and research groups with cancer patients and survivors to make sure the products worked and that they looked like beauty products (the women told me that they had enough medicine already and wanted their skincare to be beautiful). I called my news products Defiant Beauty.

Initially I found Defiant Beauty a bit of a distraction from my bespoke skincare work, so once I’d developed and produced the products for the hospital I left it at that. But about a year ago I wondered if anyone else would be interested in it. And when I launched the Jennifer Young bespoke skincare website I put a message on there about it.

What gave you the idea to start a website for people with cancer?

The Defiant Beauty range became increasingly popular so I continued to grow it. And the next natural step seemed to be to create an online information point for all things of interest to cancer patients and people who have been affected by it – so I created Beauty Despite Cancer. I wanted to help women who were living with cancer to access information they needed or wanted on health and appearance, including fashion, beauty and make up – all things women want to read about, but specifically written for their interests and situations.

What’s your vision for the site?

I would really like Beauty Despite Cancer to be the first place people think of when they hear that they’ve been diagnosed with cancer. To help them continue to look as good and healthy – not just like a ‘cancer patient’. To be the place they can come to for answers, and to find out where they can access beauty treatments and holistic therapies.

Our aim is to help cancer patients to continue to recognise themselves as they go through treatment, and we have a team of about 30 experts helping us to achieve this aim. All are experts in their field and many have undergone treatment for cancer.

How do you balance your business and home life?

My husband and I work around our children as much as possible. When I started the business our youngest daughter was 12 months old, and my eldest was four, so I was working when I could with a house full of young children. Now they’re all at school, and my eldest two are in senior school it’s getting much easier. They’re much more independent and their school days are longer, which means I can get more done.

We’ve always loved travelling, and have structured the business so we can work from anywhere, so we can go away in the school holidays if we want. We’ve got a great team in the UK who can process and send out orders, and manage the day-to-day running of the business while we’re away. This summer, we spent five weeks in Croatia, and I wrote our new website using WIFI in a bar on the beach!

Defiant Beauty is available to buy online at Beauty Despite Cancer. The website also contains everything that women need to know to allow them to recognise themselves as they go through treatment for cancer.