Making it Work

National Beauty Distribution bets on new brands and celebrity tie-ups as it plots overseas growth

National Beauty Distribution, which partnered with Lisa Jordan and Vogue Williams to produce its previous products, is planning to break out on its own

Kieran Walsh, founder, National Beauty Distribution. ‘The UK is a graveyard of guys like me who've come before me. And I want to measure twice, cut once before heading over there.’ Picture: John Allen

National Beauty Distribution has big plans for 2024 when it will launch its own line of baby products, as it keeps one eye on expanding into the UK market.

The company, which focuses on the marketing and distribution of beauty products, has rapidly expanded over the past five years and Kieran Walsh, its founder, has ambitious plans to grow further.

He is projecting €24 million in revenue in 2024 – a significant jump from the €2 million achieved in 2018. The company has been supported by Enterprise Ireland as it has grown over the years.

The firm has several strands to its business. The longest-standing and largest is its professional business where it represents over 20 beauty brands in the Irish market including Kevin.Murphy, the luxury hair care brand, and Aveda.

Walsh and his 75-strong team sell these brands’ products to professional businesses such as salons and pharmacies. The company derives more than 55 per cent of its revenue from this arm of the business.

Fact File

Firm: National Beauty Distribution

Founder: Kieran Walsh

Number of staff: 75

Turnover: €20 million

Internationally, expansion is on Walsh’s radar for next year. In 2023, he opened an office in Portugal, with three members of staff having signed with Eleven Australia to operate their distribution in the country.

He said this office is “washing its own face already” but it was a difficult environment, as it is a “very different market” to Ireland.

“E-commerce is much bigger than here in Ireland. I think we buy more in person and from people,” Walsh said.

The founder said opening the small office in Portugal was a critical testing ground for him and was a conscious choice ahead of the “obvious market of the UK”.

“The UK is a graveyard of guys like me who've come before me. And I want to measure twice, cut once before heading over there,” he said.

As well as the professional business, a growing part of National Beauty Distribution is the development of its own products. This started in 2017 when Walsh partnered with friend Lisa Jordan to produce LUNA, which began as just four lip glosses.

Then in 2018 the founder wanted to enter the fake tan market and contacted Vogue Williams before going on to create Bare.

Walsh said tan was a “tricky marketplace” and “nothing was easy with the brand” which took a while to establish and required continued pricing shifts, before being picked up by Dunnes. Other major retailers later followed suit by stocking the products.

Thanks to Williams’ profile, the brand “garnered a lot of attention” and now makes up about 25 per cent of the firm’s overall revenue.

While Walsh has sought to benefit from the online profile and following of Jordan and Williams with his previous product launches, next year will see his firm break out on its own with the creation of a 20-strong product line of baby products, including bum creams and calming body washes, called Littl.

“I've learned throughout the years that doing something like this, it's easier to have control over our products until a later stage,” said Walsh. “We have had conversations with a couple of A-listers, including one in the UK, so a partnership may come at a later stage.”

Littl is targeted to launch in the second or third quarter of next year following approval from the regulator on the lice prevention products that are part of the line. To develop these products, National Beauty has been working with global pharmaceutical company Merck.

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland