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05th Nov 2013

Irish Women in Business: Niamh Martin of NIMA Brush

We talk to Niamh Martin of NIMA Brush about life in business.

Rebecca McKnight

For the first in a new series of editorials on focusing on Irish Women in Business, we’re talking  to Niamh Martin, who took years of experience in the beauty industry and with it created her very own line of high quality makeup brushes.

Here, Niamh explains in her own words how the idea for her business began, the trials and tribulations in bringing her plans to fruition, and the unusual encounter that finally gave her the push she needed to really go for it. 


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I knew from a very young age that I was never meant to work for an employer. Maybe I was always my own boss.

My parents always said to me: “If you want to earn a decent living, the only way forward is to run your own business”. That definitely stuck in my head. I wasn’t academic, far from it. I come from quite an academic family of engineers, doctors and business graduates, but at school, the only subjects I had an interest in were art and marketing. I used to spend hours painting or drawing and art was the only thing that held my attention. And marketing just made sense to me. I worked part time in a bar, and quickly realised I had a shopping addiction that needed to be fed! After school, I trained in PR, sales management and marketing in Dublin but the academic side of that wasn’t for me. I switched to studying makeup in another Dublin college and then, everything changed. Makeup was my thing!

After I gained my qualifications in makeup, I worked for on makeup counters between Ireland and a two-year stint in London. I moved on to a training role for a mineral makeup range covering the 32 counties of Ireland and found that really interesting. But I was still working for somebody else and I knew I’d never be rich doing it…

In 2007, I broke away from paid employment to become a freelance makeup artist. Bad timing! The recession really hit just then and, though I had built up a good client base and managed to get by financially with some freelance teaching hours, I needed to get a regular income.

I landed a full time role as Head of Department for a well-known makeup school in Dublin, and I was thrilled. While there, I worked on designing our own line of brushes and makeup under the college name. This was my first experience with trying and testing different brush styles, length, type of hair used etc. and I loved it! I became completely obsessed with anything brush shaped.

Life at the college was good (mostly) and the students were terrific to work with it. But I still had the brush thing in my head! One day, quite randomly and on a friend’s recommendation, I went to see a Card Reader. I’m usually quite sceptical about these things, but she’d had a massive impact on my friend, so I thought “why not?”

Well… blown away is an understatement. This lady was able to tell me things about myself, my life, and the direction it was going. She opened my eyes to a new completely new way of thinking, not to be afraid of something new and to go with my gut. She said: “Niamh, you have an idea in the back of your mind and you NEED to go with it. The answer is “Yes”. Cheesy, I know, but I walked away with a million ideas going round in my head. The next day, NIMA brush was born.

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I started off with a Facebook page, retailing well-known makeup brushes from two companies, Royal & Langnickel & Bdellium Tools. The plan was to get my name out there with reputable brush lines so that people would become familiar with me. Things went well initially and I built up a decent client base around the country. But I was still retailing somebody else’s brushes. So why not my own? Once that thought grew and I realised it could be achieved, I was hooked.

I had to do some serious research into the brush manufacturing industry, and met a lot of people – but these were almost all  ‘middle men’. I need my own unique range if I was to be different. My father had worked with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and had many contacts in every area of business. He put me in touch with a business matching company in London, with many international contacts. They were able to match me with reputable manufacturers that could provide the kind of quality and standard I was looking for. Contact was made, and so my creative journey began.

Designing the brushes was both exciting and exhausting at the same time. Language barriers, different time zones, clarifying fine detail through email and waiting on deliveries proved extremely difficult and often frustrating. All of my time and energy, plus every penny I had to my name, was thrown into the project. There were times of worry and despair. But I had to keep telling myself it would all be worth it in the end. Eventually, after about a year of research and development (and much pulling of hair), NIMA brush was launched on October 3rd 2012 at a professional beauty show in the RDS. It was a proud day!

A year later I can thank fully say that NIMA has gone from strength to strength. Within the year, we launched the Sunshine Collection, a collection of basic makeup tools designed for the novice or student. They come in a 7 piece or a 12 piece set in a bright yellow cylinder. I like to keep the brand as personal and ‘close to home’ as possible, I want my personality and what I’m about to shine through. The name NIMA is an abbreviation of my full name, Niamh Martin. As a teenager I was obsessed with all things yellow – smiley faces, Mr. Happy and the likes, and my room was painted canary yellow, hence the colour of this initial collection!

In December 2012 we launched The NIMA Mitt, made using an advanced form of micro fibre technology that removes all traces of makeup from your skin using only water. This mitt comes in pink and is packaged in a hot pink drawstring pouch, which is reusable, complete with a laminated card instructing how the product should be used and cared for. This mitt continues to wow people time and time again and has received a huge amount of press and write-ups from beauty bloggers and beauty professionals alike. In March 2012, we launched the Elite Collection. An advanced line of both synthetic and natural pony and sable haired brushes that sport a rosé gold ferrule and sturdy milk white handle. Anyone that knows me can tell you I am rosé gold obsessed and all my accessories are white – car, phone, iPad – so again I’m keeping things personal. These brushes are more suited to the professional but these days each and every woman is becoming more savvy about the makeup tools she uses and how important good brushes are to the application and longevity of her makeup, so no longer are the professional products just for the professional. The Elite Collection took off and we broke even from Facebook sales alone in the first two weeks, before they even went up on our website!

Niamh Demo 1

What has been crucial to NIMA brush’s success is the element of educating people on the use of their brushes, how to maintain and care for them as opposed to just selling a product. Again, education has been a massive element of my makeup career to date so I wanted to carry this through to NIMA. I have spent a lot of time speaking at different events such as office parties, women’s chat groups, beauty blogger events and pretty much anywhere where people are interested in hearing what I have to say. We provide to a number of Irish colleges that run beauty and makeup courses and again, my background and knowledge of the courses they run have aided me in securing these accounts. On delivery of the brushes I give a full demonstration on the importance of care, maintenance and hygiene of your brushes and exactly what each one does. This helps to educate the students and is a massive element of working in the makeup industry.

The beauty bloggers and makeup artists across Ireland have been so incredibly supportive of the brand. People are so patriotic when it comes to promoting ‘Buy Irish’ campaigns, it’s incredible to see. Professional makeup artists have taken the time to personally email me about what a fantastic product I’ve created and best of luck with it. To think that these people have taken time out of their hectic schedules to congratulate me on a job well done is the most overwhelming, incredible feeling I’ve ever experienced. The positive feedback from the Irish people is just breath taking. For a country that’s been on its knees for the last few years, this positive attitude is so amazing to see.

Going forward I can only hope that NIMA continues to get the amazing success we’ve had in our first year. This Christmas we’ll be launching our travel set, which contains 6 of our Elite Collection brushes, full size, in a PU leather ‘Chanel’ style clutch case. Beauty bloggers from London and surrounding areas have started to contact us about trying and testing our products, which means word is spreading across the water. This summer we had sales from California! We hope to launch a more advanced collection of individual brushes this coming March, containing squirrel, mink and kolinsky hair; extremely superior grades of hair to the sable, goat and pony hair used in most brushes. Our plan is to keep the high standard and fun element of our brand clear to the consumer, while keeping our prices reasonable. We’ll continue to add to our individual brush line so people have more choice. We’re working on a new student collection at the moment, which will hopefully see us advance into more colleges across Ireland. We also hope to launch into different international markets through Ebay, so this is fairly exciting.

I suppose the main thing for us to remember is to walk before we can run. Baby steps result into gradual progression. We’re still very new and very small and it’s still only me behind the scenes, so sometimes covering every element from design to manufacture, sales, marketing, promotion and then dispatch can become exhausting.

But with that said, seeing how the brand has grown so far, the feedback from people and the constant sales makes for by far the most amazing feeling anyone could experience! So, by keeping a positive mental attitude, a constant reminder of what we’ve achieved so far, a to do list and an iPhone (!) to hand, we hope to continue to grow at the same pace we have so far, continue to educate and spread the NIMA word far and wide.

Without sounding cheesy, I know now what I was meant to do with my life, and I adore every single minute of it.


To find out more about Niamh and NIMA Brush, visit

To suggest other great Irish women to feature in this series, please drop us a line to [email protected]