Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

OE shaped a beautiful career

Buglass, 42, had become fascinated by consumer behaviour, which led her to study marketing. Photo / Supplied
Buglass, 42, had become fascinated by consumer behaviour, which led her to study marketing. Photo / Supplied

When Angela Buglass' career took flight it wasn't in the direction she'd planned.

As a school leaver, the chief executive of listed home fragrance and natural skincare business, Trilogy International, had her eye on joining the Air Force as an officer. She'd been given a taste for the military in the Air Training Corps while at boarding school in Napier.

But budget cuts delayed her intake into the officer training for a year and Buglass was told to enrol at university.

"Bad move. By the time I'd spent a year at university ... I felt that commercial was really the route I wanted to take."

Buglass, 42, had become fascinated by consumer behaviour, which led her to study marketing.

Not keen on a post-graduation role at a food company, Buglass signed up for Proctor & Gamble's graduate recruitment programme, having studied the multinational extensively at university.

It was the era of Rachel Hunter spruiking Pantene for Proctor & Gamble, the company also behind big name beauty brands such as Covergirl and Max Factor. A shift to L'Oreal took her overseas and she headed off on her OE.

"It was a hard decision. The reality of that was the time overseas really enabled me to experience things that I probably never would have here in terms of markets and customers and consumer behaviour and product development."

Buglass says she didn't plan to stay away so long but as opportunities came up, everything was a step forward, although not all of them were easy.

"I think it is important that you are forced to learn and graft and work very hard and that is really the way that you develop yourself." "There's been times when I thought 'gosh, I feel a little bit out of my depth here but I'll carry on and see how much I can learn'."

Her overseas experience took her from big industry players to entrepreneurial start-ups, all within the beauty business, and included time working with brands in private equity ownership, giving them a bit of love before preparing them for sale.

"That was fascinating because a lot of the time with marketing you're investing for something that pays back when consumers purchase the brand some time in the future.

"When you're in a private equity situation you're trying to build brand value now to immediately realise that based on what people are prepared to buy it for, so it's a real nice tension between just spending enough but also changing the perception in the marketplace."

Returning home two years ago, with an English husband in tow, Buglass admits she didn't expect to find a role at the level she had in the UK. She headed up Trilogy's skincare brand before taking over leadership of the listed business a year ago.

"I've not been a CEO in the past. This is my first appointment and every day I learn something new."

It's been a busy 12 months for Buglass and Trilogy.

She has moved north to consolidate Trilogy's operations in Auckland; Trilogy International acquired beauty brand distributor CS Company for $37 million; it took a 25 per cent stake in Chilean-based rosehip producer Forestal Casino to shore up ingredient supplies; and recently ran a successful $50 million capital raising with plans to raise a further $5 million through a share placement closing July 8.

The Business Bakery sold down $30 million of shares and the balance will be used to repay debt and to boost market and brand penetration.

Natural skincare is a growing market internationally as consumers, particularly younger shoppers, choose natural products, Buglass says.

For home fragrance brand Ecoya, the focus will be closer to home.

Buglass says research is telling them there is a competitor in Australia that is getting a bit too big for her liking.

"Both brands are about the same size, Australia and New Zealand, at the moment, so it's time to right that ratio."

- NZ Herald

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