She has revolutionised the beauty industry by creating the first-ever false eye lashes range for chemotherapy patients. Codilia Gapare, mother-of-two from Northwich, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 36, and it was through this very difficult time in her life that she realised that there were no fake eyelash options for cancer patients. In her 40s, Codilia transformed her idea into an actual product, ‘C Lash’, and partnered with beauty brand Eylure. C-Lash was voted one of the 50 Prima High Street Heroes 2019 and is currently one of the best-selling new entry products in Boots. Winner of The Entrepreneur of Excellence Award at The National Diversity Awards 2019, now Codilia is completing a Masters in Business Administration. “I have a love and hate relationship with cancer- she says-. It’s brought me a life I never expected”.
Codilia, you rebooted your life in your 40s after such a difficult time. How did you find the strength to overcome your circumstances?
The transition in my life came at time I felt devoid of choices and I wanted to do something that gave me a sense of control. I was not trying to create anything amazing, I just needed something to keep me centred.
You won the ‘Entrepreneur of Excellence Award’ for revolutionising the beauty industry by creating the first-ever false lashes range for chemotherapy patients. How did you come up with the idea?
Believe it or not, I never set out to start a business. After my own cancer diagnosis, I was just looking for a solution for myself. It was only when a friend said she would buy the lashes if I was to sell them that I realised that I was onto something. Even it took quite some time to convince myself to actually act on the idea.
The beauty industry has only recently started to embrace diversity but it looks like it’s still failing to represent not only women of colour but also mature ladies. What do you think it needs to be done in terms of inclusion?
A lot still needs to be done in terms of not only inclusion but equity. The good thing is we are actually starting to have an awareness and to have a conversation such as this. Every revolution starts with education and re-learning behaviours.
Are you working on more inclusive beauty-products yourself?
C-Lash is an inclusive product as it caters for a disadvantaged group of people but as well as C-Lash, we are working on other products and inclusion will always be the basis of our company’s R&D.
Ageism is another prejudice we should challenge. Have you ever experienced this form of discrimination? If so, do you have the feeling of becoming more invisible with age?
For me, that is a tricky question because before launching C-Lash I made the point of being invisible because that meant that I was less accountable. However, I have heard some disappointing stories from women, especially those who have experienced ageism. People think nothing of saying statements like: ‘You can’t wear that at your age.’ or ‘You are very brave to think of doing that at your age.’
What are your personal thoughts on the term ‘anti-ageing’ in the beauty industry?
I think fashion is a form of self-expression and the beauty industry should represent everyone regardless of sex, age colour or creed. It is silly to show skinny young models and expect someone at my age to be influenced by them. Now more than ever we seem to support brave choices so I would sooner buy a magazine with Jacky O’Shaughnessy on the cover than someone a lot younger than myself. Jacky is someone I would aspire to be like at her age.
Midlife is a time in which we would love to explore new paths but at the same time, we find it a bit difficult to leave our comfort zone. What would you suggest to women feeling stuck in the middle of their journey?
I think the reason we sometimes get stuck in a mid-life comfort zone is, you have spent a lifetime trying to fit in and figure out who you are. Finally, here you are in your 30s, you have figured the style that suits your body and a hairstyle that you are comfortable with. The thought of disrupting your life when you have finally figured it all out is quite daunting. I think instead of making a massive big change, it is easier to start with small steps. Like, learn something new every month, take yourself to dinner, try a new colour lipstick. Once you get used to making small disruptions to your routine, the big stuff won’t feel so scary.
Any entrepreneurial tips for middle-aged ladies who would like to launch a business later in life but they don’t know where to start with?
First of all – JUST START! – I can not emphasise that enough. Once you put ink on paper you are on your way to writing a book. Once you start, you now know the precise questions you need to ask, the exact help you need to seek and before you know it you are thinking about whether you register your company as a sole trader or as a limited company.
You are a mother of two. What has motherhood taught you?
The first thing that motherhood has taught me is how much I love my mother and what an amazing woman she is. Its taught me that life is precious and there is absolutely nothing I won’t do for those 2 little men in my life. I never thought I could love another human being so deeply and so completely.
It’s not easy balancing work and home. How do you manage that?
I absolutely do not manage! I wing it all the time and I am constantly getting it wrong, but I try every day and I do the best I can.
Despite all obstacles, life always ends up surprising us when we least expect it. Do you consider yourself a late bloomer?
I am the very definition of a late bloomer. I am a completely different person to the one I was pre-2014. I wouldn’t know that girl if I met her now and I wonder what she would think of the woman that I have become?
Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Codilia Gapare at our next event ‘Crunchy Talks: Tales From Midlife Journeys‘ on the 25h of January 2020 (Storyhouse – Chester).