Undeterred by bullies or her high school's 'no make-up' policy, Hannah McKeich used to turn up to class each morning wearing bright-green eyeshadow − albeit perfectly blended.
Her cunning plan was to never look her teachers in the eye, in the hope they wouldn't notice. It, of course, failed ("I'd always get told to wipe it off!"), but this former teen mum has had the last laugh.
Never one to follow rules – and without any formal business qualifications – Hannah used her drive, determination and talents with a make-up brush to teach herself online marketing and develop her own cosmetics brand, Colour Junkie.
Her hard work has paid off too − she's landed a deal to stock the range in Life Pharmacies nationwide and aims to launch across the Tasman next year.
"I'm pinching myself! It feels so surreal that my perseverance has paid off," says the 26-year-old, whose success is a far cry from her previous hard-ships of a dysfunctional childhood, domestic violence and depression.
After leaving her Wellington school early to study a certificate in hair and beauty at Whitireia tertiary institute, Hannah fell pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, Isabella, at 17.
"The first three years, we spent a couple of nights living in the car and staying at the Women's Refuge. It was very, very difficult," she explains.
"I felt like garbage being a young, single mum on the DPB. In my opinion, most people looked at me and thought: 'You're not going to amount to anything.' And I could easily have given in to that judgment."
The turning point came when a man Hannah was dating got drunk and broke into her house.
"He tried to strangle me. It was awful. That night was a big wake-up call. I realised I could've died and I didn't want to waste any more time."
Knuckling down and relying on YouTube and Google to guide her, Hannah researched make-up manufacturers and private labelling.
With an eye for what young consumers wanted, she began buying clothing items on AliExpress (an online retailing service) and selling them in various Facebook groups, as well as buying advertising on social media.
"By mid-2016, I ended up selling $10,000 worth of products in two weeks and was able to come off the DPB," she says proudly. "With that money in the bank, I knew I wanted to invest it in my own brand.
"Because I'm always studying what people are looking for and what girls think are wrong with other brands, I saw an opportunity to fill gaps in the market."
The very savvy and young "mumpreneur" began Colour Junkie with only 100 lipsticks, which she put her own logos on, then grew her range through an online store. In the first 12 months, the business made a profit of more than $50,000."It's literally just been me in my pyjamas, with my computer and my stock. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my cosmetic brand would be sitting on a shelf in a pharmacy next to other global iconic brands," says Hannah, admitting she doesn't think of herself as a businesswoman.
"I hate doing spreadsheets and bookkeeping! People have also told me I wouldn't be successful without a business degree, but I'm actually really glad I didn't go and study business, because I feel like you have to be in there doing it to learn.
"I've never been someone who's scared of trying and not succeeding. All the rejections and micro-failures I've experienced have been very valuable lessons for me."
Hannah recently got a business partner on board and moved from Wellington to Auckland to be closer to him, as well as her father Brent, whom she met for the first time seven years ago.
She and Bella (8) now live with Brent and his wife Michelle, and Hannah says they have both been "hugely supportive" and finally given her the family structure she craved but never had growing up.
"As a young girl, I was never too fussed about fitting in. I was a dreamer who was always told to stop chasing rainbows."
Today, she uses 'Chase the Rainbow' as her business' tag-line to motivate other young women to get out there and make their dream a reality.
"Through all the hard times, what kept me going was to not let Bella down. I wanted to be a mother she could be proud of, and I think she is proud of me," smiles Hannah.
"Funnily enough, make-up isn't exciting to her. I guess because she's surrounded by boxes of colourful palettes, she's bored with it.
"She probably won't be going to school wearing green eyeshadow at 13 like I did!"
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