My own theory is that Woodall is a P, or Perceiver, in the Myers-Briggs personality types; a person whose excellent communication skills were perfectly placed to take advantage of the pandemic. Like Joe Wicks, who has also enjoyed huge success during lockdown, Woodall is a born communicator whose larger-than-life personality is catnip for those seeking solace, guidance and self-improvement while being stuck at home. Just as Joe Wicks got the nation in shape, Woodall made it shine. As she tells me today, “I want women to feel out of age, to feel phwoar.”
At the start of the pandemic, his company employed 68 people; now it employs 200 people. It sells 187 products (although flashing and you might miss the launch of another) in 200 countries, with a £26 pot of its Miracle Blur primer filling the line selling out every 60 seconds. Skincare only launched in February, but already accounts for almost a third of sales. She is convinced that this will soon represent 50% of her activity. “And then, at some point, we’ll bring out another vertical.” Hair care? Body care? ‘I can’t tell you. It will be what it will be.
As a major shareholder with a 42% stake in the company, Woodall will be even richer than she already is. Which must be particularly gratifying, given how difficult it has been to secure investments. Don’t imagine that a woman with a clever idea and decades of experience in her field can snatch thousands of dollars from the money tree: in business, men and women are always judged by different standards. . “So many differences,” she sighs. She cites US findings that women-led start-ups received just 2% of venture capital funding in 2020. “That’s the worst gender inequality gap.”
Undeterred, she raised £60,000 selling items from her own wardrobe, then rushed to secure another £7million, a small undisclosed amount of which was provided by her partner of nine years , businessman and art collector Charles Saatchi. The loot should buy him a few more Hirsts. “I wasn’t earning the money that I had earned,” she says of her financial struggles. “I couldn’t afford the house I was living in, so I rented it out and sold a lot of my clothes. I then made a small increase, which I used for product development. When that ran out, I sold other clothes, then I sold my house, because I couldn’t pay the mortgage. He took bullets – it was very scary. But I knew I had no alternative. No one becomes a great entrepreneur from a comfortable place.
When asked what she learned about money along the way, she replies, “I learned what you can do without. Until the age of 18, I had a very pleasant and full of rights life. Then my dad had things go a little wrong. So I went and earned a paycheck, working a Saturday job at [Chelsea delicatessen] Partridge, cutting meat. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do – probably until I was 27. The previous years were really difficult.
That’s an understatement. Unlike Cinderella, Woodall is not a rags to riches tale, but a riches to riches tale. Born Sarah-Jane Woodall (the nickname ‘Trinny’ comes from a friend who compared her to a character from St Trinian) in Marylebone, London, her father was a banker, her mother Ann his second wife. The youngest of three children (with three half-siblings from her father’s first marriage), she was sent to boarding school at the age of six. At 16, she began experimenting with drugs, with alcohol becoming a secondary addiction in her twenties. Stints in rehab followed, until at age 26, after losing close friends to alcoholism, she hit rock bottom and sought treatment for one last time. She has been sober for 32 years.