Cast your mind back to The Apprentice series 7, and you might remember charismatic inventor Tom Pellereau. He originally pitched a range of office furniture with people with bad backs but has since gone on to produce a really successful range of beauty products for women, starting with his S-shaped nail file, the StylFile.
His latest invention, the StylPro, may well be his masterpiece. It’s a makeup brush washing machine and it is amazing.
It works with pretty much all makeup brushes regardless of the brand, takes seconds per brush, and is actually quite fun. Not only this, it got our brushes as white as when we bought them, and IT DRIES THEM AS WELL. Forgive the caps, but for someone with over 40 makeup brushes, this is life-changing.
Before and after
Don’t judge the state of my brushes, K?
They come out looking and feeling brand new. Since everyone with a makeup brush is going to want one, we spoke to Inventor Tom before he gets too famous to do interviews.
Gadgette meets Tom Pellereau
Gadgette: Hi Tom. OK, firstly, the StylPro has changed our lives. It’s so good!
Tom: Thank you! That’s so good to hear.
Gadgette: Has it taken a long time to develop?
Tom: Goodness. Yes. Almost two years now. It’s really quite complicated unfortunately, but it’s working now!
Gadgette: Have the problems mainly been to do with the different sizes of brushes?
Tom: That’s been one of the biggest, yes. It would have been so much easier if we’d been able to make it for our own brushes, would’ve just been really, really easy. But you’ve got your favourite brushes, you’ve invested money in them! So it would’ve been pointless to just make it for my brushes.
It took an extraordinary amount of time to make that simple. And then there’s checking the speed was right, and the bowl was the right size, and that the neck fixes on, and was it easy to put on and pull off, and funny things like fact that the square spindle had to fit into the bottom of the rubber on each one and it wasn’t too hard or too soft, and all these little details which you don’t consider nearly enough at the beginning.
Gadgette: Do you think at some point the brush manufacturers might want to license it to make it for their own brushes?
Tom: Possibly. And that’s one of the next stages, we need to design some for specialist brushes. It’s a horrible problem… the bacteria on them is disgusting.
Gadgette: You’re involved in lots of products, but many of them relate to women and beauty products. How did that come about? Why are you so good at understanding what women need?
Tom: I’m from quite a big family – I have 15 cousins, 12 of which are girls. So Christmas and Easter and stuff was quite regularly hanging out with a lot of girls, and talking to them about what they’d got.
But also there’s a lot of guys designing golf clubs and fast cars and things like that, and actually, it’s more fun in many respects to design a thing for girls and get to talk to them, and get their points of view. And cleaning bacteria off brushes seemed more interesting than trying to hit a golf ball.
Gadgette: What would you tell other inventors about creating for women?
Tom: Do a lot of listening. And lots of focus groups. We have a program called ‘Tom’s Testers’ and this all started because of a blogger event I was doing, with some makeup artists, and at the end I was asking “what is it you’d like me to invent next? What do you hate about your job?” and one of them said “Cleaning my brushes! I’m really concerned that a lot of my followers don’t clean their brushes enough, and they’re giving themselves acne because they’re using dirty brushes again and again.” So that’s where it all started.
Gadgette: Have you been doing a lot of testing?
Tom: Yes. The most important thing was the bacteria. So let’s test how much bacteria is on 35 brushes, then let’s get that same amount of bacteria and put it on 10 brushes, and compare how soap and water works, how cleanser works, and how our device works. And at the very minimum, ours has to be better.
We’ve spent a lot of money with labs, because you have to do things lots of times for it to be accurate. On two brushes we found over 40,000 counts of bacteria. That’s a lot. And one of them was from a beauty counter. You could’ve walked into that store and had that brush used on you.
Gadgette: OK, so I’m never going to makeup counters again.
Tom: Take your own brushes!
Gadgette: So what kinds of success have you had with the products you’ve done up to now?
Tom: It’s crazy. We’ve sold over a million StylFiles now, and we just can’t believe it. I get to run a business, and I’ve got a young family who are so supportive, and I employ members of staff, and it’s all down to nail files and beauty accessories, it’s insane, really. I’ve just been so fortunate with the support; the people who go into Boots, Tesco, QVC or whatever and choose my products!
Gadgette: Do you think the StylPro will be your biggest success out of all of them?
Tom: It’s maybe looking that way! I’m hopeful I can keep developing it and improving it and bringing out different versions of it. The irony is, that often if you have a blemish, that you cover it up with makeup, and then there’s bacteria on that, and then you spread it around your face!
Gadgette: Obviously you’ve done a lot since The Apprentice, but are you still happy to be known as ‘Tom from The Apprentice’?
Tom: I’m happy to be known as whatever people are happy to remember me by. I’m very fortunate with the people who still recognise me on the streets. I got portrayed very nicely on The Apprentice. People are always very kind when they say hello, “Oh, I remember you, you’re the nice guy!” So yeah, the ‘nail guy’, or ‘inventor Tom’, it’s OK.
Gadgette: Are you still in touch with Lord Sugar?
Tom: Yep, I saw him on Friday. He’s very good, very supportive, keeps me on my toes, and tells me what to do, and he’s a bit of a genius to my mind. He knows what he’s doing. I don’t think anyone would expect how much he’s involved.
Gadgette: I think a lot of people think it’s a bit of a sham, that he’s not really going to get involved and help people.
Tom: And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Gadgette: Speaking of The Apprentice, you had one of the worst win-to-loss ratios of any Apprentice winner. Yet you not only won, you went on to great success. Do you have any advice for people who are struggling in their careers right now, where it’s not going as well as they’d hoped?
Tom: You learn very little from doing things right. You learn a lot from making mistakes and failing. The important thing is to ensure you’re not getting things wrong for the second or third time, you’re not making the same mistakes again. But actually if you get things right the first time, you don’t learn anything. And if you become too perfectionist, it’s quite difficult sometimes to push yourself.
If you’re always used to doing well, it’s very hard to take on something that’s more difficult. You shy away from it. In life you have to really work out what you’d like to achieve, and what you’re willing to give up to get there. And sometimes that means taking a kicking for a few years, and sometimes that’s worth it, and sometimes you’ve got to reassess, and think maybe there’s other things I could do. Sometimes it’s important to give up, but most of the time it’s important to keep going.
Gadgette: How do you know when you should give up?
Tom: It’s very important to talk to people that you really respect. Often the people close to you know that you should’ve given up, but maybe they’re not telling you. So you have to find people who actually know what they’re talking about, and also who know you, and give them the opportunity to tell you that this isn’t right.
Gadgette: Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes men.’
Tom: Yeah. It’s very difficult to find people that know what they’re talking about. But very rarely was it a waste of time. Usually you learn something from that, and maybe it was the wrong thing, but now you’re doing this, and you’d never have been doing this unless you’d done that.
Gadgette: And you can’t always see until it happens how everything led to where you are.
Tom: Yes. And I’m a massive believer in ‘just try it’. Minimise the risk of trying, so do something as fast as you can for as little cost or investment, and then just see what happens. Because you’ll never get it right first time. But a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
Gadgette: So will you carry on making products for women?
Tom: Yeah. I’m doing alright at the moment! There are many different areas, and it’s 50% of the population. And they’re very nice to work with and for.
Gadgette: What do you think’s going to be next for you? Any plans in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Tom: There’s definitely more to be done on makeup brushes. But also I’m sensing that eyebrows are an interesting area. It seems that you pluck them out so you can reapply them! I’m very interested in spraying technology, and airbrushes like the professionals use, but they’re really expensive.
I’m also pretty proud of the gel nail remover clips we’ve just done. Instead of having to use tin foil to wrap around your nail while you’re soaking your gel off, you just clip them onto your finger, and it holds them in place, and makes it easier to carry on with life while you’re waiting for your gel to soak off.
Where to buy Tom’s products
If you’re after a StylPro (and come on, you are) or any of the other stuff Tom’s made, you can get them directly from his website.
Enjoy your snow-white brushes, makeup fans.
Main image: StylFile.com