Mumpreneur who was rejected by every university she applied to now boasts a beauty business turning over £1million a year - and works during her baby's naptimes and nightfeeds

  • Kayleigh Graham, 31, set up Lily England, after years of working in social media 
  • She dreamed of studying fashion but didn't get into any universities after school
  • Instead, she got a job in social media and worked with fashion and beauty brands
  • In 2015 she launched a make-up brush line which she balances with raising baby 

A mother-of-one has revealed how she set up her own business, which is now turning over more than £1 million a year, after being rejected from university.

Kayleigh Graham, 31, from Brighton, set up beauty tools brand Lily England in 2015, after years of working in social media for big name brands.

She now balances looking after her four-month old baby with running her booming business, by working during nap-time and replying to emails during 3am feeds.

When she left school, she dreamed of studying fashion, but her portfolio wasn't good enough to get her a place at any of the universities she applied to.

The entrepreneur told Femail: 'After school I worked as a doctors receptionist, and after failing to get into university I decided to move to London and try to get experience.

Kayleigh Graham, 31, set up Lily England in 2015, after years of working in social media for big name brands. She now balances looking after her four-month old baby with six employees and a booming business, by working during nap-time and replying to emails during 3am feeds. Pictured with her husband Jamie and newborn baby

Kayleigh Graham, 31, set up Lily England in 2015, after years of working in social media for big name brands. She now balances looking after her four-month old baby with six employees and a booming business, by working during nap-time and replying to emails during 3am feeds. Pictured with her husband Jamie and newborn baby


'It was my dream to study fashion. After completing college, I applied for university. 

'Unfortunately fashion is a competitive field and I didn't get in to any of the universities I applied for. 

'My portfolio work was not up to scratch and was not good enough to gain a place. 

'I felt upset for a period of time but then used this as an opportunity to get some hands on experience through doing internships instead. 

The Brighton-based entrepreneur is now turning over more than £1million a year with her brand

The Brighton-based entrepreneur is now turning over more than £1million a year with her brand

Kayleigh noticed a gap in the market for classy hair brushes, bags, and make-up brushes that mirrored millennial trends and aesthetics and set to work on a rose gold line of brushes

Kayleigh noticed a gap in the market for classy hair brushes, bags, and make-up brushes that mirrored millennial trends and aesthetics and set to work on a rose gold line of brushes

'My first real job after moving to London involved doing social media for a shoe company'. 

Working in social media helped prepare her for the business world, and she worked with Selfridges and Burberry.

But she soon noticed a gap in the market for classy hair brushes, bags, and make-up brushes that mirrored millennial trends and aesthetics.

She set to work designing a rose gold range of brushes in 2015, and first sold her range through Amazon.

Business quickly grew and before she could even set up her own website, Kayleigh and her husband Jamie left their jobs to run Lily England full-time.

'With social media you get instant feedback from customers on what they like and don't like and people are keen to share their opinions,' she said.

Business quickly grew and before she could even set up her own website Kayleigh and her husband Jamie left their jobs to run Lily England full-time

Business quickly grew and before she could even set up her own website Kayleigh and her husband Jamie left their jobs to run Lily England full-time

Lily England is now turning over more than £1million with its cruelty free make hair and beauty products, sold predominantly through Amazon

Lily England is now turning over more than £1million with its cruelty free make hair and beauty products, sold predominantly through Amazon

'This has helped me to always put customers at the heart of what we do.

'When developing a new product I spend hours trawling the internet and reading reviews.

'I take the negative feedback and flip it in to a positive, by injecting this feedback into the products we develop. 

'For example, the first product we launched in 2015 was a detangling brush with the addition of a handle. 

'Taking one of the most popular products internationally and improving it with a simple addition which was sought after by customers has made it our brands bestseller and resulted in more than 1000 five star reviews for the product on Amazon. 

But motherhood has not curbed Kayleigh's ambitions, and she hopes to keep growing the business and stock it in major retailers

But motherhood has not curbed Kayleigh's ambitions, and she hopes to keep growing the business and stock it in major retailers

Her technique is obviously working, with Lily England now turning over more than  £1million with its cruelty free make hair and beauty products, sold predominantly through Amazon.    

As well as running a successful business, Kayleigh had her first baby four months ago.   

'Having a four-month-old baby, the biggest challenge is finding enough time at work.

'But I've adapted to utilising my time efficiently by working during nap times, replying to emails at the 3am wake-ups and night feeds, sitting in on meetings whilst breastfeeding.

'I am lucky enough to have a great support network who will babysit now and then when I need to spend some time in the office. 

'We run the business from our home, an office in our garden, which means there's no commute'.

'Amazon has been a really great platform for us to sell on so far and we plan to expand our business internationally using Amazon marketplaces in Europe and USA' she said

'Amazon has been a really great platform for us to sell on so far and we plan to expand our business internationally using Amazon marketplaces in Europe and USA' she said

But motherhood has not curbed Kayleigh's ambitions,  and she hopes to keep growing the business and stock it in major retailers.

'For now we are focusing on selling directly to customers and expanding our website but one day we would love to be stocked on ASOS or a similar large retailer. 

'Amazon has been a really great platform for us to sell on so far and we plan to expand our business internationally using Amazon marketplaces in Europe and USA.     

'This year we have already doubled our team from three to six and moved office from our living room to an office at the bottom of our garden. 

'We plan to continue our expansion with new innovative products and trying to expand to a worldwide audience. We want to carry on creating products that our customers love.    

'Hiring staff and managing a team has been my biggest challenge. I'm naturally quite a introverted and shy person so employing people has really made me step out of my comfort zone.

 'The biggest lesson I've learnt is to believe in myself, at first I was always so nervous about designing new products and worried whether people would love them, however as time has gone on I've become more confident and this has helped excel the company forward.'

New mother says she balances work with a four-month-old baby by replying to emails during 3am feeds

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