∞ The Story ∞
everybody has one
Hey, welcome and lovely to see you here. I'm Monique Balmatie Jagroe the energy behind fra lippo lippie.
I'm happy to share with you how this vegan make-up story began.
Unhappiness was the catalyst
Growing up my mother always told me to go get a degree so I would find a "good" job. And with good
she meant a job that paid my bills and would leave me with more money than days at the end of each
month. My mother herself struggled to make ends meet and while, looking back we always had enough;
we always had food, shelter, and I remember receiving amazing presents. She was trapped in the
fear game and I was right in the middle of this game with her.
So of course I did what she told me. I went to University, got my bachelors degree in International
management and I went out into the nine to five world. My very first job was as an assistant
office manager for Rodrigo Otazu. You might remember him? He once designed a neckless for Britney
Spears. And an ex Paradiso colleague of mine used to work for him and she got me in there too.
I didn't last long there, his creative genius crazyness drove me insane too. So the job hopping began. I started at Fox Kids, now Disney Channel from where I went to Microsoft MSN, Universal Media and Detroit Media.
All of the jobs taught me a lot and brought many wonderful people in my life and with a bunch of them I'm still friends. So this was not a wasted time at all. It taught me very well the contrast of things and what I didn't want; Being stuck in one place five days a week and living from pay cheque to pay cheque mostly.
During the time at Microsoft career the luxury I had there started to feel uncomfortable.
I had a lease car, a phone, a company creditcard, a laptop ... I wasn't meaning anything to anyone. I was selling "attention" while I much rather would be making a change to someone's life. And all the ways in which you can do that, becoming a social worker, medial assistance and these kind of things did not appeal to me at all either.
I got another job offer and I decided to switch. Which happened a few times after that because none of the switches were satisfying.
With the last switch I thought I might have found something more meaningful. I accepted a job at a media agency owned by three wonderful guys and I wanted to contribute to their success. And in the end it turned out to be the same as all the other jobs I walked away from. After the 80th time of dragging myself out of bed and sitting behind my desk with an awful feeling in my stomach I decided no more of this. I wasn't living. I was existing.After working 60% before fully quitting I quit completely.
A job that "coincidentally" found me in the 40% free time I had allowed me to save money which I used to travel to Australia for 5 months. I was in trip heaven. Mainly because I felt so amazingly free. I had no idea what would happen and I loved this feeling. THIS felt like living, scary YES! And alive. I felt ALIVE.
I started in Brisbane, met a wonderful girl over there who introduced me to a sister from another mister in Byron Bay.
I stayed in Byron Bay for two months and fell deeply in love with her. It was very interesting that I was there again, 5 years prior I had been there too and I had sworn never to go to Australia again. I did the party tour from Sydney to Cairns and back which was really not my thing and made out Australia to be a party country. Sort sighted and I'm happy I changed my mind.
When in Byron and seeing everyone enjoying their surroundings and nature so much I got infected and inspired. I walked the Light House scenic tour almost daily. And the view from the Light House was so invigorating. And it did something else to me, I got bitten by the nature bug. I can't remember enjoying nature that much before that time. And while I was there bonding back with nature I decided to start living a plant based life style.
The second seed was planted
When I left from Byron Bay to live down at Bell's Beach together with the man I was in a relationship with. Whom I met 4 years prior in Amsterdam. He lived in a former shed turned living space with a skate ramp in the living room and a view to the ocean and grassfields full of all kinds of Ozzie animals; kangaroos, foxes, deers, alpaca's, little wrens, pigeons ....
I felt like I was dreaming.
In the house there was a deck of Doreen Virtue Mermaid and Dolphin cards and I loved to start my day by drawing a card.
A couple of many times I drew the card saying: "Mother Nature has been under a lot of stress, now it is your time to do something in return". I truly did not know what to do with this card. I am not the type to chain myself to trees or to go out on the streets to demonstrate. And as these were the only options I could think of when thinking about "doing something in return" I chose to ignore the card. But of course in the back of my mind it was still there and it planted a seed in my subconscious.
I was becoming more aware of what was going on around me. Simply because I had more time to notice it. I would see and read inspirational stories in magazines like The Renegade Collective, I was in Australia when it launched. This magazine really kept me going and believing. They would feature people that created the lives for themselves they always dreamt about even when it seemed like they wouldn't succeed. Frankie, another one of my favourite magazines around that time, featured articles on vegan make-up. And that particularly sparked my attention. I was shocked to learn that there would be such a thing as non-vegan make-up.
And now the card came back. I knew a way in which I could help mother nature :-D by spreading the word & making vegan make up available for more people.
The initial plan stayed just that, a plan
I had the idea to start a webshop in vegan make up products. So I went on a small reserach quest and it seemed like there was a market. But something else was lacking; flow. It was the biggest hassle to get the brands I selected as brands that I wanted to sell in my webshop to even write me back. So I decided this was not it. I adjusted the idea slightly.
What do most women use, I thought, lip balm! And since the lip balm brands did write back to me I decided that perhaps a webshop in vegan lip balms would be what I was supposed to do.
By the way, you have to understand that during all this time I knew that I was guided and that I would find out what it was that Mama Universe wanted me to do.
Curiousity makes this cat feel alive
I got the webshop idea while I was in Australia, and once I landed back in Holland I had decided on the "just lip balms" thing and at the moment I laid my tired body in the guest room in my mother's home, I started looking for the products that I needed to make lip balm. Just with myself, my laptop and Google an important corner stone was placed right from my old bed room at mom's.
At first, the making of the lip balm was nothing more than a creative waste of time. I bought props and flowers and was fiddling around with compositions, with different forms of lip balms, with aroma's oils and I posted all of these creations on Facebook.
A lot of my friends started to get curious about what I was posting there and I started to hand out samples to my Facebook friends. I would send them a message and bring a lip balm by. And by lip balm I mean a little plastic ice spoon with a bit of balm in there, or a small plastic cup with balm. After many positive reactions and a remark from the owner of a bakery shop, where I went often to buy props for my vegan lip ladies, I decided to take it to the next level.
The birth of fra lippo lippie
So I decided to find lip balm tubes. I found them and realised that if I had tubes,
I also needed a logo. And a name for the product. And I actually already had it thanks to
a joke of me and a dear friend of mine.
About 8 years prior, Sandrijn, me and a group of friends rented a house in the middle
of nowhere; Ommen to celebrate New Years Eve there.
We had a stack of records with us from the eighties. One of the records, my mother's,
had a band on there that had the funniest and cutest name ever' Fra Lippo Lippi.
We had so many laughs about this name, it was so funny and cute and it stuck with me ever since. And also with Sandrijn because she started to comment on my lip balm Facebook posts with " Nice fra lippo lippies!" with lippie referring to lips.
And another nice discovery, when I entered the name in the Benelux brand register; the band Fra Lippo Lippi actually based their name on a 15th century renaissance painter from Rome "Fra Fillipo Lippi".
So the product, the name and the logo were a fact shortly after that. I posted it on Facebook and when seeing the picture
Bonne from Bon Bon Boutique in Amsterdam offered to be a sales point.