19 March 2012
From dad's garage to global business
RMIT University Alumnus of the Year for 2012, Natalie Bloom, started a business in her parents' garage that has grown into a global cosmetics company.
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When she graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Communication) she had no intention of starting a business.
But after a year working in a design studio left her feeling uninspired, she developed a candle- making kit in her parents' garage, which she took to a trade fair. A buyer from Myer saw it and ordered 5,000.
It was the beginning of Bloom, now a global cosmetics brand and a company with a focus on natural ingredients and strong design.
Ms Bloom, who remains at the helm of the Melbourne-based company, was named Alumnus of the Year in recognition of her achievements in business and the community.
She will receive the award, which honours one outstanding graduate from RMIT each year, at an award ceremony at RMIT's Storey Hall on Wednesday.
Ms Bloom built the company based on her passion for make-up, design and all things botanical.
Working on the candle-making kit exposed her to natural ingredients that she realised would work well in lip balm.
Bloom cosmetics began to appear in American stores and caught the attention of beauty magazine editors from the likes of Vogue and soon she was travelling the world as Bloom took off internationally.
Ms Bloom has retail in her blood. Her father is Barry Bloom, who formerly ran the Portmans fashion chain with his brother.
In 2008 Bloom, which sells cosmetics through many department stores and select retailers, opened its first retail store in South Yarra.
Ms Bloom said the practical focus of her degree at RMIT helped shape her career.
"RMIT was very good at giving me a broad approach to design - we studied cinematography, life drawing, marketing, advertising, typography, packaging design and illustration," she said.
"What I learnt at RMIT was quite invaluable for me starting a business, because in business it's not just about the package, it's about everything else that goes with it, how it is photographed, or merchandised in store, it's the full brand management.
"RMIT really equipped me to have a sensitivity to a broad range of skills."
Ms Bloom said she was thrilled to be named alumnus of the year, following previous recipients including Archibald prize-winning artist, Sam Leach and the founder of Engineers Without Borders, Daniel Almagor.
"It's always so flattering and lovely to get a pat on the back from RMIT. I feel humbled. RMIT feels really close to my heart," she said.
"I love Melbourne, and loved studying at RMIT in the heart of our city. I felt like RMIT was really a wider design community with fashion design, architecture, and textile design. It's so lovely to come back here."
Her advice to RMIT students is that whatever you do in business, do it with integrity.
"I've seen so many competitors come and go. One thing I'm most proud of, whether it's ingredients in the product, or the packaging, we do it with integrity," Ms Bloom said.
"Also, be passionate about what you do. I still get a spark in my eye when I'm thinking about design."
RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, congratulated Ms Bloom on building such a well known and respected international business over the past 20 years.
Professor Gardner said that as the owner and founder of Bloom Pty Ltd, Ms Bloom had built a business with distribution in 18 countries.
"Natalie made RMIT proud 15 years ago when she was awarded Victorian Young Australian of the Year in 1997, a generation ago," she said.
"And Natalie is also an ambassador and supporter of arts and memorial centres in Melbourne.
"In addition, she is an inspirational role model for students and a well-known personality in Melbourne."
Professor Gardner said that the alumnus of the year award, now in its fifth year, was an opportunity to take stock of the valuable contributions of all RMIT graduates, while highlighting the outstanding contribution of Ms Bloom to business and the community.
"RMIT has a vibrant alumni community of more than 250,000 graduates. Our alumni hold more than 700 degrees and qualifications that have led them into industry, innovation and research in more than 130 countries, reflecting the University's global reach," she said.
"Our alumni can be found working in some of the world's most high-profile organisations, making valuable contributions in business and education, making an impact at the forefront of research, or working on new innovations in technology.
"There are those who work in the community to make an impact to the social fabric of our community, while others are making waves in the creative industries, shaping the cultural landscape in Australia and across the world.
"We are proud of all our alumni working to make an impact, however large or small," Professor Gardner said.