Tired of her make-up artistry business being undercut, and sick of the industry catering to young girls who “wanted to look like Kim Kardashian” while ignoring the over-30s who “wanted to look like a fresher version of ourselves”, Natalya Purchase set up female-only Facebook group ‘Thirty Plus and Fabulous’ in 2016 and secured 3,000 members within the first week. At the time of writing membership was just shy of 28,000, and has spread well beyond the realms of beauty advice.
“That evolution was not part of the original plan,” admits mother-of-four Natalya. “It just evolved. It is a safe space where women can comment and chat about anything.” Natalya also regularly reviews a range of products, which then offers as prizes and giveaways. I ask her why she believes the group has been so embraced.
“I’m not entirely sure why,” says Natalya. “But it has definitely hit a sweet spot, something that many business owners have acknowledged, even though it was a bit by accident!”
What makes it even sweeter for Natalya is that within the first few days of opening the group, a “very well-known marketing expert” messaged to tell her that she hated what she was doing, and that it was a ridiculous idea. “Because she was so well-known — and somebody whose services I was going to invest in once I had the money — it felt like a real kick in the gut,” says Natalya. “I was questioning myself and on the verge of shutting it all down. But then I thought, ‘You know, I have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain, what was the worst that could happen?’ I think she now really despises what I’ve got.”
Have you heard from her since?
“Yes. Afterwards she was causing disharmony by getting people who work for her to badmouth my group, which is really unusual. It was a little disturbing, actually. She is exactly the type of person that we warn the group we will not tolerate, so it was a good lesson in a way. She kind of forced me to plunge into the deep end, so I should thank her really.”
Eliminating online abuse within the group is paramount. “I wanted to create a space where women felt respected,” says Natalya. “To create camaraderie. Somewhere with discussions and debates but where opinions are served with kindness. We delete people instantly who say anything negative about someone. This is one of the few spaces on social media where you will not get attacked.”
Were you already a social media whiz?
“Not at all, I totally winged my way into it! I still have my original beauty business page — just like everyone else I had my loyal customer base, and just like everyone else I struggled with getting myself out there and getting known. So, it did surprise me, how popular the group became. It surprised everybody.”
There are no ‘typical’ members of the group, with a good mix of married and single women “across a huge spectrum of society”, including mums, businesswomen and ladies from the media, most mainly in their 30s and 40s. Topics like feminism and the gender divide have rarely been out of the news in recent months, and I ask if it’s been discussed among the women of the group. “Yes, but we realise that politics can become very heated, so we always make sure that all of the moderators are on board,” says Natalya. “It’s about teaching people that strong opinions can still be delivered with kindness. We’re not a women’s lib group, and whenever anyone has a moan about their husband, another ten usually pipe up to say how wonderful their husbands are. There are no burning bras!”
Another of the group’s focus has been to organise coffee meetings, which take place all around the country. “In this age, we are the most connected we have ever been in history, but we are the most disconnected in real time,” says Natalya. “We were hearing a lot about women being lonely and how they love the group as it is the only place they can go to feel connected and not be judged, so I thought how nice it would be if they could meet each other in person.”
It must be a hard business to switch off from, in more ways than one?
“I’m having my first complete break in nearly a year-and-a-half, but it’s to focus on other parts of the business, like the coffee groups. It’s a social media group, and it is very social and because it’s my baby I always feel as though I have to be involved — but there are more than 250,000 interactions on the page every 28 days. Luckily, my moderators are amazing!”
On a lesser scale, Natalya has members from all over the world, most notably the US, UK, Australia and South Africa, but hopes to eventually develop the group into a fully global network. “It would be cool if we could expand,” she says. “But it’s about getting the foundations really locked in first, otherwise it could get very messy.”
But a good excuse to organise some of those coffee meetings overseas, instead.
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces
Join Natalya and the ‘Thirty Plus and Fabulous’ crew here.