After finding fame with her lifestyle blog, Isabella Lowengrip went on to establish one of Sweden’s best-known beauty companies. But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the 27-year-old.
When she started her blog at the age of 14, the mainstream media didn’t take her seriously at all.
“Swedes, and particularly teenage girls, were very fast and early adopters,” she says of the blogging boom that swept the country a decade ago.
“But I remember the Swedish media laughing at us and saying, ‘look at those young women trying to do business with blogs’. We didn’t give up though, and I’m very proud of it.”
Under the pen name Blondinbella, she quickly became one of the most-read bloggers in the Nordics, and today some 1.5 million people visit her site every week.
Translated into English, German, and more recently French and Arabic, the blog focuses on fashion and beauty, Ms Lowengrip’s business ventures, and her efforts to balance a busy career with bringing up two young children.
It has also propelled her to becoming one of the Nordics’ best known “social influencers”, as well as being a launch-pad for a raft of successful spin-off businesses.
“I see myself more as an entrepreneur than a writer,” she admits as we chat at her glitzy offices in Stockholm. “I still think I write quite badly!”
Ms Lowengrip first showed a flair for business as a teenager, when she secured numerous advertising and sponsorship deals for her blog.
While some of her contemporaries partied away their earnings, the Swede chose to invest in new ventures – including her own blogging platform Spotlife, which remains a popular portal for young Nordic writers.
In 2012, she launched her own beauty brand, Lowengrip Care & Color (LCC), which was ranked as Sweden’s fastest-growing beauty company last year.
It markets itself as selling “gentle” products that offer fast results, including facial creams, mascara, shampoos and body lotions.
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LCC has expanded across the Nordics and into Switzerland and Estonia, and last year reported sales of 35m Swedish krona (£3.3m).
“Building a company is my passion,” says Ms Lowengrip of her decision to try new business ventures beyond blogging.
“It’s hard for me to just wear somebody else’s make-up or clothes – I want to create everything.”
But LCC and the blog remain strongly intertwined. Both ventures share the same office space above the exclusive Stockholm mall Sturegallerian and together employ 25 staff.
Ms Lowengrip’s posts also frequently reference her work at LCC – from meetings with designers and toxicologists, to appearances at beauty fairs and major contract wins.
She also often asks her readers’ for their opinions on her products or projects.
Ms Lowengrip’s other business interests include a shoe brand, a clothing label, an investment company and personal finance workshops, and the whole group expects to report sales of 75m Swedish krona this year.
“When it turned out she had a talent for business, she was taken much more seriously,” reflects Frasse Levinsson, a Stockholm-based media commentator and digital editor of popular culture magazine Nojesguiden.
“She knows which way the wind blows. For example, skincare has become a hot topic in the feminist movement in Sweden.
“But it’s almost like she predicted that because she released her own skincare products just beforehand.”
Ms Lowengrip puts her success down to a range of factors, from the sheer number of hours she’s invested in educating herself on business matters, to collaborating with “smarter colleagues” in her ventures.
However, she admits that the time and effort involved in building her career has put a strain on her personal life.
She is also candid about projects that failed to blossom, including Egoboost, a traditional glossy magazine that never turned a profit, and Bellme, her first online store, which went bankrupt shortly after she sold the business.
“I learned so much during those years, so I am very grateful for all those mistakes. You have to just jump on the horse again and not be so afraid of what people are thinking.”
The 27-year-old says she’s accepted she’s “not the best leader”, arguing that she’s better at coming up with ideas, and focusing on LCC’s bigger vision “to become the next Estee Lauder”.
For this reason, her business partner, the economist and journalist Pingis Hadenius, has taken on chief executive duties at LCC. Ms Lowengrip’s official title is creative director, but she also remains the brand’s more public face.
Such a public persona continues to be a mixed blessing.
Despite being an icon for hundreds of thousands of Swedish women who’ve grown up reading about her life, Ms Lowengrip, perhaps inevitably, divides opinion.
She recently faced a backlash after divorcing from her husband and being vocal about subsequently buying in more home-help for cooking and cleaning – something of a taboo in Sweden’s social democracy.
But the mother-of-two says she refuses to be judged for her lifestyle.
“It’s important for me to not have to choose between my business and my family life,” she says.
“And if I’m a happier person by myself, then I am also a better mum, a better colleague and a better leader.”