Life & Culture

Sparkling friends turn glitter to gold

Entrepreneurs' venture is really starting to shine


"All that glitters, is not gold,” wrote Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice. But that phrase could not be less true for make-up artists turned entrepreneurs Holly Pollack and Sophia Cohen, who have capitalised on popular glitter trends across the globe. And summertime — with festivals in full swing, post pandemic — is their busy season.

Still in their twenties, they lead the market for cosmetic-grade glitter and have swept their glitter-lined brushes across the bodies of celebrities, artists and influencers all over the world.

They have been booked to paint glitter body art on people at leading music festivals, as well as private simchas. And they have launched their own line of chunky glitter, which now accounts for the bulk of their Go Get Glitter business.

The women, who have been friends since they grew up together in Hampstead Garden Suburb and attended FZY camp, never anticipated setting up their own company. Raised in traditional Jewish homes and educated at private schools, they were surrounded by people who took the well-trodden path from school to university, before going onto work in a professional environment.

At times, they were under pressure to do the same, but both knew they always wanted to do something creative.

Pollack, a former student at North London Collegiate School, was the only girl in her year to decide against going to university. “I kept getting called into meetings at school, but my friends and family were really supportive. I knew I didn’t want to go to university, I wanted to do something creative. I wanted to prove my school wrong and do something different.”

Meanwhile Cohen, who attended Mill Hill School, left her university course shortly after starting. Both went onto enrol in make-up courses and seek a stable job in the industry but found it a competitive market which could, at times, be exploitative. They would be offered “experience” without pay or credit, or asked to work 21-hour days for as little as £40.

That all changed in 2015, when they took a summer trip to Ibiza, aged 19. For the first time, they saw glitter being used in an artistic way to add sparkle to people’s bodies, hair and outfits, in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

“We went to a pool party, and each paid around €30 to get some glitter on our face,” says Pollack, now 26.

“It was a cool way to use glitter, and we thought, ‘We can do that, we can do it better and make a killing. We didn’t want to just imitate what we saw happening in Ibiza, we wanted to be more creative with the idea.”

Back in London, they used family and friends as models, using the images to set up the Go Get Glitter Instagram page.

“We needed content,” says Cohen, 27. “We needed to post on Instagram to show people what we could really do with glitter. Instagram was amazing for us. When we started, the ‘influencer’ world was really starting to take off.”

Social media stars with thousands of followers across the globe, contacted them from Brazil to the US. The influencers needed content for their channels, and the business needed their outreach. The relationships, say Pollack and Cohen, were mutually beneficial.

One Halloween, they created a glitter pumpkin look that went viral. Another time, they designed a jewelled body art accessory that strongly resembled a Magen David. “People did start commenting on the ‘Jewish star’,” laughs Pollack. “It ended up being a best selling product.”

They hired freelance make-up artists to cover people in chunky glitter at big charity fundraisers in London, they were flown to events — from a batmitzvah in New York to the music and arts Coachella festival in Palm Springs —and were approached by big name retail brands like Boohoo and websites like BuzzFeed, to demonstrate glitter looks. They went beyond painting glitter on people’s faces, by using chunky glitter over people’s bodies.

They set up pop-up glitter stands in Topshop and were commissioned for events by brands from Accessorize to L’Oreal. “We had amazing clients and they were all through social media,” says Cohen.

“In our first summer, we worked at eight festivals including Reading, Leeds, Wilderness as well as Pride events. We were messaging each other 24/7 and realised we had to commit to the business full-time.”

Eventually, they decided to sell their own line of chunky glitter through their website, or through big companies showing the product in their shops. They even offered a biodegradable glitter range, aware that there is a big debate around plastic-overuse and glitter.

“It all happened by accident and we went with it,” says Pollack, with Go Get Glitter boasting almost 260,000 followers on Instagram. “We didn’t plan to set up a business and become entrepreneurs. We just did everything together, and it worked for us.”

But like many other business-owners, the outbreak of the pandemic was a challenging time. In March 2020 festivals, parties and social gatherings were cancelled — and so were their bookings. “We were heartbroken to see that the business we had spent years working on and growing was silenced overnight,” says Pollack.

Once they were booked at international festivals, they had invested in a new range and shot a campaign with five models. “But overnight, everything got cancelled,” says Cohen. “There was a domino effect as people started to cancel events we were booked to work at. It was really tough.

We weren’t going to festivals, events stopped happening and people stopped buying our product.”

Pollack adds: “We went from a hundred miles an hour, to nothing. We couldn’t work from home, we couldn’t see each other and we felt really lost. We tried to keep the buzz going online, but people were all wearing loungewear and going for walks. No one was up for getting dressed up.”

As restrictions started to lift, they went for a walk one day and discussed what they could do to keep the business going. They decided to capitalise on the interest in personalised possessions.

Pollack had spent part of lockdown practising embroidery and making tie-dye t-shirts. They thought selling them with a personalised name on, would give their business an edge.

From their homes, they launched Go Get Personalised, a company that offers bespoke clothing and accessories, for a more affordable price. Now, they have almost 70,000 Instagram followers and as life got back to normal imitated their previous business model by customising items at events.

They now to juggle both businesses in a new office space and have a full-time staff member.

“Everything we have learnt has taken us to this place,” says Cohen. “It has not always been easy, but we are grafting and that is the difference with someone starting their own business. We have had moments where we think we have hit rock bottom, but we look back and realise it’s been sorted.”

“A lot of people say we are lucky, but we take that with a pinch of salt,” adds Pollack. “Things don’t ‘just happen’, you have to put yourself in a position for them to happen. We are now business owners, entrepreneurs, and we feel quite confident.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive