Bombshell drops girlie bargains with a bang

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      Like many new moms, Elizabeth Yap-Chung wasn’t jumping up and down with glee at the thought of returning to the 9 to 5 world after her maternity leave ended. But where most women heave a sigh, organize childcare, and resign themselves to the daily commute, Yap-Chung started to think about a way around it. “I wanted to stay home,” she says in a phone interview. “I’d had a business of my own before, and I had a taste for that. I thought, ”˜There must be a business I can run from home on my own schedule.’ ”

      At one time, she had owned her own vintage-clothing and consignment store on Vancouver Island, where she grew up, and she had also worked for Eaton’s in Vancouver. Why not sell clothes on the Internet? A bright idea, until she began to consider the logistics of storage and keeping up with the fashion seasons. Then, serendipitously, while scouring the Web sites of wholesalers who sold “off-price, samples, and close-outs”, she says, “I came across cosmetics. No one was doing that in Canada.” The result was Bombshell Bargains ( ), Yap-Chung’s home-based on-line store, which sells name-brand beauty products at discount prices.

      The antennae twitch. What is this stuff? Is it good? And why does it cost less than normal? First of all, these are labels familiar to fashionistas: Bobbi Brown, Clarins, Clinique, Stila, and 30 or so others. (Yap-Chung’s own Bombshell collection of bath and body products, initially developed as promotional items, could be new to you; partial proceeds from the Starlet line go to the Cinderella Project, which helps disadvantaged high-school students.) All are the real thing, not cheap knockoffs. A number of factors fuel discounts, Yap-Chung explains. “Boutiques close down. Sometimes a company changes the name of a colour, or the packaging.” Besides, she points out, “When did you last see cosmetics marked down?”¦we just had a pallet come in from a department store.” Cancelled orders, surplus stock—it all adds up. “A lot of the time, the packaging may not be perfect,” she says, “but you never keep the box.” Just don’t expect the same selection you see at your favourite makeup emporium. Yap-Chung compares it to going to Winners and finding part of the Jones New York spring 2008 collection, but not the whole line. As well, you won’t be able to try a lippy on the back of your hand, but if you’re a regular user of, say, Lancí´me Définicils mascara, why not save some change?

      A trial run with an eBay store showed Yap-Chung the concept had legs, “but eBay takes a fair chunk of fees”. Wanting her own site, she hired a designer and branded her company with retro pinup graphics, a girlie pink vibe, the name Bombshell Bargains, and a chatty blog complete with video makeup tutorials. Putting the word out and hooking up with other on-line businesses have grown the company to the point where today it’s her full-time career, a solo operation much of the time, with staff who help with sales or when large inventory comes in. Initially she worked from her dining room and office, but soon outgrew them. Now, she still handles administration from her East Vancouver home but ships some orders from a local warehouse, and the rest from a facility in Blaine, just south of the border.

      Her order line is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., although dealing with suppliers back east can mean earlier starts. (As any home-based businessperson will tell you, Toronto can’t see you’re still in your dressing gown.) Opening a storefront is always a possibility, she says, but not having overhead helps with discounting. Yap-Chung may not have a traditional shop, but she does meet customers. The Bombshell-girl-emblazoned Mazda delivery van brings cosmetics to downtown offices as part of the Boardroom Bombshells program. She also meets buyers at her periodic shopping events, which showcase best-selling items and as much variety as possible, she says. An upcoming one (next Friday [May 9] at Chez Faye Café, 101–1168 Hamilton Street, 7 to 10 p.m.) will include mini make-overs, hand massages, and other related fun.

      Shop on her site and you’ll save at least 20 percent—and up to 50 percent. Picking at random yielded Too Faced gel blush ($9.99), Givenchy travel-size soap ($1.99), and Bobbi Brown concealer ($19.99), for those eye bags you get shopping on-line till 3 a.m. Pushing the total to $75 tips you into the free-shipping category. (Think of it as getting a new eye shadow instead of paying 10 bucks to Canada Post.) MAC is the best seller, Yap-Chung says, “and whatever the latest trend is”. Recently, it’s been lip plumpers. While Canada is her biggest market, orders come in from all over the world.

      Running a global concern from your own home sounds like a dream, but is she making a living at it? Yes, she says, but even more importantly, “I’ve got a little guy who’s in preschool, and I can work around it.”