secretleaders | DECIEM – a tale of tragedy and beauty with CEO Nicola Kilner

DECIEM – a tale of tragedy and beauty with CEO Nicola Kilner

The massive beauty disruptor, DECIEM, was founded in 2013 by “the beauty world’s most exciting disruptor”, Brandon Truaxe, and co-CEO Nicola Kilner. From the beginning, they weren’t like any other cosmetic company, they acted more like a startup incubator launching 10 brands in rapid succession.

They were hugely successful, did everything in house, outstripped the competition and grew wildly popular brands like The Ordinary. What Nicola wasn’t prepared for, however, was Brandon’s very public struggles with his mental health in 2018, his death in 2019, and the devastating impact it all had on the company.

“Ultimately, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help.”

In this heartfelt, honest, emotionally raw episode of Secret Leaders, Nicola shares her incredible entrepreneurial journey to date.

“It was always just trying to get the balance between keeping DECIEM going and trying to be there for Brandon. And people tell you all the time, you just have to wait for the person to want help. It’s such a difficult situation to be in, you just have to wait for them to reach rock bottom. But what if they never do or, in Brandon’s case, it ultimately ended in the worst possible way.”

From founding DECIEM with Brandon, to seeking investment, scaling the business up, and then what happened when Brandon’s mental health took a turn for the worse. After being fired by Brandon, to assuming control of the company once more, Nicola tells the DECIEM story, warts and all, ensuring that Brandon’s legacy lives on.

“Brandon would want, you know, he taught us so much about family and being there for each other. So it was kind of, let’s just put that back into practice now.”

We chat about:

  • Starting DECIEM with Brandon
  • Funding DECIEM with Estee Lauder
  • Working with Brandon before and during 2018
  • Being fired and then regaining control of the company
  • Communicating through a crisis


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The Secret Leaders podcast features interviews with key figures from the UK tech and creative ecosystem. From entrepreneurs (both early and latter stage), to journalists, VCs - and even royalty - the series profiles those who have helped shape the nation's culture of innovation and growth.