Joseph Harwood, 29, from Brighton, developed a passion for art at a young age. With the help of The Prince's Trust he was able to guide his aspirations into a successful business.
“I knew I had to create my own lane from early on. I was naturally gender ambiguous, people couldn’t tell if I was a boy or a girl.”
Joseph turned to the world of visual creativity as a form of armor and self-expression. In particular, he started to explore the transformative powers of makeup and how it can be used to convey a message of strength.
Eager to pursue his interest further, Joseph applied to several makeup companies. While his knowledge and talent were highly regarded, he was met with the same response: “I was told directly by recruitment agents that I wasn’t even able to work front of house because my image wasn’t right, which I had very little control over. I wasn’t given the chance to work for the same opportunities.”
Joseph didn’t give up on his ambitions and at the age of 17 decided to start his own business instead. “I knew a lot about makeup but what I did not know was how to successfully make money from it, I wanted to design products that worked for me and reflected every person with an interest in makeup - and do it well”.
After looking into courses and start-up options, Joseph joined the Enterprise programme in 2009 and found it one of the most rewarding experiences of his business life. “The support that I got from the course was invaluable. I learnt how to construct a business plan, a basic blueprint of what I wanted to do. I had an amazing mentor who guided me through the process and was on hand with any help I needed”.
Feeling confident and reassured after completing the programme, Joseph developed his first makeup products and used social media to bypass early road blocks. His work hit a viral acclaim for celebrity transformation, leading him to enter in the first social media focused Got Talent competition Simon Cowell had created, the You Generation Competition, which he became the first and only trans winner of a reality-based talent competition.
Joseph has been the first gender non-conforming creator to digitally brand their work within the UK, working on campaigns for the UN, Google and peaking over 100 million views on YouTube. He has designed critically acclaimed inclusivity campaigns and cosmetic products under several brands including L’Oreal Innovations
In 2018 Joseph returned to The Prince’s Trust as a Young Ambassador. “The Prince’s Trust believed in me and gave me confidence to pursue my goals, which is why I wanted to give back."
Joseph is also a keen campaigner for meaningful inclusivity. “I don’t want to be included because I tick an ‘other’ box, I want to be included because I’ve earnt the chance to be, and I bring something of value.”
If you would like to know more about LGBT and inclusivity in the workplace or The Prince’s Trust initiatives to get young people into work, please join us on our upcoming webinar.