Suzanne Jackson and Dylan O’Connor invite VIP into their Portuguese home

Suzanne Jackson and Dylan O’Connor Pic: Evan Doherty for VIP Magazine

We. Are. In. Shock. Suzanne Jackson has just revealed to VIP what her companies – SOSU Cosmetics and Dripping Gold – turned over last year. And last year, she says, was a bad year.

“We did just under €20 million,” she tells us, as we fall off our seat. “Our projected turnover for this year is €30 million and for 2024 it’s €45 million”. Aghast, we close our mouth. But, we feel like breaking into applause. What. An. Achievement. She’s 38 years old and she set up SOSU Cosmetics in 2015 and then Dripping Gold in 2018. Growth has been fast and it’s been massive.

However, last year in a shock move, Sue took a step back from her two companies and appointed a CEO to run them. She was burnt out, she says. She felt numb and unchallenged. And – she wanted a new version of Sue.

Today, at her home in Loulé, Portugal, we meet “new Sue” who is looking amazing (nothing new there, you say). But, what is new is that she’s never felt healthier or been happier. But also there’s something else too about this new version of Sue and it’s DWTS she credits for this change. Learning to move her body, she says, made her fall in love with her body. It also made her feel sexy.

It explains why this exclusive photoshoot with Sue and Dylan is so damn HOT! And what a way is that to celebrate their six-year wedding anniversary on August 5th!

After a Team VIP sleepover (they were the best hosts) we talk about life in Portugal, about bodies beautiful, about control and losing it, and about her newest passion project, Talking is Medicine…

Suzanne Jackson Pic: Evan Doherty

Sue, looking from the outside in, it seems to be a fabulous life. Is it really as good as it looks?

No one is happy 100 per cent of the time and nothing goes swimmingly all of the time either – that’s life. But, I did today on the way home from the gym, have a moment of gratitude. The roof was down on the car; the sun was splitting the stones; I had the music on; I had just left my Pilates class and I felt good and thankful. I just thought, ‘Wow, this is the life’! But – am I happy and is life amazing all the time? Of course not! There’s stuff going on behind the scenes – personal stuff and family stuff – that people don’t know about and never will. But, I try to always see the silver lining, that’s just the way I’m programmed. My mum always says if you throw your problems into a pile with everyone’s else, you’d take your own back out in a hurry!

Now that you’ve taken your foot off the pedal a little in work, have you had time to stop and applaud yourself for building this beauty empire?

Over the years I would have never patted myself on the back or stopped to look at what we’ve done. But, I am learning to now. And yes, I am very grateful for the position I am in. I have worked my ass off to get here – as has my husband. And we still work all the time. I know some people are probably reading this going, ‘give it over, how could you work all the time as a company founder’, but there is always work to be done. However, I am grateful for all I have achieved. And I do count my blessings everyday.

This is your and Dylan’s first photoshoot together since your VIP wedding exclusive in August 2017. How did it feel to do this today?

It felt amazing, and especially because Dylan is shy and a bit introvert. Anytime I ever asked him to do an anything over the years it was always a no. But this time when you guys approached us I was like, ‘Dylan we’re six years married next month and you’ve done nothing with me in VIP since. It would be a lovely little anniversary shoot’!

Suzanne Jackson and Dylan O’Connor Pic: Evan Doherty

A sexy anniversary shoot!

YES! It’s funny, I’ve really come into the sexy side of Sue since doing Dancing With The Stars (DWTS)! I’ve changed! [Laughing]

Woohoo, Sue!

I do feel sexier and I am sexier [laughing] and I’m loving the vibe! I was always the typical Irish Catholic girl who’d be afraid to talk about sex…and I’d never dream of mentioning ‘sex’ on social media! But now I’m loving the likes of Jenny Keane (holistic sex educator and tantra yoga teacher)! DWTS definitely brought out some sort of sexual energy in me.

How do you think it did that?

I think it was just moving my body… and falling in love with my body. One of the days when I was learning the Rumba, Michael my dance partner said to me, ‘Suzanne you really need to feel your hips and your weight going down into your bum’. The dancers have this way of describing the moves in a way that you get to know your body. For years I didn’t know my body and maybe that’s why I’m taking such good care of my body now. I just feel sexier because dance brings a level of sexiness! Dylan is feeling it too! So when we decided we’d do the shoot, he was like, ‘will we do a really sexy shoot?’ I was like, ‘hell yeah’! We wanted to embrace the sexy side of ourselves. We’re a young couple for God’s sake!

Also, when the bods are this hot it would be rude not to show them off!

Well, Dylan is in great shape. And being fit gives him body confidence. He’s hugely into his health and that’s been rubbing off on me.

Suzanne Jackson and Dylan O’Connor Pic: Evan Doherty for VIP Magazine

We hear you’ve gone mad for the Spin classes! What’s nice about Spin – as well as the intense cardio – is the sense of community, would you agree?

Totally, when you go into a Spin class it’s a bit of craic. The music is pumping; your energy is up; everybody is struggling together; your instructor is trying to motivate you on – it’s such great team energy. I own three businesses and I’m a big team player and I love a community feel and a Spin class gives me that. But also the main reason I do it is because I cannot be on my phone. It completely shuts me off from work. In the 50-minute Spin session, I’m zoned out and I just feel so much better for it. Spin releases all the endorphins and makes me feel so much better.

How much are you working out at the moment?

[Coyly] Oh, every day. I’ve a really fast metabolism and I was always slim but now that I’m working out, I look slimmer, but I’m not, I’m just more toned. I am getting a bit of flack on my Instagram, people saying ‘eat up’, ‘you’re too thin’. I used to eat chippers and Dominos and crap all the time. I had no energy and I was always tired. But I’m eating more now than I ever have, I’m just eating better. I obviously got a kickstart from DWTS. I was five months in intense training and I lost a lot of body fat and got quite fit but I didn’t build muscle and I looked thinner. Now I’m trying to build muscle. And, I’m enjoying it.

Let’s talk more about the community vibe of Spin: did you need to feel part of something when you moved here to Portugal? At home in Dublin you have family and friends around but here you are more alone…

When we broached the idea years ago of moving here I was so scared because I loved having my family down the road. I also love a busy household and here it’s just me and Dylan and initially the thought of that terrified me, because I’m an extrovert. However, I’m slowly but surely making friends. I’m meeting my pal Rebecca tomorrow and we’re gonna go out for some light lunch and do a Spin class. I also go to the same nail bar and hair salon. I’m trying to build my own community.

Sue, there seems to be a thread running through this chapter of your life: stepping into the unknown and stepping out of your comfort zone; stepping down as CEO; stepping into the challenge of DWTS. They are brave steps.

Brave steps yes. But I wanted to make changes. I felt very stuck in the last couple of years in SOSU and Dripping Gold. I just felt kind of numb, stuck in a cycle of launching products and it wasn’t that I got bored because that sounds like I’m unappreciative of all we achieved, I just felt unchallenged. So when my CEO Caroline Dalton started in October and the DWTS opportunity fell into my lap, I felt like it was my first chance to step outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to become a new version of me and that may sound funny to some people, but I was sick of being that version of Sue.

Suzanne Jackson  Pic: Evan Doherty for VIP Magazine

What was wrong with the “old version of Sue”?

I just felt I lost myself over the years running a business. You can become very burnt out and very business minded. Even my mum said to me that I was losing patience. I didn’t want to be that business woman anymore. I wanted to be able to let go and have fun. I wanted to show my vulnerability too because I think people thought I was a hard-ass-bitch-business-woman. And I’m not. This version of me now I love the most because I am doing things for me; I am saying no to things that don’t serve me anymore and I’m ensuring I’m around good people. I am looking after myself.

Stepping down as CEO was you giving up control. Making the decision to step away is one thing but then living with the consequences of that decision takes adjustment…

And, I’ve had to really adjust because by nature I am…

A control freak?!

YES! I am! My dance partner said it to me, too. In fact that whole dancing blunder was part of me struggling with the lack of control. Because in the moment when you’re dancing you can’t control everything: people make mistakes, you miss a beat, it happens. Handing over the reins of my business, which I ran for eight years, was hard. But the business needed to change and bringing in Caroline with a fresh set of eyes was that change it needed. She has a total vision for SOSU and she’s already making waves.

So what is your involvement now?

I’m still involved in product and marketing, but the day-to-day running I have no involvement with anymore. I have my monthly meetings with the heads of departments, I get my reports and I give my feedback on product and my suggestions for new products and then after that I let the team do their job.

Suzanne Jackson Pic: Evan Doherty for VIP Magazine

So do they make all decisions? Do you even okay decisions now?

No! And yes, it’s a struggle! For example, we’re developing a foundation for SOSU at the minute and I love one version but the team like another version so if it’s 6 against 1, I’m going to go with the majority!

To go from the boss who held all control – that has to be tough?

Yep, but SOSU has become such an international brand now. It’s not about me anymore, that’s why we took my name off, we wanted it to be standalone. So yes, it’s a bit of a struggle but I am loving the change.

Aside from SOSU Cosmetics and Dripping Gold you also have Mantra Official (footwear and accessories line) with Terrie McEvoy and Siobhan Murray. How are you asa partner? When you have been a boss for so long is it hard to be a team player?

It’s actually very easy in Mantra. In terms of shares, Siobhan has the lead share, the main vision of the brand and the main say. She’s the main product developer and communicator with suppliers and myself and Terrie give our feedback on what is trending on the fashion side. We oversee the projects together as a trio and it works really well…I like the division of responsibility but still I think I’ll forever be a girl who loves business and loves challenging myself. That said, I don’t do well when I’m overwhelmed. I do well under pressure, but not in overwhelm.

And what would overwhelm you?

Well, because I had issues with control I insisted on having nearly all company approvals coming my way, from finance to marketing. But as the business grew bigger and bigger I had to give away some of the responsibility. Now I’m doing very few approvals, which is the place I wanted to get to. But I have an obsessive side to me and I can’t put my phone down at 5 o’clock and say, ‘that’s me done for the day’. I now have two separate phones: a work and a personal one. But, I still will always have the two phones in the handbag! But, IamalotbetterthanIusedtobe.Andthe business involvement I have now is perfect for me. I have monthly meetings with Mantra and SOSU and I have Talking is Medicine, which is my new project.

Suzanne Jackson and Dylan O’Connor Pic: Evan Doherty for VIP Magazine

Personal development is high on your own agenda. Is this why you love this new project of yours so much?

I think it all boils down to a happy mind so, yes. What I’m doing with Talking is Medicine is trying to bring like minded people together from an empowerment and self improvement perspective. On our website (talkingismedicine.com) – which is free – you get two monthly newsletters from experts in their wellness fields. We’ve doctors, psychologists, sleep experts, sex experts, the lot, and all their info is fact driven and it’s going to help people. We also have a forum built into the website so people can communicate and talk. It’s for people who want to better their lives from fitness to mental wellness to overall wellbeing.

One of your posts on your Talking is Medicine Instagram page (@ talkingismedicine) asks, ‘What does happiness mean to you?’ What does it, Sue?

Happiness is a fleeting moment, it’s not a state of being. When I feel happy it’s usually when I feel a part of something,
or when I feel I have accomplished something. In order for me to do that I have to have a healthy mind and healthy body, because that all plays into how we respond, react and grow. You have to fuel from the inside first before you can find happiness. Also seeing Dylan happy and the life that we built together out here, that makes me happy. I mean the two of us are having the time of our lives. And that’s the truth. Obviously we have our down days but we’re just loving the chill Portuguese way. They are so laid back here.

What is a day in the life of Sue and Dylan like? I mean we know no day is the same but what are the constants?

Dylan is a routine driven man and needs structure so we get up early and we have our pre-work out shake, we go to the gym, we do a Spin class together or a workout, we will then go to the sauna/steam room/ ice bath and after that we reward ourselves with a healthy breakfast and have a chat about what we’re going to do for the day. Normally I do a couple of hours work because it’s really hot then and then we may hit the beach and go for lunch. I bring my iPad so I can take a few work calls, then we come home, shower and go out for dinner together. That’s a typical day and it doesn’t change much from that unless we have guests here. Then we might go golfing or if my mum and dad are here we’ll chill by the pool more.

Suzanne Jackson Pic: Evan Doherty for VIP Magazine

It’s really just the two of you together down here, isn’t it?

Yes! Last year was a bit different and I was working at home quite a bit so we did spend more time apart; it depends on what you’re going through and what’s going on in your life. But at the moment we’re stuck together. Really, we’ve always been stuck together. In the early days of my career Dylan did all my photography and all my videos on Instagram, he’d edit all my YouTube videos and then we set up SOSU together – we’ve always been in each others pockets. Now, like any couple, we irritate each other and Dylan gets feckin’ annoying sometimes and I’d be like, ‘I need an hour without you’ and I’d go off and get my hair blow-dried. There are days when you need your space but for the most part we’re pretty much together.

Happy vibes! Good times! Long may it last!

Thank you!

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