Starting a beauty brand from scratch can be overwhelming, to say the least. It's not enough that you come up with a bright idea for your first launch, or even a witty name to call it. Because somewhere down the line, new (and bigger) challenges will come and potentially make you feel stuck. That's why before those even happen, it pays to be prepared. To get you started, we asked the founder and formulator of mineral makeup brand Ellana Cosmetics, Theresa Carbonel-Buenaflor, to share the best business advice that helped her small business grow into what it is today. Keep scrolling if you're an aspiring beauty entrepreneur!
Tips for Starting a Beauty Brand:
1. Know what you can give.
"There are a lot of 'trendy' business ideas, but the brand you build should be something you know you can provide in a way that's unique," says Theresa. Riding a trend can only get you so far, after all, so finding a reason for customers to specifically seek your products out is a must.
In Theresa's case, the idea of creating mineral makeup came from hearing an friend'ss concern. "An old friend, Coney, had been struggling to find makeup that suited her delicate skin and lasted long in the humid weather. We soon discovered more people who had challenges similar to hers," she shares. This was the year 2007, when makeup was either long-lasting makeup or sensitive skin-friendly. It was rarely both, and Ellana Cosmetics was born to bridge that gap.
Although the founder's experience in formulating cosmetics came in handy for creating the products, Theresa thinks that focusing on what's important for the brand is what helped it succeed. "At Ellana we're formulation first. I take great care to use the best ingredients. We ensure that our products aren't just makeup but have skincare benefits, too," she explains. "Lastly, we care deeply about how our products match our customer's lifestyles—easy-to-apply, pigmented, and long-wearing."
2. Know your market.
According to Theresa, balancing your own desires with your customer's (and eventually, employees') is more important than it seems. She also considers this as one of her brand's strengths. "Think about what your customers really need and want, not just what you think is cool. Go out! Talk to people! Take classes! Never lose touch with your customers," she expounds.
"We've grown as a company because we really try to make sure our customers can grow when they partner with us; our employees can grow when they work with us," says the entrepreneur. "Growth leads to more growth, so I think making sure to focus on nurturing and growing people has been our secret."
3. Don't do it alone.
The challenge of meeting their customers' growing demands is one of the biggest ones Ellana Cosmetics and Theresa has faced. "I couldn't be in control of everything anymore. It meant letting go and trusting others with bits and pieces of my baby," admits the entrepreneur.
Hence, she recommends getting help, specifically from people who understand your vision."They may not necessarily be your friends, but they should be people who care about your brand and the vision as much as you do," she adds. This way, giving up some control over to others wouldn't be as difficult as it seems.
"It's impossible to be a 'solo' entrepreneur. Working with other people gives jobs for more, and gives you the ability to focus on parts of the business where you can give your best," Theresa continues. If you were to run into issues like needing to synchronize the team, here's her advice: "When you make respecting people and what they bring to the table a priority, it makes trust easier, which makes being in sync easier, which for us helped us evolve fast enough to grow with our customers."
Overall, working with a team prepares your brand for its future. "I think a challenge that people don't talk about enough is the challenge of growth—not how to grow, but what happens when you grow," she explains. Figuring out how to fulfill five times your original order count, for one, isn't a challenge best faced alone. With a team behind you, you'd be better-equipped to tackle these issues instead of scrambling for solutions when the they arrive.
4. Take criticism seriously.
It may sound cliché, but communication is key to building a strong beauty brand. The Ellana founder tells us, "As a makeup artist, I'd share products I was formulating with clients to learn their feedback. Today, we still do this, we invite customers to co-create and give us feedback about our products which we then incorporate to our product line." Reading messages on their support channels have helped them listen to customer feedback better, too.
When the negative feedback comes, listen to that, too. "Even the 'haters' have reasons for hating. Try to understand those reasons and see what lessons you can apply from them," she says.
5. Finally, know that you can’t please everyone.
At the end of the day, not everyone will love your brand or your products. This is especially true in beauty, where things are often a hit or miss. According to Theresa, this is why it's important that you do #2, which is to know your market, and make sure to know it well. Focusing on this task instead of say, looking at everyone else's market, will help you overcome negative feedback easier.