How to build a beauty start-up from scratch

During class at university Florence dreamed up plans for her beauty company and has since turned into a global hit. With retailers like Colette and Nasty Gal stocking her lipsticks, we asked her how she turned an idea into a fully-fledged beauty business. Here are her tips:

Shop floor experience is key!

Working as a Saturday girl at 17 in Benefit Cosmetics was the best starting point for my business. I’d worked in fashion retail, but beauty retail was different, it creates a much closer relationship with the consumer. You go on a journey with the consumer from the starting point to the sale and it can almost be like a therapy session. Some women come in and they want to wear a red lip but they don’t feel confident enough, so you have to invest time and energy working out how they feel and build their confidence to see that it’s not that daring a step to make, it would just look beautiful.

Starting a new business is time consuming!

Even more so if you are finishing a four-year degree in Cosmetic Science at the same time, like I was. I really had to learn how to balance my time, and luckily I had an amazing tutor to help. Being at university also worked to my advantage. Through university I was able to apply for and win the  UAL Student Enterprise and Employablility (SEE) loan, which gave me the start up money to launch the business. It also helped me to think of it as my ‘business’ not just an idea because I had to come up with a full plan.

Come up with the brand strategy first

The first thing I did business wise was work on my branding, I set up my social media accounts, got the visuals right and came up with the brand story. This was great because it meant that people wanted my product before it hit shelves. In fact the demand was so big, that I started the buzz in March 2013, by July 2013 I had to get the product out. That said, my first product wasn’t amazing, the lipstick formulation was so hard that it broke. But I learnt to improve on that, and how to handle bad social media feedback well. I was just very real with my customers, explaining that this was my first business and there were bound to be problems. Because I had built a loyal customer base they gave me time to get it right.

Going global

Getting global retailers to take a chance on me has been a mix of trial and error. Colette in Paris is one of my biggest retailers and that opportunity came about because I had read an interview with the CEO who said that she liked receiving gifts from independent brands, so I wrote a beautiful letter with a beauty parcel and sent it to her. It worked. While Nasty Gal found me after Googling European beauty brands.

Take your business to the next level

For me 2016 will be a year of transition. I started off creating the lipsticks in my dad’s converted office and now I will be getting them manufactured, which means I’ll be able to meet the demand and produce the quantities needed. This will free up more time for me to do brand strategy and start thinking about building collaborations with up and upcoming talent. Hopefully I will have time in 2016 to test the wonderful ideas I’ve been brainstorming. I’m very excited….

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