The cosmetic industry in the US is estimated to be about $49.2bn and despite the pandemic, things don’t seem to be slowing things down. With competition from the L’Oreal’s, Estee Lauder’s and Unilever’s, you may be wondering what it takes to build a successful beauty brand. Well, former COO of Beauty Bakerie, Josanta Emegano has coined a few tips and tricks under her sleeve. She recounts her experience: “As the COO of Beauty Bakerie, I was quickly coined the “internal Olivia Pope.” In addition to planting seeds for strategies that are just now coming to fruition for the brand, I was responsible for streamlining inefficiencies, fixing problems, and being a place of respite for employees to address specific challenges they may be having as they move the brand to the next level. Across the board, we were all wearing multiple hats, facing competing priorities, and stretching budgets as far as we could go. Inevitably, this juggling act led to mistakes – big and small. Mistakes will happen when you’re first starting out and they’ll continue to happen each time you begin working in unchartered territories. But, I’m grateful for every single one of them because it allows me to understand the challenges of other brand founders on a deeper level. I’m very open with talking about them because I know it could be someone else’s survival guide.”
Most of us can agree that one of the many challenges facing aspiring and upcoming beauty entrepreneurs, is standing out in a competitive and arguably one of the most saturated industries. Josanta attests that the way to navigate this element is to: “Make sure your product based business is solution-oriented. Think about problems or everyday annoyances that you can fix for your future customer. For example, I didn’t know I needed a lash glue/eyeliner combo, but I’m grateful I have another alternative when I forget my lash glue at home. However, an innovative idea isn’t enough. You have to do your research. Take a moment to examine other products that are similar to yours in the marketplace. There’s room for everyone but you have to pinpoint and lean into your key competitive differences immediately. If it’s a skincare line, perhaps you’re introducing the market to a new hero ingredient. If it’s cosmetics, perhaps you’ve found a way to speak to a customer who’s often neglected. Whatever it is, it will help you justify your place in the market.”
Furthermore, it’s safe to say it’s one thing to put your foot into the beauty industry but it’s another thing to build a successful brand that can withstand the ever changing trends and demands. According to Josanta: “Consistency, community, and flexibility are the keys to growing a successful beauty brand. For starters, product quality should always be top of mind because this will ultimately be what keeps your customer coming back. But, in general, your customer has to have the same experience each time they interact with your brand (ex: social media, website, ordering, new product launches, unboxing, and even with your approved distributors). Every element should be aligned and reaffirm your overall messaging. This will help create a loyal community of trust. As you evolve, extend yourself enough grace and flexibility to pivot or adjust when things aren’t working properly.”
You may be thinking ‘I’ve launched my product based business but I’m struggling with scaling it to six, seven figures!’ Josanta acknowledges this sentiment, but emphasises that: “You have to build a sharp distribution strategy. There is no special formula since every business is unique. But, you should create one strategy and stick to it. For some businesses, that means sticking with a direct-to-consumer approach for the first several years and opting to do popups to get in front of their customer. Other businesses launch with major retailers very early on. Again, there is no special formula and the strategy is merely a reflection of the brand’s overall mission and values.”
Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that running or managing a successful business isn’t always glamorous as Instagram makes it out to be. Josanta strongly believes that a successful entrepreneur possesses certain qualities : “I believe successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for confidence to take action. If you are constantly waiting for confidence or trying to work up the courage, then you’re allowing self-doubt to waste time. Successful entrepreneurs also have a great grasp of their skillset and they understand there are some tasks they shouldn’t do themselves. They don’t lie to themselves about it (because lying to yourself is an expensive habit). Instead, they quickly learn the art of delegation and how to surround themselves with a strong team.”
Lastly, successful entrepreneurship requires a lot of thinking ahead and mapping out what the future may look like. Josanta thinks the pandemic has turned our beauty habits upside down. She is curious to see which DIY habits are here to stay and which ones we will abandon once all the stores are officially open. Josanta on the future of the beauty industry: “I’m actually looking forward to seeing how the 15% challenge will shake up the beauty industry. It’s no secret that black people dictate trends and culture. Now that so many retailers have committed to opening up more shelf space to black-owned brands, I know this will give way for more moments for us to flourish.”
Building a successful beauty is very possible; a lot of grit, an unbeatable work ethic and being able to adapt to an ever changing industry.