If entrepreneurship was in your genes, you’d probably go for it too! That is exactly what Tanisha Lawrence did after watching her father run his own restaurant business when she was young girl growing up in Brooklyn, New York. She took her own love for beauty and entrepreneurship and started her own brand LAW Beauty Essentials, a cruelty-free vegan nail polish line. With over 80,000 rave reviews on Ipsy and product availability in New York, California and Maine, Tanisha is well on her way to becoming a household name in the industry (yep, we’re claiming it). In this interview with BAUCE, Tanisha shares the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur in the beauty industry.
How did the name of your brand LAW Beauty Essentials come about?
Tanisha: I obviously brainstormed a bunch of different names and I did not know which one to choose. I eventually went with “LAW” because my last name is Lawrence and I wanted to keep something of my family’s legacy since my father passed away a couple months before I launched the business. I chose “Beauty Essentials” to motivate me to progress to something other than nail polish in the future; I want to have an umbrella of products beneath the brand.
Entrepreneurship was sort of a genetic thing for you. With your father having his own business and you being able to be hands-on with helping, have you always known that you’d wanted to pursue entrepreneurship or did it take some trial and error between some jobs to figure out “Yeah this is what I want for sure”?
Tanisha: I do think its a genetic thing because being an entrepreneur has a lot to do with personality traits. You can have the same type of attitude, reactions, and mannerisms as your parents. I do think that being exposed to it lead me down the path of being an entrepreneur. [My father owned a restaurant] and I worked at the restaurant and went home with the restaurant. I was home and heard what was going on behind the scenes and I was included in the conversations. I admired my father’s work ethic. My parent’s didn’t tell me what path to go down or what jobs to apply for so that independence helped me too.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel my old jobs were for me. When I work on LAW, I feel fulfilled and happy because it’s something I’m doing for myself and not for a boss.
What was the most difficult part in launching your company?
Tanisha: I wanted to invest money [in my business] and also feel like I was going to get this money back. It wasn’t a cheap start-up; it was quite expensive. Even though I had the funds it was scary. You don’t want to put your money into something and it plunges. Anyone can start a business but your business is as good as how many people who know about it.
I also struggle with being fearful of going out there and people accepting me and my product. I’d tell myself ” if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. You can have that mindset, but honestly, that’s just you saying that because you know how bad you want it to work.
What core values did you learn from working with other companies before launching your own?
Tanisha: Working at different jobs really molded me. I have a really good resume, working with big companies like Progressive and Chase. Being in a [corporate] atmosphere, I learned how to work with other people and be a team player while dealing with conflict (because its inevitable). I can say that I know how it is to be the customer and the manager.
What is something that you were surprised at or didn’t know about the beauty industry? Did any of your previous assumptions match up?
Tanisha: When I first started, I was not familiar with the term “five-free”. That was something I learned more about and interested me. My manufacturer said, “You can do it the regular way”, but I was like no, I want to learn more about this. I’ve heard about not testing products on animals but I didn’t know about using oyster pearls for the colors, using fish gills for the glitter or using artificial pieces of plastic paper for the glitter. That was my biggest surprise.
I also really didn’t know how big the nail community was. I had my own perception in my own little nail world until I started looking at really big nail bloggers and was like, “Whoa, I need to get my followers up so they can know who you are as well.”
It’s important to you to that you stay innovative and know what your customers want. That is SO important. What research do you have to do to make sure LAW stays proactive and innovative to the consumer’s desires?
Tanisha: I take advice from the big dogs and that’s my manufacturer. I ask them straight up what’s going on in the industry — like that’s my source. You have to have a reputable source other than the internet. You won’t find [this information] in the library or in an encyclopedia. You need to go where everyone is going and that’s their manufacturer. Because if someone comes out with a brilliant idea they’re going to their manufacturer and they’re gonna produce it. The manufacturer is learning from us to. They conduct surveys on the specifics and whats being produced. I try to keep open communication with my manufacturer. I watch their ads, their social media, their campaigns, and so on.
I also have people who email me and say, “Do you have a mustard yellow coming out soon?” So I keep that in mind that people are looking for that color.
I don’t limit myself to just nail polish. I think about the fashion industry as a whole. You have the outfit, then you have the nail polish, which is the cherry on top. When nude exploded it was nude polish, nude shoes, nude clothing, nude stockings, nude everything! So I knew that I needed to produce that color. I watch the trends in entertainment and fashion. I never want to have the same color as someone else. I still want LAW to be unique, so I also come up with my own ideas.
How are you working to expand your network as an entrepreneur?
Tanisha: I’m trying my hardest to make it out to other people’s events and capitalize in every opportunity that comes my way. Even if I’m in a social setting, I find a way to bring LAW up. It’s important to inform people as much as you can. You don’t necessarily have to sell to them and say, “Hey, I have a few polishes in my bag in case you would like to purchase?” — no. I’m just letting them know about it so when she sees it again she knows she’s heard of it before. Of course I want to sell, but my first thing isn’t to sell, it’s to inform because I want you to know about it. That leads to sales.
I am also very involved with my local neighborhood. I sponsor my niece’s dance team, I’m letting the local salons know about it, and rely on word of mouth. Anything that you buy from me I don’t want you to be convinced — I want you to be excited.
Within the next three years, where would you like to see LAW Beauty Essentials?
Tanisha: That’s a long but short timeframe! I’m thinking that I’d like to be featured in more beauty boxes and department stores. I’d like to be in smaller online and popular boutiques and pitch to certain stores that don’t have nail polish. I think small boutiques should look up to large boutiques and retailers and see how they are capitalizing. Forever 21 and H & M are large boutiques, they have a beauty section and there’s little nick-knacks in there. The smaller boutiques don’t. So I show them that people like to gradually pick up small little things that they like. Before I see another nail polish in there, I like to say, “Let me speak up and see if they’d like to collaborate with me.”
I’m also really thinking about (and would love to do) a variety of gift sets. I’m also working on producing a base coat, nail decals, and travel nail kits.
My favorite LAW Beauty Essentials shade is the ‘Net worth How Much?’ shade. I want to know which shade are you currently wearing and what do you recommend for BAUCE women?
Tanisha: Currently I’m wearing ‘Think Deep’ with some rhinestones on my pinky. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback on that color cause I’m like girls get into this! I like to keep my nails fun and funky but professional for the job.It’s so dark but if you’re in the light, you see the blue with the tiny hint of shimmer with the allusion that its shinier than it actually is. My nails feel really royal right now.
The shade I would recommend is the ‘2pm wine’ shade. It’s a burgundy color and people love the name.