In my early twenties, when I jumped from tech aspirations to makeup artistry — and ultimately to developing my own cosmetics line, Clove + Hallow — my peers were understandably skeptical. I knew next to nothing about the branded side of the beauty business and had no experience in manufacturing.
Still, I was determined to create my own wheel rather than be a cog in somebody else’s, and my mission was inherently personal. After facing a health crisis that left me bedridden for six months, an integrative medical doctor opened my eyes to the importance of not just what I put in my body but also what I put on it. Under her treatment plan, I made a full recovery within a month. But how could I return to makeup artistry, given what I had learned about the dangerous ingredients in conventional cosmetics? I realized I could use my epiphany to create change and felt confident I was in the right industry to do so.
By 2024, the global “natural beauty” industry is predicted to reach $22 billion, with indie companies representing a sizable piece of the pie. And thanks to hundreds of private labelers and the rise of in-house, small-batch production, the barriers to entry have never been lower. Ease of entry doesn’t make succeeding any easier, however. Beauty is changing: Conventional color cosmetics are stagnant, and traditional marketing avenues such as print magazines are losing steam. Clean beauty in particular is becoming crowded with hundreds of brand launches each year, as well as many notable celebrities and influencers joining the race. (Miranda Kerr’s KORA Organics and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop product line are two of many examples.)
Now, I spend a lot of my free time guiding budding entrepreneurs in the consumer packaged goods space through the same pitfalls.These are some of the important lessons I’ve learned along the way that may help a fresh founder find their footing.
Develop your vision and stick to it
If you have the chutzpah to start your own business, you’re probably naturally curious and enjoy tackling new challenges. That same curiosity makes it especially easy to lose focus by getting sucked into the allure of what your competitors are doing. For at least the first year, stick to your original mission and resist these temptations. If you do decide to pivot or expand later on, you can do so with logic on your side and avoid morphing into a copy-cat brand that will likely lose out to the original.
Embrace social media
Social media is a democratic platform that enables anybody to create a brand for themselves and harness a captive audience, even before they launch a product. A social media presence is so ubiquitous now that many people turn to it as another form of Google search, so it’s best practice to have personal accounts that align with your future business for credibility purposes. Bonus points: By spending time building your community with authentic passion and love, your community could become your early adopters — or, at the very least, your early supporters.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Coming from makeup artistry, I’m not ashamed to admit I didn’t know the first thing about creating and launching a product-based business. I started by typing in various phrases into Google — think “how to start a cosmetics line” — until I pieced together enough information to know that I needed to either build my own lab or outsource to a manufacturer. From there, I cold-called manufacturers. Some laughed outright when I told them the small quantities we were looking for, but all were helpful to varying degrees; in fact, on one call, a woman was nice enough to walk me through the terminology I should know for choosing the right manufacturing partner. When I finally found a lab that was willing to take on my projects, I knew what to look for because I’d already explored so many dead ends. The takeaway: Ask questions and get comfortable with rejection. Chances are you’ll learn something valuable.