You know we love getting inspiration from women (and men) to create content for Glam Observer. This time, instead of doing a beauty boss profile we looked back at three beauty influencers who launched their businesses after opening their Youtube channel. I am talking about Huda Kattan, the Italian Clio Zammatteo and Michelle Phan. While we enjoy interviewing influencers with a blog, we thought it was right to have a look at beauty vloggers because their approach to building a business looks different from fashion influencers. If the latter expand their business to photography, consulting, guest blogging or are a dab hand at graphic design, rare are some owning a fashion label, unlike the former who are prone to create a business entirely dedicated to beauty.
The reason I chose these three women is not only because Huda Kattan and Michelle Phan were named Forbes Top Beauty Influencers of 2017 or that Clio is the most famous Italian Youtuber but, I thought to observe the way they shaped their brands would be of help to any of you wishing to become a beauty entrepreneur. So without further ado, let’s have a look at their business story.
Building an empire with Huda Kattan
Instagram: 23,6 m
Youtube: 2 138 130
In any industry, the road to creating a successful brand is finding a gap in the market or responding to a desire/need people have (or haven’t yet). That is what Huda Kattan did when she launched Huda Beauty – her brand – with a line of fake eyelashes back in 2013. In the fast-paced world, we are living in, one can think to start off with a single product can lead to boredom but the truth is scaling your business is more important. By beginning with fake eyelashes, Huda established her brand as a pioneer in this product category, but not only. The beauty mogul born in Oklahoma of Iraqi parents didn’t launch fake eyelashes by case. When asked by Italian beauty influencer Clio Makeup the differences between Middle Eastern and Occidental women, she immediately answered “Middle Eastern women love a more dramatic makeup and wear fake lashes in their daily life: it is something absolutely normal.” As a Middle Eastern woman herself, you can see her understanding of beauty is driven by her culture. No wonder then her business decisions are also driven by that same factor: culture. After securing her products at Sephora in Dubai, Huda Beauty appeared on the shelves of Harrods in London in August 2016. While I don’t believe the deal was set just because Huda has 23,6 million followers on Instagram, I also think she didn’t decide to have her products in that department store just because it is renowned worldwide. Harrods which was bought by Qatari Holding in 2010, always sees a regular influx of tourists coming from the Middle East during the peak months, and these are Huda Beauty best customers. According to Euromonitor International – an agency specialised in market research – the Middle East is the fourth biggest beauty market in the world. Imagine then the purchasing power of women belonging to this market when abroad. It is huge. Especially, if they find a brand like Huda Beauty created by a woman sharing the same beauty culture as them.
What you can learn from Huda Kattan’s beauty business
- Find a gap in the market or respond to a demand people have or don’t know they have
- You don’t need to launch with millions of products. Starting with one people have hard time finding will make you an authority in the market
- In makeup your culture and the type of women you are creating products for is key because beauty is cultural
- When expanding your business, scale it and collaborate with partners which customer base is similar to yours
DIY your beauty business with Clio Makeup
Instagram: 1.6 m
Youtube: 1 091 452
If you are not Italian, you won’t be familiar with Clio Makeup, but I wanted to include her in this article because she is doing what Chiara Ferragni did, but in beauty. She is building a brand thanks to content she produced online. Though it shouldn’t surprise anyone, in Italy, the image of the influencer turning entrepreneur is a rare occurrence. Another reason I wanted to include Clio is that of her beauty brand – Clio MakeUp – has a DIY touch I don’t feel in other brands created by beauty influencers.
84% of Italians use Facebook – followed by Youtube and Instagram – it is no wonder then that the 21st April 2017, the beauty influencer chose to announce she launched her brand on this platform first. Clio who started her Youtube channel in 2008 began receiving the first samples of Clio MakeUp back in 2009. It took eight years to the New-York based Italian to launch. A launch depends on many factors. Money, suppliers, investors etc…you name it; there are plenty of reasons to delay the birth of a brand. In beauty, if customers pay now more attention to having vegan and cruelty-free items, no one thinks about the creation process of a brand. I think we often forget that behind our favourite lipstick, there is a chemist trying out many formulas because beauty is first and foremost a scientific job. And the eight years between the reception of the first samples and the post on Facebook announcing Clio MakeUp Shop was live is just proving it. Clio chose to finance the business herself, meaning while it could have been difficult at times, it also meant more freedom. Having investors and partners can influence the authenticity of your brand so think carefully about bringing them in or staying independent. When she launched the influencer chose to start only with two lines, the Creamy Love and the Liquid Love, a collection of lipsticks and lipglosses. She made that decision not based on market research but because lipstick and lipgloss are her favourite products. No one needs a new brand creating lipsticks but everyone wants a brand representative of the influencer they love, and that is what Clio is doing with Clio MakeUp.
One last thing I wanted to emphasise with Clio is that rather than being in a department store like Sephora – something that might come – she chose first on top of her online shop to open her pop up store in Milan. It is a business decision in line with her desire to stay independent, but not only. Deciding to not putting her pop up in a department store means total exclusivity and freedom. Depending on the department store you work with, you won’t have as much freedom regarding interior design, space and sometimes, even the selection of items you want to display. Buyers in department stores often have an agenda that is not yours so before signing any contract always consider first how it benefits your brand.
What you can learn from Clio Zammatteo’s beauty business
- Creating a beauty brand takes time
- During the creation process, the research part of your products is crucial
- Not having investors or partners means less money but, it also gives you the freedom to do what you want
- Start with a product representing you
- Don’t feel you need to have your products in a department store to feel acknowledged
- You can have your pop up store out in a space you rent to create the customer experience you really desire
Repurposing your beauty business with Michelle Phan
Instagram: 2.1 m
Youtube: 8 966 657
Michelle Phan is the beauty influencer turned entrepreneur whose profile had to be there because she is among the first one. The beauty vlogger started posting videos on Youtube in 2007 before co-founding Ipsy – a sample box service – in 2011. She left the company – then worthing $500 million – earlier this year to focus on her beauty brand Em Cosmetics. The reason I wanted to tell you her story is because though Michelle has past stories of successful partnerships with brands of the likes of Lancôme, she is also one of the rare entrepreneurs who tells how and why her brand Em Cosmetics failed. In an environment where we always emphasise success, I felt it was important to tell the story of someone who made mistakes so that you already have the information to know how to navigate in stressful situations. Also, failure is not permanent, consider it a painful path to learning.
L’Oréal approached Michelle Phan in 2013 to create Em Cosmetics. Unlike Clio MakeUp, Michelle had a strong backing with one of the most famous beauty brand in the world. She was given full creative freedom on the project and created 200 products. The downside of the deal came out when she realised because L’Oréal was the investor she had little to say about the business side. An investor can give you all the money and creative reins you want but if she/he doesn’t let you be a decision maker, your brand risks to misrepresent you. That is what happened when the pricing of Em Cosmetics didn’t reflect Michelle’s audience who at the time were majorly students and young workers. Some of her followers questioned her authenticity because the brand was a partnership and not 100% Michelle Phan.
In 2015 Michelle bought back at $100 million Em Cosmetics to L’Oréal. A decision she said brought her back a sense of freedom and control over the brand. She relaunched it with a line of lip creams and eyeliners. And if the entrepreneur admits they are not groundbreaking categories, they still represent her a 100% as the colours are real paint colours and the pen eyeliners are inspired by the pens she uses for drawing comics.
What you can learn from Michelle Phan’s business
- Not every deal with a huge brand leads to success.
- Being given creative freedom is great but be sure to have leeway in the decision-making process.
- Be careful partnering with a huge brand. Your followers can see it as compromising your authenticity.
- Discuss the pricing with your investor so that the price you are setting reflects the audience of your social channels
- Creating a beauty brand is a long process so, take care of every step to avoid an aborted launch
Are you a beauty entrepreneur? Let us know how you are doing in the comments below